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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

The Freedom To Choose Project

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Crime & Law, Rehabilitation Services for Offenders

Mission: Transforming lives of individuals impacted by incarceration through compassionate experiential education. The Freedom to Choose Project is a life-changing, experiential program offered to the incarcerated and underserved. Our unique curriculum provides the tools for emotional accountability and responsibility and inspires awareness of choice in any given situation; it promotes meaningful, lasting rehabilitation that begins from the inside and results in tangible change on the outside. Those that have participated in our workshops have reported benefits such as positive changes in behavior, thoughts and perspective. Participation in The Freedom to Choose Project appears to significantly reduce the risk of recidivism and fosters long-term change in participants, ultimately contributing to more peaceful, productive, and cohesive families and communities.

Results: We’ve been volunteering in CA prisons for over 14 years. To date, over 400 volunteers have served over 3,700 people, donating more than 67,000 hours. California spends $47,421 per person per year on incarceration. It only costs $100 for an inmate to take a 2-day workshop from The Freedom to Choose Project.

Target demographics: Vulnerable populations including: Men and women in prison, parolees, victims of domestic violence, people in addiction treatment and recovery. We also work with any of their friends and family members to create a wide base of psycho-social support.

Direct beneficiaries per year: ~1,200 people

Geographic areas served: California

Programs: Freedom to Choose Prison Project, Service Learning Training, Community Programs

Community Stories

72 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Anthony A.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with The Freedom To Choose project since 2011. I have attended a couple hundred workshops and classes in that time. The response of all those participating has been, and continues to be, phenomenal.

I have witnessed many volunteers and participants share how amazing it felt to be heard and cared for in a way they had never felt before, all while learning how to be there and support others in experiencing the same by using the skills taught by Freedom to Choose.

Working with the all-volunteer teams has been a beautiful experience. Everybody comes together accomplish tasks, mundane or massive, with grace. It's a lot of work, but it still feels like a vacation for me.

Th incarcerated participants are a pleasure to work with. The women in the class I oversee every week are instrumental in making things happen and guiding the newer participants along the path of self discovery. They feel a well-deserved ownership in the proceedings and pride in what we have been able to accomplish together.

You might think that I'd be immune to the profound shifts I see in the people participating in the program after all this time, but I am not. It's a consistently beautiful experience that I have learned much from.

The skill sets taught and practiced every week have moved me quite a bit further down the road of my personal growth. I have seen these skills lead to true inner freedom for all participants inside the walls and out.

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1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered with Freedom to Choose multiple times a month for years now. I've witnessed the work we (inmate participants and free world volunteers) do together lead to consistent and concrete personal growth for all who participate. I've worked with individuals on the inside for years and then seen first hand how it effects their outlook on life once they leave the prison. The ownership of the way they choose to show up in the world is an absolute and consistent inspiration to me and many others. The work I have been able to do on myself and how I show up in the world has been invaluable.

I always tell people that the work we do is not charity. I feel that we are all equals working together to gain alignment with our true selves. I appreciate all; inside and outside the walls, who choose to do this work and the way we all support each other. The vehicle for this work is The Freedom To Choose Project.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Because Freedom to Choose's programs are experiential, it is difficult to verbally convey the life-changing, positive transformations which they bring to their participants. Based upon the philosophy of Viktor Frankl as well as other best-practice psychology, this innovative program achieves fast but long-lasting results for everyone, be they volunteers, inmates or the general public.

I cannot recommend Freedom to Choose highly enough; its mission, service, and excellent fiduciary practices are admirable.

Mady W.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What touches me the most about participating at the Freedom to Choose Project is the service of loving and caring that is so present with everyone who serves as a volunteer. Needless to say that it’s a great blessing for everyone.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Even during the time of this pandemic we are currently experiencing, Freedom to Choose continues to actively support our incarcerated brothers and sisters. I’m proud and honored to be part of this outstanding organization.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been a volunteer for a long time and have been to many weekend workshops. I also have volunteered in support of the weekly classes that Freedom to Choose offers at CA Institution for Women. In addition to friends and family, this is my most valued and precious community! And by that I mean not only the volunteers and FTC staff but also those individuals on the inside who are equally devoted in their participation. The FTC mission is to transform the lives of individuals impacted by incarceration. This is exactly what happens for all of us!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I feel blessed as a FTC volunteer team member now for over 10 years. Witnessing the shift in the participants and myself as we all grow and heal together has been one of the greatest gifts in my life.
My hope is to continue as an active volunteer thru my life offering love, peace, compassion and hope for us all to heal and create the world we dream of.

Meg M.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have known about this project since 2006 when attending University of Santa Monica and I have been volunteering for almost a decade. I support this organization in person as a volunteer and also as a donor. It is a truly remarkable and transformational program for not just the inmates, but the volunteers as well. The leaders along with the tools and skills that are taught create an emotionally safe environment free of judgement where everyone who is participating can feel free to truly and authentically express themselves. In this type of container where heart centered listening, unconditional love and forgiveness are the driving intentions, so much healing can - and does- occur. It is palpable. I have watched the organization go from one prison - to (I think ) 5 now and I am committed to continuing to being a part of its expansion. I have chosen to dedicate the “service” part of my life to just two groups so I can focus my energies- and this is my top choice . I love it so much that even though I no longer live in California, I still fly out for the volunteer weekends every chance i get ! My heart and passion lies with Freedom To Choose , its dedicated founders, staff and volunteers and with all our fellow incarcerated brothers and sisters who follow their courage to change and heal through this amazing work. ❤️❤️

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been volunteering with this organization since 2005. I’ve watched it change lives from the inside out, literally. I’ve seen miracles happen over the years, and am honored to be connected to this work. Freedom to Choose provides people in prison the opportunity to learn how to be free inside themselves through forgiveness, taking responsibility, loving communication, seeing others with respect, and so much more. It works.

