19 September 2017

Tabling at the Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest

On Sunday, 9 September, Amnesty International Group 342 had a table at the annual Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest. For five hours we chatted with passerby about Amnesty International and our group, handed out fliers, and invited people to join us. Our intrepid organizer, Jeff, also wowed audiences with his amazing double-nose-flute technique and did some juggling with U.S. Representative Ryan Costello (PA-6). Great outreach, beautiful weather, and lots of fun—all in all, this event was a successful one for us!

16 August 2017

Meeting minutes for August 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 16 August 2017
In attendance: Jeff, Struan, Barbara, Bob, Kara (via Skype), Alex

Welcome and Introductions


Organizer's report [Jeff]: 
  • AIUSA success stories: update on recently liberated prisoners of conscious for whom Amnesty International has advocated in North Korea, Russia, and Sri Lanka
  • Review of three films recently viewed  
  • Requiem for the American Dream (featuring Noam Chomsky)
  • Inconvenient Sequel (by Al Gore)
  • Whose Streets? (consists largely of cell-phone videos of police interaction with unarmed citizens of color)
  • Sent letter to AIUSA governance signed by attenders at July meeting. Still hoping to obtain mailing addresses of local AIUSA supporters so that he can send a personal invitation to our meetings.
  • Report of her conversation with the manager of Ten Thousand Villages in Media regarding community shopping events
    • Community shopping events are intended to be mutually advantageous to the store (by bringing in additional shoppers) and to the nonprofit holding the event (by raising funds).
    • Nonprofit organization holding the event is responsible for publicizing the event among its supporters.
    • Nonprofit will receive a portion of the sales proceeds if shoppers mention the organization’s name when making purchases.
    • Community shopping event can last as long as a week, and the nonprofit can hold a kick-off event.
    • We can further discuss if we would like to hold a CSA and if we think that we have enough supporters who will make purchases in Media and mention us. If so, Barbara will contact the manager again to set up the event.
  • Are there other possible venues where we’d like to hold a Write for Rights event (independent of a fundraising effort)? K of P mall, perhaps? Exton Library?
  • Update on efforts to end forced organ harvesting in China: go to www.stoporganharvesting.org/ to ask senators to support S.Res.220: A resolution expressing solidarity with Falun Gong practitioners and condemning the practice of non-consenting organ harvesting, and for other purposes. (see resolution text here)
  • Book recommendation: An Unprecedented Evil Persecution, edited by Torsten Trey, Theresa Chu, and Yang Senhong (Clear Insight Publishing, 2016), an anthology of essays on Chinese government persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and others speaking up for democratic rights.  

Updates and Actions
  • Falun Gong practitioner being held indefinitely, tortured (China): UA 216/16
  • Two men sentenced to death (Belarus): UA 195/17
  • Human rights defender held and in danger of torture (Pakistan): UA 192/17

Upcoming Events

  • Malvern Harvest Festival (tabling event)
  • Sunday, 10 September 2017, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Marsha will send out details and schedule 
  • “Give a Home” concerts, organized by Sofar Sounds in conjunction with AIUSA
  • Small concerts held in private homes around the world on or around 20 September to call attention to plight of immigrants
  • Several in Philadelphia area.   
  • Limited number of tickets available at www.sofarsounds.com/philadelphia
  • AIUSA  Group 112 (Philadelphia) events
    • 19 September: "Global Migration Crises—Local Solutions" conference with various speakers. Organized with the City of Philadelphia Refugee Department and the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia
    • 21 September: Peace One Day Celebration and concert  
  • 2017 AIUSA Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference
    • Saturday, 4 November, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
    • Early-bird rate available through 1 October
Next meeting: Wednesday, 20 September 2017, 7:30 p.m., Wegman's Cafe in Malvern

19 July 2017

Meeting minutes for July 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 19 July 2017
In attendance: Struan, Barbara, Bob, Gina, Marsha, Seretha, Christina

Welcome and Introductions

  • Organizer's report [Jeff]: Jeff is out of town, so Barb is running today's meeting
  • Social media director's report [Tilo]: Barbara will prepare a summary of social media activities since March for the September meeting

