15 years ago I turned to my friend and colleague, Betsy Healy, and said “we can do better.” Betsy and I were working with a small Dallas non-profit struggling to meet the legal and social needs of traumatized asylum-seekers. As I saw these vulnerable people come to our office, I knew that we, as a community, could do more to help them.
We turned to our friends for their support and with their help we founded Human Rights Initiative of North Texas to help ensure legal representation for asylum-seekers who could not afford it on their own. It was hard work, but every day I would go home knowing I was helping save someone’s life. Look at us – 15 years later and we’re still going strong!
Last year you helped us expand our services to reach increasing numbers of unaccompanied refugee children as they fled the violent countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With your assistance, HRI was able to represent children like Kevin, a sweet and mild-mannered young boy, who was living with his alcoholic father in Honduras. In late 2012, Kevin’s uncle was murdered by gang members in their home town. After his murder, Kevin was followed by gang members whenever he left the house, so he became a prisoner in his own home. He eventually stopped attending school out of fear of being killed by the gang. His father was unable to protect him due to his alcoholism and his mother had passed away in 2002. Kevin’s grandmother in Dallas helped pay for a guide to bring him to America so he could live with her. With the help of our pro bono attorneys, legal staff, and social services department, Kevin has been able to find the stability, safety, and freedom here in America that he never had before – his true American dream.
When I started this work all those years ago, I never imagined how many people we might one day reach. In the past fifteen years, we have expanded our programs to help not only asylum-seekers, but also those who are survivors of domestic violence, child abuse or abandonment, human trafficking, and more. In this last year alone, we have helped over 600 individual clients with free legal services. In FY2014 our pro bono attorneys provided over $3.2 M of free legal services to these clients, multiplying each dollar you donated by nearly five.
This Independence Day, help more men, women, and children, like Kevin, realize their “American Dream” of freedom, liberty, and opportunity by pledging your support to Human Rights Initiative.
Will you help us continue to “do better?” Click here to donate today!
Serena Simmons Connelly, Co-founder
p.s. I’ve shared some of our most touching clients stories below!