Writer

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Freedom to Choose has provided me with one of the most inspirational, transformational experiences of my life. FTC's mission is to help the incarcerated; however, as a volunteer for over a decade, I have received more than I have given. The skills which are experientially practiced at the workshops have become more and more a part of my persona and life approach. This is a non-profit which literally empowers both its incarcerated participants and its volunteers.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with the Freedom to Choose Project (FTC) for over a decade. FTC offers large-group workshops to inmates in California's prisons; the program is based on the philosophy of renowned psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl. Through experiential learning sessions, more than 4000 incarcerated men and women have heightened their social and emotional skills. The results: reduced recidivism, reduced violence, and the rupture of generations of familial violence. It is a privilege to be a part of this rehabilitative justice program

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Angela Petillo C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Freedom To Choose Project is the most worthwhile nonprofit organization I have ever been involved with. It allows me to be an activist and serve those in need in the most meaningful way I know. I have seen miracles occur with those this Project serves. It is of the highest integrity with true honesty of expression, deep compassionate communication, full acceptance of all involved and working with one accord for the maximum benefit of all connected to the Project: inmates, staff and volunteers. The willingness and consideration that proliferates is extraordinary. I have worked in corporate America for 35 years and have never seen the effectiveness that I see in the Freedom To Choose Project. I am so grateful for its existence and am hopeful it will proliferate throughout our society.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first volunteered with the Freedom To Choose Project in September 2019 at the Valley State Men's Prison. It was a heart-expanding experience far beyond words. Everything was incredible organized and graceful and the men were so kind, caring, and committed to healing. I did my own deep inner healing work with them. Can't wait to volunteer again.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Every so often we are blessed to participate in an experience that is truly transformational for all involved. The Freedom To Choose Project is just such an experience. The participants (in this case, prison inmates) came into the room with a kind of glad-to-be-doing-something-different attitude and, two days later, their hearts were touched, their Spirits lifted, their hope renewed. The ability of the volunteers (us) to honestly open up and reach inside to discover new learnings demonstrated that the participants had the freedom to do the same, and what was revealed to us all is that we do, indeed, have the ability, the capacity, to heal ourselves. It was a blessing to be able to participate in such a profound experience, and I am sooo looking forward to the next workshop of discovery for us of all!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered with Freedom To Choose. I give this non-profit five stars because of its levels of dedication, quality and excellence, on all levels. The workshop experience is life-changing for participants, designed to completely shift their relationship with themselves and others. This non-profit is doing more good to alter the prison system and fabric of society than any I know.

edithwilley

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering for Freedom to Choose in the fall of 2011 and I have been going every year since - even though I now live several states away it is worth every penny spent for travel. It is so funny for me to write that I go to prison to experience peace, loving, kindness, laughter, and healing. I thought I was going to the prison to help people but it turns out it is an incredible opportunity for me to serve and to be served. All the volunteers come into one accord during the weekend workshops - which is incredible to witness 70-80 people in flow and cooperating with the continuous changing environment of the prison. In addition to the volunteers all being great to work with the inmates are the true gift for me. Many of them have been participating in a Freedom to Choose workshop for over a decade and they come to these workshops with such open hearts, loving, and a willingness to heal - I always learn so much from them. Thank you Freedom to Choose for all that you do.

Lorraine W.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Excellent program! This program embodies a heart-centered approach. Each participant is greeted with kindness, empathy, dignity, and respect. I have volunteered with FTC over several years and assert that this work provides equal value to both the participants and volunteers. Many of the participants feel that they have been thrown away and forgotten by society. It has been very affirming to see the shift in their expressions when we listen deeply to their stories and life experiences. It provides them with an opportunity to free themselves from the past, let go of self defeating judgements, take responsibility for what happened, and be free to choose, truly free to choose differently in each moment. Rain W., PhD

Vicki P.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love to tell people that "I'm going to prison this weekend".
Folks that don't know me are shocked and my friends sometimes are also. It gives me an opening to tell them about the Freedom to Choose Project, and how it has been a life-changing experience for me. I can't say enough good things about this program.
For one thing, it is volunteering at its best and purest. We all travel to the prison at our own expense. I come from Seattle - four times now. Others come from New York, or Toronto or have a 4-5 hour drive from the far corners of California to get there. We foot the bill for the two night stay at the hotel and all the food for a weekend. As for me, I get far more out of the weekend than I spend in money.
Our commitment means a lot to the participants we serve also - they have other self-help programs. None, however, have as many volunteers that sit down with them knee to knee and share our experiences and lives with them as equals. We do the same work we ask them to do. We aren't advising or preaching or fixing. We are modeling the tools we are offering by working the same processes being presented by the facilitators. This is what makes this program so powerful.
When the large group comes together and shares after a practice session, it is apparent that this stuff works. When you have someone who has spent years in prison break down with emotion, you know that his/her life has changed. They've spent years suppressing any kind of emotion, because it's dangerous. These workshops are a safe place. A safe place to reveal their humanity; to change their thinking and thus change their lives.
This is a program that needs to expand to every prison in every state. But the tools taught are applicable to everyone, not just incarcerated individuals. Participants report spreading the information they've learned to their families and friends. The world can be changed. One person at a time.

