I noticed that this was writen a while back so I wanted to ask if you had found any good pen pal data bases?? I am Thinking about starting a pen pal program at my Temple but don't know where to start with finding people that want to corespond.
Data bases, no. I was looking more for groups that needed volunteers to write as pen pals. I did have success in that, if your interest is pen palling, but, like me, lack the experience needed to do so here at PDN. If you study/practice Buddhism, I can recommend some. Outside of Buddhist circles, I'm not really familiar, but never looked to far. Some you may wish to check out are:
Liberation Prison Project. It is part of the FPMT, a Mahayana organization, within the Dalai Lama's school of Buddhism (Gelugpa), but it is not necessary to be a "Tibetan" Buddhist to volunteer there. I just started with them recently, actually.
True Freedom Pen Pal Program, was founded within Thich Nhat Hanh's community. One of my sanghas, which is of this lineage, has a few people volunteering as pen pals. The rules for this group seem a little more rigid than those of LPP. I was a bit deterred by them, and thus hesitated when I first thought I may write through them. There is a short "required" reading list here, as well as a two-year dedication to your pen pal, which is not a long time really.
Buddhist Peace Fellowship does some sort of volunteer pen palling.
Against the Stream (Noah Levine's organization) does pen palling as well, though I do not know if they accept people far and wide, or just within their group.
If you need help finding information about these groups, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to assist you. :-)
Wow.. Thanks Aaron. You have given me a great place to start. I will research these groups and follow up with you. Thank you so much. So how many people are you currently writing. Do you talk buddhism with these people or do you keep it secular? I REALLY appriciate the help and will post here soon...!
No problem, bud...my pleasure.
I am writing only one person through LPP, but they ask for pen pals (Dharma Friends) to take on five. I am writing only one, for now, because I already have friends in prison that I'm writing semi-regularly, along with work and school. So I didn't want to take on more than I could handle and still be there for someone. I'm not sure how many the other groups ask. I don't recall True Freedom specifically stating a preferred amount, and I want to say Buddhist Peace Fellowship might have. I don't know, bro.
We do discuss Buddhism; however, in the thing I read for LPP, it did matter-of-factually note that most of the inmates aren't going to go on to become great Buddhist scholars, though some do, so our role is primarily to be a Dharma friend rather than a teacher. So they guy I recently began writing is new to practice/study, within the last year. It seems he has some questions and also expresses some challenges in his life. LPP is neat in that as a Dharma Friend you can request books to be sent to your pen pal from LPP. In fact they encourage you to be generous in doing so because books are one of the few gifts they can/we can offer. Inmates (I dislike this word) request them often. It may well be that some of these other groups also have a similar deal with books, but I can't be sure.
Now, on the contrary, for True Freedom, the information specifically says to "not get personal" to keep things on the Dharma track. They also request a pen pal to NOT stay in touch with their correspondent after his/her release.
So, as you can imagine, each group and each tradition may have a different approach, as well as requirements!
One more that I forgot, Josh, is the San Francisco Zen Center. They do an outreach with pen pal volunteers, too.
(I should clarify that I'm pretty sure all these groups offer books to inmates, or did. However, LPP is the only one I can say for certain we have the ability to decide what gets sent.)
Yeah, check it out and let me know if I can be of any further help, bro.
Hey aaron how have you been...So I did sign up for a pen pal with lpp but still have not had a response. Did it take you awile to get matched with a inmate..Thanks for all the help so far.
Yes, it took an exceptional long time and several attempts at contact. If you would like to email me, I will give you the email of a nun to contact. I contacted the nun with whom I correspond about my pen pal, and she suggested giving the email of the other to you. I just do not wish to post it here. If you email her, it was suggested you tell her a little about your background in Dharma and maybe about the desire to be a pen pal/Dharma friend. I'll message you my email address. :)
I know of a prisoner that I worked with who has no one. His grandfather raised him...well, he called the man..."pops". Pops died while this man was in prison. I don't know if it's ok to put his name on the forum, so please let me know. This man has unbelievable potential and a kind heart and was interested in Buddhism while I worked with him. He was desperate for a pen pal, but had no computer access. He was released from the hole and as I watched him walk out with his knotted bag over his shoulder, I was so proud and happy for him. He is someone who will be released one day. His aches for contact. No visitors and no famly...at all. Great guy. Let me know if I can post here or need to contact otherwise. Thanks,K
Hi Kim, he sounds like a great guy and sorry but its not wise to post for someone else on a public internet forum. We no longer run our pen pal program but other orgs do still do them. Maybe Josh or Aaron has a contact name or email at one of those orgs? Kate
I'd be happy to gather some resources for your friend, as far as correspondence programs are concerned. I have a full plate, as far as writing is concerned, but would be happy to share what I know if your friend would care to correspond with any Buddhist groups/friends. I am not familiar with groups that are not Buddhist, but it seems that many of them are not so rigid that they require their pen pals to be Buddhist or on their way to become Buddhist. Just let me know. It seems most people on here have accounts that require "friending" before they can email back and forth. If this is the case, and you wish for this information, just add me and I'll gather of what I know. :-)