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Retreat: A Big Hit!

In early April nearly 70 mid-Atlantic activists converged on Bear Creek Camp for a roundly successful WFP-MidAtlantic retreat.  The record-breaking number of attendees, representing a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds, gained insight from on-point speakers and collectively planned tangible, forward-thinking actions for changing US policy.  (Hanging out together after-hours also made for some good times.)  The proactive energy fomented at the retreat has quickly borne fruit--recently returned participants have already set up lobby visits and started organizing public vigils. 

Here's what some retreat-goers had to say:

"I'm still energized from the weekend and talking to everyone I know about it!" --Cedar Knolls, NJ

"I would like to say thank you for everything. The retreat was an amazing experience. I learned so much from all of you and definitely have been inspired by all of your work."  --New York, NY

"I learned a lot about WFP and came away very impressed with their work and encouraged by their level of bold political action."  --Ephrata, PA

"The energy is there, the vision is there, and certainly, I am looking forward to working with all of you in the near future."  --Silver Spring, MD

"Overall, this is one of best retreats I have been on."  --New York, NY

Retreat Snapshots

Our featured speaker Mark Engler, journalist and analyst, gives a concise and compelling panorama of the political sea change in Latin America and offers some predictions of what we can expect from Obama.

Retreat-goers who recently returned from delegations give fellow participants the latest scoop on everything from the Cuba travel ban to El Salvador's elections.

Gathered in small groups with others from their congressional district, retreat-goers share tips on lobbying their specific representative.  The session was informed by a report card detailing how each person's representative has voted on key Latin America policies.  Check out the report card here:

(Green = good vote; Red = bad vote; Yellow = not clear; Thumbs-up = "yes" vote; Thumbs-down = "no" vote; Question mark = not voting or non-sponsorship)

We spent one evening crafting paper dolls, representing millions of displaced Colombians, to be displayed in front of the White House on the Day of Action for Colombia.  Here, Maria and Jackie (of NJ) display their finished products.

Jason (of NYU), who created what may be the most elaborate doll in the Mid-Atlantic, proudly displays his craft.

Alejandro (of the New School) sports some dolls.

Francisco Acosta, WFP-MA Steering Committee member (of Silver Spring, MD), makes his point in a skill-building workshop on effective event organizing.

After-hours Taboo and pretzels.

We gathered in close for Tom Driver's enlivening final reflection.  We parted ways only after swapping contact info and promising to continue our discussion and action-planning via email--a promise thus far kept.

Bear Creek Camp, Wilkes-Barre, PA
April 3-5, 2009

Friday, April 3
  • Registration/Check-in/Dinner
  • Welcome/Housekeeping
  • Introductions/Icebreaker
  • Free time (Snack/Movie/Games/Songs/Etc.)

Saturday, April 4

  • Breakfast
  • Welcome/Agenda review
  • Moment of silence / Quiet meditation
  • Delegation highlights/How to lead a delegation
  • Break/Snack
  • “Change Latin America Can Believe In: Organizing in the Obama Era” (Mark Engler, of Foreign Policy In Focus)
  • Book signing / Lunch
  • 2009 Policy Priorities: Cuba, Colombia, Merida, Jubilee, Trade, SOA
  • Break
  • Lobbying in your specific district
  • Break/Snack
  • Reflection—“Love, Justice, and Power Organizing” (Elliot Ratzman, of Swarthmore University)
  • Split into two groups: Church-based organizing OR University-based organizing
  • Break
  • Events-based organizing/fundraising: speaker tours, fundraisers, house parties
  • Introduction of Colombian internal displacement crisis and doll-making activity
  • Dinner and doll-making
  • Free time (Games/Movies/Songs/Snack/Etc.)

Sunday, April 5
  • Breakfast
  • Announcements/Housekeeping/Agenda review
  • Moment of silence / Quiet meditation
  • Immigration policy reform (Patty Kupfer, of America’s Voice) 
  • Geographic group discussions and commitments
  • Reportback of commitments to whole group
  • Wrap-up reflection on commitment and social change (Tom Driver)
  • Evaluations, thank you and goodbye!