3 Win H.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This program is off the charts amazing! There is really no way to describe the experience of being there, in the prison, in one of the workshops! It is clear to me that I receive more than I give. Each time I go, I am humbled once again by being a part of this. I would say this workshop works, first of all, because everyone involved brings authentic caring to the table. The inmates know this, they can sense who is being real and who has an agenda. I am awed by the simplicity of the workshop, how it is set up and how it works. Doors open to change and transformation is available. Part of the great beauty to me is that there is no separation, no one is better-than, no one is trying to change or teach another. And change emerges, both for those living inside and those living outside. The facades begin to fall away, the possibility of lifting up and finding true freedom appears. I have watched the inmates take this opportunity and run with it again and again. I have learned so much from them. The Freedom to Choose Project is profound and simple. My participation as a volunteer has changed my life for the better. I have been discovering freedom inside myself along with all those who participate in this. Thank you Freedom to Choose!!!!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last weekend I participated in my 4th Freedom to Choose workshop. As always it was a deeply powerful and uplifting experience. You might not expect that being one of about 75 volunteers working with about 200 inmates could be uplifting, but it truly is. The US criminal justice is very flawed and these opportunities to do something about it, even if it's only to donate generously, are wonderful and much appreciated.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Highly recommend going to prison.

I am not going to lie. It was overwhelming watching 200 (ish) men walking towards the gym to take this course. My heart overflowed witnessing the eagerness of many of these men to really turn their lives around. I have been to many self-help events and nowhere have I come across the desire and commitment that these men displayed. My heart broke for the many men in this group who didn't know they had value. No one should have to go through life thinking they are a piece of sh*t.

I am truly not sure who benefited more from this event. The participants or me. I am truly humbled and Gestalt is right. We are more than the sum of our parts.

3 anitacoats

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with The Freedom to Choose Project for a number of years and the experience of being a volunteer has been life-changing. I came into prison with so many preconceived ideas of what prison was like and most definitely what prison inmates were like. As I sat and got to know the women in front of me, I could honestly say that I had more in common with them, then not. I get to practice seeing the person, their true essence and not what they have done. I've witnessed people change over time doing this work and I am one of them. I remember an inmate stood up and shared once "the difference between The Freedom to Choose Project and the rest of the groups that come here, is that they always talk to us from the stage, but you sit right next to us. I feel like a human being again." This non-profit is incredibly unique and special and I am blessed to be a part of it.

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10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the honor of volunteering for the Freedom to Choose Foundation three times now and intend on volunteering as many times as possible. One aspect that I absolutely love about this project is that it is experiential in nature, giving the inmates the opportunity to practice effective communication skills with the volunteers and with each other. As I have had the opportunity to share about my life and hear about their lives, the walls begin to dissolve and I have discovered that we are essentially more the same than we are different. This project is one of the most powerful things I have ever participated in and I encourage anyone reading this to watch the 22 minute documentary to get a deeper sense of the nature of the incredible contribution Freedom to Choose Foundation is making in the lives of so many.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There are seriously no words that can really describe what takes place with Freedom to Choose's work and the experience it creates.

Imagine having never once been told in your entire life that you are worth a damn. Imagine having never had anyone support you. Imagine that you had only experienced loss, violence, neglect, and shame throughout your life. Imagine having never been congratulated for anything you've done or even just smiled at for no reason.

Freedom to Choose goes into the prisons and literally offers hope to those who may never have had it. The volunteers smile at everyone, they genuinely love every person they meet and see, and they look past any wrongdoings someone may have been involved in. They separate the action from the person, and by doing this, they are able to love the individual regardless of anything they may have done in the past.

For many prisoners, this is the first time they have ever been able to experience someone loving them and acknowledging that they are worth something.

Freedom to Choose allows prisoners, and the volunteers, to unwind their past experiences, find their own soul and worth, and help them in starting into new beginnings--beginnings filled with hope, encouragement, acknowledgement, and support.

I had never witnessed true hopelessness before I went into the prison. It was an unexplainable experience, but then what was even more unexplainable was being able to see that true hopelessness turn around. I actually got to witness it. So many times I've been able to see the exact moment when someone believes, for the first time possibly in their entire lives, that they are truly worth something. It is a feeling that can only be experienced, and one that nothing else in my life compares with.

I have honestly never witnessed a more powerful program for a more perfect community. I've seen some of the prisoners go on to help heal their own family members and friends and others around them in their community once they get out, because of what they learned in Freedom to Choose.

If I were a beauty queen and was asked what I thought could bring world peace, I would say the work Freedom to Choose does.

