history of lifespark - lifespark - movement against the death penalty

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history of lifespark

1993: Lifespark is founded by three Swiss women

2000: Lifespark helps to set up a speakers’ tour in Switzerland with the speakers: SueZann Bosler, Rick Halperin, Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs, Dennis Longmire, Gary Taylor

2003: Lifespark becomes a member of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty upon its foundation.  The film festival at "La Cinémathèque Suisse" celebrates the 10th anniversary of the organization. 11 films are presented during the month of October.

2005: Lifespark helps to organize another speakers’ tour in Switzerland with the speakers: Mina Ahadi (Iran), Hashim Mohammed Ahmed (Sudan), Martina Correia (USA), Fatna El Bouih (Morocco), Rick Halperin (USA), Harry Wu (China).

2013: For its 20 th anniversary, Lifespark involves its members and their penpals in creating an artistic project: penpals are invited to submit texts onto which music tunes are composed. The final project becomes Inmates’ Voices Choir 2013, a singing performance of 14 songs by 8 singers which tours in 13 various halls.  

Lifespark today: Since 1993, lifespark has greatly expanded its services for its members and in public activities. So far, there are about 350 lifespark members who have been writing to 1500 inmates.
Lifespark also participates in educational projects and political abolitionist lobbies in the USA by financially supporting local American organizations.




The history of lifespark - told by founding member Ursula Corbin
How it started
After spending many years living in countries where human rights were violated against daily, I joined a group of Amnesty International in 1986 - right after returning to live in Switzerland. I wanted to do something - to be an active member and it just was not enough for me just to give donations.

The first letter from an inmate
After a year or so, my group got a letter from an inmate on Death Row in Texas - he wanted to get into contact with us and have somebody to write him back. Since I was the only one at the time who knew English well enough to write, I was the one to write him back.


A very deep and lasting friendship resulted from this and I wrote him very often and visited him every year. Unfortunately this all ended abruptly when he was executed in 1993! What a devastating experience! I did not want to write to any inmate on Death Row anymore...

The interview with a Texas Radio Station – and more letters from inmates
But then, I gave an interview to a Texas Radio Station about this pen pal-ship and about my ideas on the Death Penalty. Soon after that I was swamped with letters from inmates - they had gotten my address from that radio station! There was no way I could start writing to each of them and I was thinking of ways of how I could possibly handle this.

The idea of lifespark is born
I met two ladies who also had started a pen pal-ship with an inmate on Death Row and the three of us came up with the idea of starting a little organisation - connecting inmates with people from the "outside" - that was how the idea of "lifespark" was born! We found some other interested people and founded that organization at the end of 1993.
After about a year we already had 30 members! We wrote some articles in women’s magazines, but mostly it was through word-of-mouth that we got new members. Today (2010), 17 years later, lifespark has about 300 members and more than 1000 inmates have been connected with someone willing to write.

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