Updates and Actions

  • AI report: At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul
    • Atrocities committed by both sides, including the U.S.-led coalition
    • AI representative interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! [video and transcript]
  • AI statement on July 2017 tour of Evin Prison by representatives of 45 diplomatic missions: "a crude PR stunt"
  • Uighur students in Egypt at risk of forcible return to China (Egypt): UA 168/17
  • Death penalty (Iran)
  • Death penalty for juveniles (Iran)
  • Death penalty in Ohio (USA): online petition
  • "I Want Those Addresses": revised version of Jeff's letter to AIUSA main office


5-Minute University: Bob will discuss activist tools at the September meeting

New Business

  • Marsha will send an e-mail to Group 342 to plan our participation in the Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest
  • Marsha will register our group for a table at the West Chester Growers' Market

Upcoming Events

Next meeting: Wednesday, 16 August 2017, 7:30 p.m., Wegman's Cafe in Malvern

Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest tabling: Sunday, 10 September 2017, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

28 June 2017

Meet AIUSA Group 242 member Marsha Brofka-Berends

(This is part of a series of occasional posts featuring members of AIUSA Group 342, ordinary people with a passion for human rights.)

Marsha Brofka-Berends has a long history with Amnesty International, going back to her high school days when she had an Amnesty t-shirt with the Declaration of Human Rights on the back. But she didn’t manage to connect with any local groups until about ten years ago, when she was looking for social activism opportunities near where she lives and found this group on Meetup. Since then she’s participated in Group 342’s annual Write for Rights tabling event each December and maintained its e-mail list and blog.

Group 342 is important to her because these gatherings of like-minded human-rights activists give her a much-needed reminder that there are people working for good in the world and that together they can make a difference. She says, “Without such reminders, it would be easy to get overwhelmed by helplessness in the face of all the rotten things that people can do to each other. We just have to remember that most people are good, that most people want to help others, and that together we can actually have an impact.”

Marsha points out that although Amnesty International is a global organization that’s renowned for its effectiveness, the U.S.-based section (AIUSA) has been struggling these past few years with identity and structural issues. She feels that these problems have had an adverse effect on its outreach: “Group 342 is pretty small, but I know that there are a lot more people out there who are interested in human-rights activism and would be happy to write a letter (or attend a meeting) if they only knew about us.” With that in mind, she’d like to see AIUSA prioritize public awareness campaigns and recruitment and expand its membership well beyond its current rosters. “Given the busy-ness of people’s lives today and how many different things compete for our attention, I know it’s not easy to expand AIUSA’s visibility,” she says. “But I think it can be done, particularly if the local groups get more support from the regional and central offices.”

She strongly believes that the actions of individuals do add up and can shape our world. For this reason, she’s been a vegetarian for nearly twenty-five years and contributes to Doctors without Borders, the ACLU, and Amnesty International.

Marsha is currently a professional wordsmith (mostly editing, but some writing and research as well)—work she’s been doing for over two decades, starting when she was in graduate school working on a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology. She grew up in the Midwest, lived on a Swiss dairy farm for a year while studying at the Universit√© de Fribourg, and spent a year on the Oregon coast interviewing loggers and environmental activists. And even though she’s now lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for nearly twenty years, she says she still hasn’t gotten used to the traffic around here!

21 June 2017

Meeting minutes for June 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 21 June 2017
In attendance: Barbara, Bob, Jeff, Kara, Lauri

Welcome and Introductions

Report from Barbara on social media campaign. An increase in Facebook reach and engagement was noted in the last two months. 

New Business

Jeff suggested that at each meeting a member give a presentation (10 minutes max) on some area of human rights that interests him or her. Bob volunteered to give a presentation on high-tech tools for activists at a future meeting.

Barbara mentioned that in past years, members would adopt an area of human rights that interested them and would bring pertinent actions. (For example, Brendan brings actions related to death penalty cases.) She volunteered to bring actions on groups who are suffering persecution or whose rights are being violated.

Jeff would like our group to take on a new case file, now that human rights defender and journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has been freed in Iran. He will look at the case files listed in the ARC and bring suggestions to the July meeting.

Tabling: Bob, Barbara, Lauri, Marsha, and Jeff have volunteered to do tabling at local events. Marsha is working on dates and venues.


