Join our next Volunteer Training: May 1-2!

Families that serve together grow together!

 

Highlighting our volunteers who have invited their family members to join them in loving service with The Freedom to Choose Project (FTC).

Husband and wife, Dena and Brad, are another one of our “families who serve together and grow together”
through their dedication to the Freedom to Choose Project. Here is their story:

 

Dena

Approximately how many FTC workshops have you participated in, or if it’s easier, how many years have you been volunteering?
I lost count after 25 workshops. I started in 2014 and have only missed one since.

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved?
I first heard about “The Prison Project” in 2009 when I started the master’s program at the University of Santa Monica (USM). Back then the volunteers were required to be USM grads so I had to wait. I started my B.A. at the same time as the M.A. so I had to take two years off to finish the undergrad. I was so excited to sign up after waiting four years and the first time I did in 2013 there were already so many volunteers signed up that I was waitlisted. Lol!

What was your first volunteer experience like? What did you take away from that experience?
When I first heard about FTC something inside of me said, “YES” without hesitation. At the time I didn’t know why, what, or how, but I didn’t question it. Something inside of me knew so I just went with that. When I got to the prison I wasn’t concerned but rather excited. I saw this as the ultimate opportunity to share the skills I had just learned in the Master’s program that changed MY life. These skills are based in love, and I couldn’t think of a place that would need that more than our correctional system. I was excited. My takeaway was that we can do anything in a loving space and if we are looking to become better versions of ourselves it’s not likely to happen in a punitive space. It shifted something inside of me as I realized that rather than punishing what was done wrong, we hold them accountable because we can see the potential and the light of who we all truly are. Every single time the incarcerated participants move me with their courage, their willingness, hearing their stories, and I recognized their thirst for this work as the same as my own. I was also very moved with how FTC volunteers worked together “in one accord” and how polished the program is and, therefore, very effective. It was also telling to see how many participants showed up!

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with?
It’s kinda hard to put into words. This project is really special. I’ve done some volunteering throughout my life but now I serve. The main difference being that when I used to “volunteer” I would have to find time in my schedule to fit it in. Now, I pretty much schedule my life around the workshop weekends. There’s been a shift in how I hold it in my consciousness. We all serve each other in those gyms and every person participating in these workshops benefits. We come out of there with hearts overflowing heightened compassion, hope, inspiration and glowing with love. FTC weekends have become very important to me and my husband and serving together, having the opportunity to share that with someone I love so much is beyond magical. My husband and I always come away from the weekends feeling closer than before we got there and we’re pretty close already! There really are no words for the amount and magnitude of what I experience during the workshops and I want that for everyone on the planet, and especially for someone I love.

 

Brad

Approximately how many FTC workshops have you participated in, or if it’s easier, how many years have you been volunteering?
10 workshops since 2015.

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved?
Like most things I heard about FTC from Dena (my wife). She is the person that provides me the space to expand and explore. Basically my teacher for things that I normally wouldn’t try.

What was your first volunteer experience like?
My first volunteer experience with FTC was a beautiful experience. I was fully prepped by Dena as well as the FTC team the day before we got into the prison. People can tell you all that they experience, but you don’t really know until you actually experience what happens in the weekend for yourself.

What did you take away from that experience?
I learned that many people in the prison system are just like everyone else except they didn’t have the support, guidance and loving that I did growing up and continue today with my family and friends. I could have been in the same situation as the participants are in today. What I do see from the participants, is that they have taken accountability for what they did and are looking to be a better person because of what FTC brings to the participants. Love, no judgement, listening and sharing from each individual’s heart. I’ve learned that I was putting myself in my own prison without being behind bars. From sharing with the participants, I was free to let go of the past and discover that I was lovable, kind, good enough, and deserve joy and happiness

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with?
I feel very fortunate and closer to my wife. I’ve discovered that these incarcerated participants are a version of me and the parts of my past me when I’ve made poor decisions, but I’ve had an opportunity to change them because of the love of my family, friends and my own self forgiveness. I am blessed and very fortunate.

 

 

 

Donna Kall (FTC volunteer since 2004)