1 Patricia S.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I joined this program as a volunteer with the expectation to help others. The program provided thorough training and provided impeccable support to all the volunteers. After my experience I found that I not only achieved a goal to help others but that this experience change me as well. Freedom to Choose restores justice through education to the incarcerated and bridges community to find insight and hope in our world. Freedom to choose is a non-profit community service organization like non other I have experienced and I hope to bring this program to my community in New Mexico.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the Freedom to Choose Project facilitators for the incredible and heart opening workshop you designed for the VSP weekend. I applaud you for your courage and willingness to discuss the subjects of racism and diversity which are real areas of challenge for our society, even for our conscious communities. As all of the facilitators stood in front of us and shared your own stories and experiences, I felt sense of opening and courage that was really profound. I grew up in environments where I did not see many people who looked like me or understand my cultural experiences, but I knew we are all the same. I love this work so much because it gets to the truth of who we really are and invites us to embrace our divine humanity with love and acceptance.

In my trios, I observed men with rigid bodies and distant stares light up with bright and focused eyes and beautiful smiles after the exercises. The awe I felt seeing them transform before my eyes was heart opening. On several occasions, some men told me that they wouldn't have even considered sitting down talking to another race and how different they felt after the exercises. I, too, shared their enlightenment as I became aware of my own judgments of things I thought were small and opportunities for releasing false beliefs with compassion and forgiveness.

I was inspired by all the facilitators. They held a honest, loving and supportive space for all of us the entire weekend. I watched all of them channel Light into their interactions with the inmates. The end of the workshop was magical when the six of them stood together for the final sharing modeling the workshop theme. I sensed the Light of Spirit moving through and around them. It was like a beautiful blanket of Love being woven with masterful strands of Light that were unique to each of them. They were on one accord and it was amazing to feel and watch.

I've been to several Freedom to Choose workshops in the past and they've been wonderful. This one touched my heart deeply and the joy I saw on the inmates faces was out of this world.

Thanks again for your willingness to bring a challenging subject out into the open with love, grace and kindness for individual and communal healing.

2 CheminB

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The brilliant James Baldwin said "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." This past weekend at Valley State Prison was a powerful demonstration of that statement.

Both the incredible Freedom to Choose Volunteer Team and the men attending the Advanced Workshop faced - and spoke about - "the elephants in the room" around diversity and race. The sharings were profound as many found a safe place to "speak their unspeakables" and really hear each other's experiences. Compassion was the dominant theme. Next we could do that workshop out here in the Free World...

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Since 2006 I've been an active participant in Freedom to Choose Foundation (FTCF). I've watched the director-facilitators bring rich material to the participants/residents of both the Women & Men's prison. More importantly, every 6 months - for 2 months in a row, we have 75-80 volunteers who come from across the nation to participate in the workshop. Our role is to model the methods we are teaching the participants, and to share our life issues. We all learn the commonality of experiences on either side of the "wall." And the participants are profoundly moved that we all take off work, drive or fly hours at our own expense, and put ourselves up at a hotel for the 2-3 days of the workshop. We sit with them, eat with them and see them clearly - first and foremost as human beings. We don't ask their crime - and we don't judge them if we find out. We share practical tools of communication, responsibility and respect - tools we've learned to apply in our own day-to-day lives. Simply, we accept them as kindred souls - and we keep coming back. There is a waiting list of volunteers. Also we're told that so many former lifers have changed as a result of applying our tools that they are paroling. I am honored, humbled and grateful to be a part of this work. It works because they work it - and THEY keep coming back!

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2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure of being of the 79 volunteers to assist the Freedom to Choose Project team last weekend. I found it be one of the most heartwarming, uplifting, and humbling opportunities to be of service. I have the most respect for this foundation, they have found a way to connect to the prisoners heart and offer them a chance to be seen and heard as individuals not just as their crimes. I'm beyond grateful for this team, it offered me a true and rare opportunity to truly practice seeing the loving essence of the prisoners without any judgments. Not to condone their crime, but in no way, their crime was relevant to me. I was able to encourage them to separate themselves from their crime, in order to forgive themselves and move-on, regardless of their location (inside or outside of the jail). I found this experience liberating and uplifting and I left with my heart filled with joy and gratitude for humanity. Thank you to Freedom to Choose Project and all its supporters.

1 Nancy229

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been a volunteer since 2010. The workshops get better each time I go. The inmate participants express so much gratitude for our presence and what they learn. Parole boards in CA look very favorably on an inmate's participation. There is a reason why there is a HUGE demand for this program!

Previous Stories
8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with Freedom to Choose Foundation since 2010. Each time I go the experience is better than the last. The people we serve are changing their lives in profound ways. Through this program they learn to take responsibility for their life experiences. They learn to empower themselves through letting go of self-destructive ways of thinking and behaving. And when we leave they use what they learned to help other inmates, thereby creating a better environment for everyone. I am honored to be a part of this tremendous work.

1 RevMichaelB

Board Member

Rating: 5

In my very first experience with the Freedom To Choose Project, I truly understood what Change from the Inside meant. I thought I was going inside a prison to bring hope and inspiration to others. I discovered that I was also truly serving myself by sharing the human experience of saying to another , "I am a human with feelings and life challenges just like you".

The Freedom to Choose Project has allowed me to make good on a childhood promise I made to myself many year ago - that when I grew up, I would be a part of bringing peace and love to this world.

I witnessed a tremendous amount of violence growing up on Chicago's southside during the 60's. I survived several major riots, the Vietnam war, gang warfare and even more in the urban street environment.

