Conversations with Friends (CWF) Volunteer Training
Saturday, May 25, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Contact email@example.com for location.
Conversations with Friends (CWF)is a volunteer organization dedicated to visiting and supporting detained immigrants in Minnesota, primarily through letter writing and detention center visits. Unitarian Universalism’s First Principle calls on us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person; the Second Principle calls on us to act for justice, equity and compassion in human relations. The message of Steve Kraemer, director of CWF, speaks of these Principles: the interconnections that bind us all together, regardless of where we were born or the languages that we speak, and the way that we can be a source of light for others during their darkest days.
The following statement is from a current CWF volunteer:
I’ve been volunteering for over a year and have found the experience to be quite profound. I’ve had 5 pen pals in this time, some for only a month or two and some for many months. It really is possible to build a friendship through letters and to provide comfort and moral witness to these friends. Our immigrant neighbors are suffering, and detention is spiritually and morally crushing. Our acts of kindness can be a lifeline. –Amy L.
The first training will be near St. Catherine University in St. Paul and the second
near the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Mpls.
The training agenda:
-Discussion by an immigration lawyer of The Advocates for Human Rights of the legal issues of particular interest to CWF letter writers and visitors
-Anonymous profiles and stories of people with whom we have visited
-Multiple “active listening” sessions where we will respond to challenging questions/themes relating to undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylees
-Introduction to CWF
-CWF letter-writing program and some letters we’ve received
-CWF visit program
There is no cost for the training but everyone must pre-register so that we have enough food, handouts and, most importantly, space. To register or if you have questions, email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll email a registration confirmation along with detailed directions.
At this time, our greatest need is for pen pals, but those who attend will also be trained in visiting so that if/when we receive approval to visit at the Sherburne County Jail, they can participate if interested.
About Conversations with Friends (CWF):
Through our group visits in jail classrooms, letter writing, safe release/accompaniment (for those people released from ICE custody who need help reaching their final destination) and other programs, we volunteers of CWF are in solidarity and friendship with our brothers and sisters in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention who suffer from isolation, loneliness, uncertainty and/or fear as they face deportation and, as a consequence, likely permanent separation from their family, friends and communities. They come to know that we in the community truly care; they are not abandoned, are not alone.
Since October 2015, we have been visiting, in a group of about six CWF volunteers, the men (there are no women there) in immigration detention at the Freeborn County Jail in Albert Lea, MN, two evenings each month in a large classroom setting, usually visiting with about 40 men over a 2 1/2-hour period. The men are originally from Mexico, Central America, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Liberia, and other countries.
From March 2011 until December 2017, we visited with people in ICE detention at the Ramsey County Jail in St Paul during two evenings each month. Ramsey County announced that effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Ramsey County Jail would no longer house ICE inmates.
Protesting, marching, vigils:
Please note that CWF is a humanitarian, non-profit organization focused on its mission of visiting and supporting people who are being detained by ICE. They are facing likely deportation and we accompany them during this tremendously difficult time of their lives. We do not protest, march or vigil. Bottom line, jails will not approve a visit program that intends to protest in their parking lot. We certainly do not discourage people from protesting, but, unfortunately, CWF visitors will not be able to do so. We’ll have to leave parking lot protesting to others.
The majority of the people with whom we visit say ‘yes’, they’d like to have a pen pal. Spanish is not required; more than half of those with whom we visit speak English. Letter writers, once trained, write a weekly letter to a person (usually male) detained by ICE in a Minnesota county jail, until the time the person is released or deported. They continue writing even when people are transferred to another jail, for as short as a week or two, or as long as a year or sometimes even longer. Our volunteers are 22 years and older, post-college, since they find they are more likely to be able to meet the weekly, letter-writing commitment.
For additional information:
This article published on 7/6/17 by CIVIC (now known as Freedom for Immigrants) describes the CWF visit ministry at the Freeborn County Jail: https://imm-print.com/spotlight-conversations-with-friends/. Also, you can visit www.conversationswithfriendsmn.org.
Thank you for considering joining us on our mission.