Dear Friends of First Friends-
The summer brings a change of pace for many people, as vacation plans unfold, and trips are made to ocean beaches, lakes or mountains for relaxation. But for the immigrants being held in detention, such moments are the stuff of dreams. Detainees are held in dormitories where they remain 24/7, eating meals and sleeping and conducting all of life’s activities within the same four walls – even breathing fresh outdoor air is not an option.
The First Friends visitation program was begun two decades ago precisely to combat the monotony and despair that can overtake people in such conditions – and the visits still continue today. Volunteer visitors provide a change of pace for the detainees and a chance to converse with someone other than a detainee on topics of interest to them. Such contact gives life to the First Friends mission to uphold the inherent dignity and humanity of detained immigrants.
After the recent distribution of Stamp Out Despair folders, we received a heartfelt thank you note from several women detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Center which read in part:
“Thank you for everything you do for us: for finding the time to come visit us…for giving us comfort and hope in this trial we are going through…for the capacity you have to care about us…You are a blessing to us!
At the May fundraising dinner, the value of the post release program was made evident by the presence of 22 newly released detainees. Each of them with a story to tell of the assistance they received from First Friends during their detention and upon their release. Whether the support was in the form of conversations, clothing, travel expense, housing assistance or other basic needs, it was made possible through the support of our donors – in other words, YOU!
The presence of the post release detainees among us at the benefit dinner provided living proof of the success of the work of First Friends as well as evidence that our work must continue! These 22 individuals gained their freedom, but there still remain some thirty thousand others in detention across the U.S., over two thousand of whom are in North Jersey detention facilities where First Friends visitors venture to bring compassion and hope. Upon their release, they will turn to First Friends again to live up to the reputation of giving what help is needed to get started on a new life.
As long as there are immigrants in detention, First Friends must hold to its mission, to bring hope and compassion to immigrants affected by detention.
Won’t you please help us to continue our programs of visitation, resettlement assistance and advocacy? This work cannot be done without you! Enclosed is a return envelope to make sending in a check of support as easy as possible, however, if you prefer, you can donate online at bit.ly/DonateFF.
The First Friends Board of Trustees