Being a witness to mankind's inhumanity to man so early in life, I became aware that there was inside of us a great Light, revealed through our eyes, and designed to awaken all of us to Love as the healing balm.

In the Freedom to Choose Project I have rediscovered how to tap into my inner Light and to see this same Goodness in others. I've been able to practice the power of listening and honoring the value of another human life. Most fulfilling to me is the fact that I have uncovered my own purpose and mission in life to make a difference in the life of another by bringing light and love into the world in a very special way.

Not many people on the planet can say that they have found the meaning of their life. The Freedom to Choose Project has helped me to find mine.



1 David C.6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working with women who were incarcerated in prison humbled me. They had all broken the law but they also had often faced tragic home lives, felt the toil of drug addiction, and not had role models. I volunteered to help the inmates with communication skills so that they can defuse emotions and have a better chance of success when they parole.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Entering a prison for the first time in my life as a volunteer, I didn't know quite what to expect. I had seen the video documentary for the Project, and I hoped I would recognize some of the women I would meet. Entering the gymnasium to set up, it was much like setting up for any workshop. Then the women entered, and they were smiling. The first ones to arrive were excited to welcome us into their home, and into their hearts.

In some ways, it would be like any other workshop. Everyone begins the workshop from a perspective based on where they are in life. The workshop is designed to allow people to participate in deep, emotional healing work. I was honored to work with women who were willing to go to places they had never been in service to changing their lives, healing past wounds, and creating a future different from the one they may have imagined before entering the gym.

It didn't take long for me to shift to relating to everyone as "just regular people." Some of the challenges the women shared with me were no different than challenges faced by friends, or sometimes myself. I was humbled by the willingness of some of the women to truly face their challenges and choose new ways of being.

Later, when the Freedom to Choose Project began holding workshops in the men's prison, I was excited to join the volunteers in bringing the workshops to a new community. I was again humbled and awed by the men and the way they participated. I witnessed a willingness to be honest and share deeply, and to let go of old patterns, habits, and beliefs. I witnessed a group of men who stood in support of one another as a community. I witnessed transformation on the faces of the men I was privileged to work with individually.

I cannot say enough good things about the Freedom To Choose Project and what they are accomplishing. The volunteers, donors, and leaders are making a difference in the lives of the men and women we all serve. And the benefits are multiplied through improved relationships with family and friends. I am blessed to be a part something so magical.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

If you want to understand what “unconditional” means and what it is like to be unconditionally loving, do direct service work as a volunteer for Freedom to Choose. It has changed my perspective on everything and everyone. I have been a volunteer at Valley State Prison for men since 2014. It is one of the most important things I do each year. I am humbled to work with these men and our exceptional group of volunteers. It changes our lives!

2 Jaden P.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is one experience that words just cannot convey the impact it has on the lives of the participants and the volunteers. When friends ask how my experience with Freedom To Choose (FTC) went, the only word that comes to mind is REVELATORY. The work that Bonnie and David have dedicated to is soul-filling and continues to evolve within each one of us even after the volunteer opportunity. I am reminded of the old saying about giving a man a fish and then teaching him to fish. FTC both gives each one of us a fish (the gift of compassion and love) and then teaches us how to fish so that we can feed the world. An incredible nonprofit!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to be the production coordinator for the Freedom to Choose documentary. It was an honor to work with Drs. David & Bonnie Paul and see them in action at the prison. https://vimeo.com/search?q=freedom+to+choose I am a graduate of the University of Santa Monica and being with the inmates with David, Bonnie, and the other inmates in a caring way was very powerful, healing, and empowering.

2 Lori C.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been to the Prison as a volunteer more than 20 times. It is the highlight of my year. There is so much love, acceptance, trust and gratitude when we are there that it is my belief that the entire prison feels this on some level. Being apart of this project has allowed me to feel that I can make a difference in the world, one person at a time. I am so grateful for my affiliation and inclusion in this project

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I first started to speak with my friends and family about FTC I gave a brief description as a place I went to teach the skills from USM. My experiences helped opened my heart, I now simply share that It's one of the most loving places I know of.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The work we all do at the prisons is truly transformational. In my mind, its the truest thing I have ever seen to true rehabilitation for inmates (participants). But its so much more than that. Everyone learns and is transformed - participants and volunteers alike. It was profoundly moving to volunteer for the first time and truly be of service for the beautiful human beings currently having a prison experience. I'm so grateful to be part of this work.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering for Freedom To Choose for a year, and I am so blessed to be part of this organization and the very important work that they do in our society. It's truly special to be part of these workshops in prisons and knowing what a tremendous positive impact this work has on the participants and their loved ones too.
As a cherry on top, the integrity of FTC is perhaps the greatest I have experienced within any organization I have volunteered for.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This charity organization works very closely with inmates. It basically teaches them profressional level communication skills that originate from a very clear, calm, and heart-centered place. The charity's method of teaching skills shifts the consciousness of the inmates understanding to look at the different choices they have in any given situation even while they deal with their reactive triggers. By teaching and practicing these skills, the inmate learns quickly that it empowers them to calmly make a better self honoring choice, and take full responsibility. The charity identifies the processes of what's going on inside of them that often keeps them repeating their old behavioral patterns that causes them and others so much anger, upset, and anguish. The charity instead shows them new ways to consciously reprogram themselves from a loving place, for their highest good and all those concerned.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Having devoted a majority of my adult life to service, interacting and working with numerous non-profits, I have absolutely no reservations in sharing that in my humble but experienced opinion, none have been more financially responsible, nor as effectively benefactor life changing. Founders David & Bonnie Paul exemplify and embody truth and integrity in all they say and do. It is this exampleship from the top down through all we volunteers, which is the secret sauce that makes FTC so amazingly impactful. In a nutshell, FTC assists souls having a prison experience, in owning the limitless empowerment of taking 100% responsibility for everything they think, feel, say and do, making them candidates as much more effective, productively reintegrated members of society.

