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
2003: 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)
Between 1993 and today: Lifespark has greatly expanded its services for its members and in public activities. Lifespark participates in educational projects and political abolitionist lobbies in the USA by financially supporting local American organizations.
There are about 320 lifespark members who have been writing to 1300 inmates so far.
History of lifespark – told by co-founder 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, 17 years later, lifespark has about 300 members and more than 1000 inmates have been connected with someone willing to write.
Lifespark nowadays does even more than to connect people for pen pal-ships - they also raise awareness about the Death Penalty in schools, through public appearances and educational programs. It is an organisation which is completely independent and neutral and has no religious and political ties.