Defender at Risk of Continued Detention In Egypt (Egypt: UA 129.17)

Hundreds Stranded at Mexico/Guatemala Border (Mexico/Guatemala: UA 130.17)

Minority Rights Journalist Attacked and Injured (Pakistan: UA 147.17)

Upcoming Events

Next meeting: Wednesday, 19 July, 7:30 p.m., cafe in Wegmans (Malvern PA)

17 May 2017

Meeting minutes for May 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 17 May 2017
In attendance: Jeff, Gina, Tilo, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • Treasurer's report [Tilo]: Marsha made a motion for Tilo and Barb to open an account for this group at Citadel FCU with our new EIN. Gina seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
  • Outreach and fundraising
    • Because the Ten Thousand Villages store in Exton has closed, Marsha will contact the store in Media to inquire about holding our annual Write for Rights Event / Community Shopping Event at that location.
    • Marsha is looking into getting Amnesty International t-shirts for our group.
  • Activism [Jeff]: Discussion of Saul Alinsky's idea that effectiveness increases when politicians are afraid.

Updates and Actions

  • Case file: Mohammed Sadiq Kabudband has been freed after a decade of imprisonment in Iran!
  • An AI Group 342 action again AI? [Jeff]: Proposal to contact AIUSA main office more directly/forcefully about their refusal to help us invite local AIUSA members to attend Group 342 meetings.


5-Minute University: Jeff will remind Struan to do this in June

Old Business

  • Correspondence with Nick at the AIUSA office [Marsha]: Let's reach out to him with our concerns in the future.
  • Proposal for a new approach to tabling [Jeff]
  • Marsha will check with everyone about Good Neighbor Day
  • Marsha will reach out to manager of Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest and Eagleview Farmers' Market
  • Tickling Giants [Marsha and Jeff]: This film sounds great, but hosting a screening event is not something our group will pursue at this time.

19 April 2017

Meeting minutes for April 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 19 April 2017
In attendance: Barbara, Bob, Jeff, Kara

Welcome and Introductions


Our group now has an EIN number for tax purposes. Barbara sent this info to Tilo.
Social media campaign update (Barbara)
  • Group social media account updates
    • Barbara is posting more often to the group Twitter and FB pages.
    • Ovette reposts (from Barbara's Instagram page) items related to AI to the group Instagram page.
    • Marsha posts to the group's G+ page.
    • Meeting announcements: posted to Twitter and FB via Hootsuite
  • FB overview:
    • Definitions
      • "reach" = number of people who saw the ad at least once
      • "impressions" = number of times a post from a page is displayed. (People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, if someone sees a page update in news feed and then sees that same update when a friend shares it, that would count as two impressions.) 
      • "engagement" = like, click, comment, or reaction
      • "page views" = individuals who choose to browse a page. (An actual visit to a profile marks a higher level of engagement than simply liking a post in the news feed. This suggests a more active interest than a convenience-based like.)
    • FB announcement of our April meeting was “boosted” (cost: $20) on April 16, 17,  and18 to 22- to 45-year-olds living within 10-mile radius of West Chester, Phoenixville, Radnor
      • An additional “reach” of 490 persons gained for the post 
      • 14 “engagements,” mostly “likes” to the post. Those who liked the post were invited to like our FB page.
      • Cost per engagement: $1.34
    • Plan for FB use
      • Will take time to increase our number of Fb followers (likes to page)
      • We may wish to “boost” a post a few times per year. Targeted advertisements also a possibility
      • One or two tweets/day from AIUSA’s Twitter account being fed into our group’s Twitter and FB accounts for extra content
      • Meetings now posted to online community events calendars of chestercounty.com, delconewsnetwork.com, mainlinemedianews.com, philly.com, phillyfunguide.com 
  • Barbara will check with some local radio and TV stations (e.g., KYW, WHYY) to see if they have a community events calendar or do announcements of community events
  • Struan is checking list of area newspapers to see if they feature print calendar of events
Update on other outreach efforts (Jeff)

Jeff reported on his correspondence with one of AIUSA’s senior directors in an effort to secure names and addresses of members for the purpose of sending them a handwritten invitation to attend our meetings. Jeff also shared tabling ideas.

Tabling at the Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest

On Sunday, 9 September, Amnesty International Group 342 had a table at the annual Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest. For five hours we chatted wit...