5 Dena H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a volunteer with the Freedom to Choose Foundation, created by Dr's David and Bonnie Paul, has changed my life forever. Never in my life have I felt more "on purpose" than when I'm serving with this incredible team of loving souls. The unconditional loving, compassion, acceptance, humility, honesty, and forgiveness we all give and receive during the time spent together in the prison projects is indescribable!

But I'll try... There have been many instances that I've forgotten for a time that we are in a prison gym as I'm connecting with another person, another beautiful soul having a prison experience, and am humbled at the recognition that we are all equally held in the Divine Heart of God. It's as if for that time there are no bars, no barbed wire, no walls of any kind. It feels as though we all, for those moments, transcend into Christ Consciousness together as we connect heart to heart. And, we ALL experience profound healing as a result! What comes to mind as I write this is what was written in the Bible that Jesus said, "...For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be among them." ~Matthew 18:20 I'm not one to quote the Bible too often, but this passage has new meaning for me as I experience that loving presence every time we come together to do this work.

Hearing the inmates share so openly and deeply about their shifts in consciousness and how they see the world, how they see themselves in the world now, as a result of doing their own healing work and applying their newly acquired skills, is inspiring to say the least! They've often shared that their healing goes beyond themselves and has profoundly impacted their relationships with their families, too!

The Freedom to Choose Foundation is truly Divinely inspired, and is making a positive difference in so many lives, as well as within the prison culture itself! I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team and to have the opportunity to serve humanity in this way. Thank you, Freedom to Choose!!

5 Writer

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a truly heartfelt organization that brings education and healing to those who are incarcerated so they can step forward with a greater understanding of how to experience more inner peace and internal freedom. This not only benefits their lives, but also the lives of those around them. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to volunteer for Freedom to Choose.

Previous Stories
11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience at the Freedom to Choose Foundation was phenomenal! They provide an incredible educational experience for inmates that truly supports rehabilitation. They are extremely organized and frugal so as funds go directly to delivery the programs. I was deeply moved and inspired through my participation as a volunteer.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This amazing organization provides a beacon of light to those who have previously chosen to shun the light. FTC opens the door to those willing to step through and find inner peace, provides signposts and directions and with the volunteers who work with FTC, to assist all who are willing to join with us in finding the inspiration to change.

5 Berti K.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

OMG - there are no words to describe the incredibleness of this organization and what they have brought to the prisons and to folks out of prison!!! I go with the clear intention of being of service and what happens? I get my own healing as well. To listen to these folks share and grow is a Gift beyond words! I love witnessing them "wake up" to themselves and to bring Forgiveness into their lives. What's reallllllly cool is to come back time after time and to see how each person has integrated these incredible "tools" into their life and how they've grown inwardly. They also share what they've received with the inmates who haven't attended, so someday, the "hundredth monkey" phenomenon is going to shift our prison system. Keep on keeping on Freedom to Choose! I'm all in!

6 msherrera

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with Freedom To Choose changed my life. This program is actually doing what I sense so many well-intended individuals and organizations are hoping to do - truly supporting the rehabilitation of a person that is incarcerated. I have never experienced a greater presence of LOVE than in the gymnasium of a maximum security prison. That is because when you stand in the loving, miracles do occur.

The workshops that Drs David and Bonnie Paul have carefully crafted are simple, yet deep and they touch the souls of these individuals allowing them to experience the power of forgiveness and inner freedom. This work is changing the culture of these prisons.

The volunteers come from all over the country to serve and also to receive. This work is sacred and I have no doubt that humanity is waking up to the tremendous opportunities that exist within our justice and prison systems. Freedom To Choose is serving as a catalyst and a conduit for this reform.

