“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” – Robert F. Kennedy
Alfredo Romero, Executive Director of Penal Forum, and Pamela Mary Schimidt who is the founder of Ripple of Hope Global Youth Advocacy Initiatives had the pleasure of meeting each other at the Robert F. Kennedy Award in 2017; however it was until January 2018 when they could meet to create an awareness campaign for Venezuelan political prisoners and persecutes.
Their work along with the Pamela’s conference at Miami University last 20 of February where she captivated the audience with the fundamentals of her organization that showed the victims of Nepal, India, Haiti, Nicaragua, and now Venezuela. Her initiative combines the emotions, education of Human Rights and develops self-sustainability of people through the concepts of courage, compassion, and perseverance.
The event was opened by Julio Henriquez via Skype, the Penal Forum coordinator in the State. He spoke about the actual situation of Venezuelan political asylums. Then, Santiago Rodriguez, a lawyer and student at Miami University who is another collaborator of Penal Forum touched our hearts with a terrible story about an innocent engineer who was sent to prison, got depress and develop a brain tumor.
When Pamela started her speech, Maru Michelena, translated into Spanish. smooth work our mate who transmitted her mix feelings because, in one hand, she felt honored assisting those who did not understand English, but, in the other hand, she felt overwhelmed before the initiative of that American teacher who had dedicated her life into the advocacy of the Human Rights and today wants to present the testimonies of a group of Venezuelan people who fled to her country: United States.
Pamela’s words were lovely and full of surprises, she explained when and how she met Alfredo Romero and how her foundation could show the Venezuelan’s political prisoners and persecutes testimonies in New York. She also explained the importance of her meeting with the victims and why making their paintings, an image that for them represents prison and freedom; the illustration she showed a picture where an 8 years old boy drew another boy being under exploitation (prison) and another where he was happy with his family (freedom).
Then she asked us to find a stranger and give her/him a hug. At doing so, I seen the people that I knew from so far away and I realized that it was the first time I was with all those people who were surrounding me. For a moment, I was taking a back reminded by the emptiness which I had learned to live with because in this country I have only Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Still, when Ana Viloria, who was next to me, hugged me; and the rest of people around did the same I felt at home, especially when I carried, Isabella Sofia, the only baby in the room and who went to my arms like a blessing from Baby Jesus for who I have great devotion. That night He had a mass in his name however, I missed it because I attended the Penal Forum’s conference and support the political prisoners in Venezuela. While I carried that little angel I thought in those who are isolated in a place called “La Tumba”.
Before ending her presentation, Pamela asked us to explain what freedom meant to us and a young lady in the room told her that basically, freedom was the life that USA offers us and many people agreed. When she finished, I went to her I told that for me freedom is the power of being anywhere my heart wants to be. I am living in this beautiful country but, my heart is in prison because everything I love the most is in Venezuela and I cannot go back to hug my family and friends without being scared, due to a growing list, updating every week by Penal Forum, of political prisoners.
She liked my concept of freedom so much so, that she asked me to send it by email. Now I am in debt with an extraordinary woman who I had the pleasure of meeting thanks to the fact that I am officially an Active Defender of Penal Forum. During the next days she’s going on to interview some Venezuelan asylums who are living in Miami and who fled our country scared of Nicolas Maduro’s oppression. Some of them have been in jail, others received a public threat just for raising their voice against a tyrant but all share the same terror of going back to our country and being put in prison just because we have a different way of thinking.
I thought that with that grand experience of meeting Pamela my day paid off, however; my surprise was bigger when I found out that Munira Munoz, our host, was Mama Liz’s sister. I couldn’t believe it! Mama liz was the angel who went to jail for visiting our political prisoners and adopted them like her children. My heart jumped with happiness when I met Munira Anez that lovely grandmother who held Mama Liz in her womb such a lovely and marvelous woman. I felt as if in a cloud of blessings, surrounded with such brilliant and kind people whom I share my great love: VENEZUELA.
For all of that, I came to the conclusion that the concept of Active Defenders that is in the Penal Forum Website is a little bit shorter since it is not only about promotion, education and defense of the Human Rights but, also about collecting all those who fight for others and send a ripple of hope that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.