My time working with the men and women that are incarcerated, and all the volunteers has deeply connected me with my heart and my humanity. I am forever grateful and will continue to serve each year in any way I can.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first experienced Freedom to Choose when I volunteered just 2 months after graduating from the University of Santa Monica's Spiritual Psychology program, having been touched by the then newly released award-winning documentary. I felt compelled to experience it for myself.
At the end of the project I flew from Fresno to San Francisco, a path directly over Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), where I'd just spent 3 days transforming my own life - while supporting female inmates in their processes of creating inner freedom. (Who knew I would heal my own hurts more powerfully in 3 days of Freedom to Choose than 2 years at USM?)
As my plane flew over VSPW, I entered into a meditative, dream-like state in which I envisioned some 70 heart-centered volunteers entering VSPW. I could feel the loving energy in my heart while simultaneously sensing its presence filling the prison. The image evolved into streams of loving energy leaving the prison - through letters and phone calls, visitors coming and going, and ultimately people leaving healed and whole... I saw the fibers of Love creating a Web of Loving that circled the globe, touching and healing everyone, everything...
Since that first project some five years ago, I've only missed two. During the times I missed, I awoke at 5 am every morning wondering why I had chosen to not be there. I can not think of another thing I would rather do! Now, women have been released from VSPW (so many "found suitable"... Of course they are!) VSPW has become just VSP - Valley State Prison - and it houses men. Men who heard about Freedom to Choose and wanted it too! And are committed to using it as a pathway to their own freedom.
What makes this particular nonprofit so special and successful? I don't know all of the reasons... but what comes to me are these:
- a large pool of dedicated, heart-centered volunteers who are willing to heal themselves and work together in one accord to create a safe and loving environment for others to experience the kind of vulnerability that opens the heart and the mind
- a curriculum that uses science to affirm the power of the heart and mind
- facilitated experiential learning exercises that harmonize and heal the heart and mind
- a spiritual perspective that recognizes the divinity of all beings beyond the limitations of religion; using affirming, accepting language of "God/Spirit/your Higher Power" to create an invitation to experience Life as more than what we might have been taught
- a prayerful leadership style that allows for inspiration and flexibility
- a respect for Life and ALL Life experiences
- a Safe environment in which to reconsider everything we've learned and decide through an inner knowing what's really true... and then to practice living in this heart-centered space together.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have now been volunteering for the Freedom to Choose Foundation for 5 years and have had the opportunity to participate in 13 prison workshops as well as several community workshops and events. I have had first hand experience in seeing the results that this work accomplishes for many people. Many of those we serve are on the fringes of society, some are without contact with friends or relatives on the outside of the institutions. We volunteers have the privilege of reminding them that by their very nature, they are worthy human beings just as we are. It reminds me that one group of people dedicated to loving service can effectively reach out to another group and affect change in the world. It has to start somewhere. Hurt people may hurt people, but healing people heal people.

7 Betsy31

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My life-changing weekend with male inmates

After speaking to my father about my experience with the male inmates last weekend at Valley State Prison, he asked me to write about it so he could publish in his news letter (Dow Theory Letters.) I told him I didn’t know if I could put into words the profound way these 150 men changed my life forever. I avoided my computer, the task too big the emotions still lingering. How could I explain a feeling so deep and a connection with murderers so strong… How could I explain that after last weekend I knew for sure we all are the same. Only circumstances and choices separate us. It could have been my father in there, my son or my brother. I couldn’t let the opportunity escape me. Father knows best and I needed to find the words and write.
When I began my education at the University of Santa Monica in Spiritual Psychology in 2007 I could sense my life was on an uphill swing and my new skills would serve me well. I knew in recent years I could even help others find their “tool box for happiness” but I never really understood until working with these beautiful men how profound an impact I could make on their lives and more so the effect they would have on mine. There were 80 of us and 150 of them who were ready and willing to make a change. To be seen to be heard to be loved. The Freedom to Choose Volunteers had gone to Valley State Prison three times before (to do these workshops) some of the men had done all of the workshops. One man said he was angry when the volunteers left last time. He blamed God for “giving him a taste of what love felt like and then yanking it back leaving him feeling worse off then before.” I asked him what he had done to get past the anger at God. “I went to the therapist here, “ he said. “She taught me that I could get that good feeling back by continuing to study the hand- outs and do the work the volunteers taught me. I learned it’s in my power to be happy and I can create peace inside all on my own.” Another young man came up to me after the first day and told me I reminded him of a girlfriend he had when he was 17. He said he had been in prison since he was 18 and hadn’t felt anything in all these years until he saw me. “I’m 38 now, I’m getting out in 4 years. I’m happy I’m feeling again!” He asked if he could write me and I told him I didn’t think I would be reading or writing letters. (because I’m an actress and have had fear in the past that things could go wrong having a pen pal in prison.) The following day, after we treo’d (the process of teaching a skill such as letting go of judgment for example) I heard his story. He said everyone in his family, his parents, his grand parents his brother and recently his sister had passed away. He felt so alone in the world and worthless. He had been in solitary confinement for many years until he learned through the prison programs how to interact with people. Suddenly I whispered in his ear “you can write to me, I want to help you.” He said he had thought that this may be the only time we would ever meet and he wanted me to remember it so he brought me a picture of him . My heart fell out of my chest. My friend and I had lunch the first day with 2 men. I told one of them he reminded me of my son. He beamed. The other man said he had been incarcerated since he was 17 for murdering the rapist of his 5 year old daughter. He also told us he was so nervous to speak to us and was wondering why. I said it was probably because it was something new and he wanted to make a good impression on us. The next day the first man came up to me and said “remember you told me I remind you of your son?” I smiled, “Of course I do!” “Well I want to make you proud and I want to make something of myself now.” He gave me a poem he wrote and I told him I think he found his calling as a poet and asked him to read it to the group which he bravely did. One man shared that he hadn’t had a visit in 38 years of being in prison. He considered this a visit and he cried, we all did. Another man thanked us for treating them like human beings and not forgetting they were in there. Another man said he heard the weekend would be amazing and that a transformation was going to happen and everyone was going to leave feeling incredible. He never imagined we would be sitting next to them. He was surprised and happy. I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to do this work and make a difference to people who deserve another chance. If I were given their circumstances, their environment or their parents, (maybe lack there of) Would I be in prison now? I’m going to remember last weekend forever. I’m going to hold each of them in my prayers as I know all of the Freedom to Choose Volunteers are in theirs.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This was by far the most powerful volunteering experience I have ever had. The men were so full of gratitude for being treated with love and respect. I know this raised the consciousness of our entire world!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

FTC is a unique organization which reaches out to the hearts and minds of incarcerated souls who have no great reason to find comfort and hope in a bleak sort of world. FTC brings to these people an opportunity to look inside and discover the inner-heart that exists in all of us, to connect with that heart and to explore alternative views about their current lives. It is in the delivery of these messages that the volunteers of FTC find their own opportunities to re-connect with their hearts and to share their spiritual (and very real and practical) formulas for living a wholesum internally rewarding life.

9 Charlotte35

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Freedom to Choose is a nonprofit organization that rises above the rest. I have experienced extreme healing not only for the men but for myself as a volunteer as well. I am so blessed being a volunteer for this foundation and have the dates inked in my calendar!

9 Ellen73

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There are many worthy organizations doing good work in the world. The Freedom to Choose Foundation is worthy of special recognition.

As a volunteer, I personally both witnessed and experienced the profound transformation of the men that I worked with during this experiental program. To sit with inmates that have spent the better part of their lives incarcerated, feeling forgotten, unloved and rejected and watch as the light in their eyes and hearts go on, as they are experiencing unconditional love and acceptance for the first time in their lives.

There are no words to express what it feels like to hear someone say it is the first time in their life they felt like a human-being.

This program changes lives - for the better. It needs to be expanded into all prisons. all release programs, all schools, all over the country. They are truly do good work in the world!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with Freedom to Choose is really an experience of being the change we want to see in the world, as suggested by Gandhi. I am so moved by how the Facilitators walk the talk and really honor the experience of each participant. It is nothing short of a miracle to witness a person remember that they are worthy and valuable and that its ok to get a second chance.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a non-profit that is making a difference in the prison system. I have been involved with Freedom To Choose Foundation and am astounded by the work that is being done. The integrity level of the people in this organization is impeccable and the volunteers dedicated and committed to making a change in the world.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Lives transform with the work taught during The Freedom To Choose workshops. Those whom have felt as if they don't matter begin to find meaning & purpose in their lives. They come to know the truth of who they really are thus their lives change. They become more loving, soul-centered individuals. They in turn see others through the same lens of perception which now elimates the need for violence, anger, retribution & self-destructive patterns of behavior. As their lives have more meaning, they begin to make more meaningful contributions to the world. Freedom To Choose is by far the best organization I have ever had the privilege to volunteer with.

7 Steve156

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have never encountered an organization so fully dedicated to bringing love and healing and new ways of living life to those who so need it--inmates, parolees, at-risk adults and youth--indeed to everyone involved, volunteers and all participants too. Our society needs more of this kind of work. I have been a volunteer for Freedom to Choose since 2004.

8

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Freedom to Choose for 11 years. The healing and transformational work that happens with the inmates during this workshop is profound. This is one of the most meaningful organizations that I have ever been involved with.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Truly the most profound, uplifting work I've been privileged to experience, witness + contribute towards in my life. The Freedom To Choose Foundation is a beacon of light in this world.

9

Board Member

Rating: 5

It is such an honor to serve on the Board of a foundation that has such a high level of commitment and integrity for themselves, their volunteers and those they serve.
Over the past 12 years I have witnessed lives transformed, families transformed and even the culture within prisons transformed. This is truly an effective program that is making a difference in the world!

7

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering for Freedom To Choose since 2006. Wow!! What amazing work this organization, it's directors, and its volunteers do. We absolutely receive more than we give. It is a magnificent organization!!!!

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've worked with FTC for over 8 years now, as part of their workshops in multiple prisons. The work this organization does -- gets results. It provides inmates with new mental and emotional frameworks that result in different and more productive thoughts, feelings and most importantly - behaviors.

Supporting this organization is a way to make a meaningful contribution in people's lives who - in the past - haven't had access to the resources and skills to support a productive and happy way of being in the world.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

WOW!
What better gift can there be? We get to witness divine souls, having a prison experience, transform through embracing the empowerment of taking 100% responsibility for everything they think, feel, say & do. This is rehabilitation in its' finest hour,
preparing these individuals to re-enter society, enthusiastic to make a meaningful contribution, serving themselves & others.

7 Loretta9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am amazed at the insightful, innovative processes that Freedom to Choose Foundations uses with inmates in prison to actually get them to discuss, and then experience, love and self-forgiveness. With seemingly simple communication skills, FTCF teaches incarcerated individuals the ability to express, with respect and love, their most intimate feelings. Such a wonderful healing takes place in just one two-day workshop. For those inmates who are able to attend several workshops over time, the healing is integrated into their everyday lives, shared with their family and friends, and offers a totally new way of living...regardless whether this individual ever paroles.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Freedom to Choose for 12 years. We go into both the Men's prison at VSP and the Women's Prison at CCWF in Chowchilla, Ca in the Fall and Spring of every year. We do a two day educational workshop teaching life changing and transformational communicational skills. We have done a documentary that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. My experience is that the power of love and forgiveness transforms.
It is palpable in these workshops

6 Wendy45

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Freedom To Choose is an AMAZING organization! Volunteering is one of the most inspiring incredible life-changing experiences. Please help support the work they are doing!!