Year in Review 2018 Newsletter

Dec 19, 2018 | Uncategorized

Dear Friends of The Sunny Center,

We could never have predicted the new and suprising ways our work would grow and evolve during the past year – from our increasingly international roster of exoneree guests to our newly-launched, first of its kind community residence for exonerees in Florida. There is no doubt that 2018 has been a wonderful, busy, and productive year at the Sunny Center! We are so grateful to be doing the work we do and to be connected to all of you. 

Of course, we offer our most profound thanks to all of you, our friends and supporters. When you read this Year in Review, please be assured that none of what we achieved this year would have been possible without your support and caring. THANK YOU! 

And now, for some highlights from the year 2018. 


Katie, Bill and our friend from Malawi. 

We started off the new year in our favorite way with a houseful of guests and visitors. We had just hosted a new exoneree guest Bill Richards, as well as a guest from Malawi and also had a new volunteer Katie who spent a lovely visit with us. There is nothing like the company of friends to warm up a chilly January night. 


NUIG Irish Centre for Human Rights
We went to the Irish Centre for Human Rights at National University of Ireland at Galway to hear our friend Brian Farrell, co-founder of the Innocence Project of Iowa, speak about the forensic science of wrongful convictions. We also shared our experience and perspectives, as well.
Sunny and Peter plant a tree in honor of Féile Bríd or St. Brigid’s Day. 

And on February 3rd, we also took part in Féile Bríde 2018: Light out of Darkness organized by Afri: Action from Ireland. We shared our stories as a way to illuminate the journey of light out of darkness.


First there was goat yoga, now there is doggie meditation!

We had a visitor from Sweden Liza who enjoyed getting to know the Connemara countryside. And we also bid a sad farewell to our lovely volunteer Tress, pictured meditating with one of our pups above, In March, we also traveled to the UK to appear on the Jo Good radio show on BBC UK and spent time in London helping to train lawyers to work on death penalty cases in the US for Amicus. We also went to Dublin and met with the ambassador from Cuba at the Cuban Embassy. And finally, we concluded this busy month with a trip to Memphis for the annual Innocence Network Conference where we met lots of new exoneree friends and formed many new important partnerships. 


Petal and newborn Cásca and Císean.

Spring is the time of growth and renewal and that was certainly true at the Sunny Center in 2018. In April we formally announced our new Exoneree Support Coordinator, Dorothy, who is providing on site support to our growing family of new and former guests. This is such an important development in our ability to reach out to the many exonerees in need of continued support as they grow and adjust to a life of freedom on the outside. And on the furry and feathered friend front, our mamma goat Petal’s twins arrived on Good Friday! They were great spring tidings!!! 


Our visitors, Levi and Paul, from Australia.

We had visitors Levi and Paul from Australia as well as Ena, a Reiki practioner from Cloughjordan, an eco community in Tipperary. whom we enjoyed welcoming to our own eco community! And in May we also took a trip to St. Michael’s College in Dublin to spend time with the caring and compassionate students from all levels attending St. Michael’s College, Blackrock College, St. Mary College and Willow Park Senior as they presented their school projects on human rights. We talked about our human rights work and the students showcased their work with exhibition projects – some students had actually visited Africa!


From left to right, Sunny Peter, Sue Gauger and friends..

In June we had lots of visitors who enjoyed a warm Connemara welcome, including Sue Gauger, the wife of Gary Gauger, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his parents and is one of the six (including Sunny) depicted in the play The Exonerated

Sunny and Ina share a hug and an abundance of love. 

We also welcomed Ina, an exoneree from Holland and the first female exoneree to stay at the Sunny Center. Ina has become a dear part of the Sunny Center family and during her stay, she enjoyed walking the dogs, milking the goats and tending the organic garden.  

Peter, Sunny and Joe Murray, the founder of Afri. Photo by Derek Speirs

And finally, in June, we took part in the annual Famine Walk that commemorates the Great Hunger of 1845-50 and a trek in which hundreds of people perished. The walk is organized by our old friend and Afri Ireland founder Joe Murray. We also traveled to Liverpool and gave a talk at the Writing on the Wall literary festival, also known as WOWfest, where our books, Stolen Time by Sunny and About Time by Peter, turned out to be very popular! 


Mike, a local friend, and Robert fix a gate.

In July, we welcomed our exoneree guest Robert, wrongly convicted at age 19 and released last year. He enjoyed his first trip abroad to come to the Sunny Center and also went to see the ocean for the first time during his stay!

The first Sunny Center board meeting in Ireland at our kitchen table. 

We also welcomed three members of our board of directors, Eva, Yoel and Max, and held a meeting in Ireland around our kitchen table. It was wonderful that the board had the opportunity to see the Sunny Center in action and experience firsthand what this sanctuary offers people who have suffered the worst injustice imaginable. 


Our exoneree guest Robert enjoying an Irish summer delight.

In August we said goodbye to Robert, whose restorative stay included a sampling his first 99 Flake ice cream and we also welcomed an exoneree from Taiwan, who arrived with a translator and adjusted very quickly to his Irish welcoming. 
Front row, left to right, Marla, Peter and Sunny, back row left to right, Prof. Matthew Burton, along with students at Oxford.

In August, we went to Dublin to meet up with our old friend Steve Earle, the renowned musician and mutual friend who first nudged us to meet 20 years ago, and then journeyed on to Oxford, England where we met up with Marla Mitchell-Cichon, who teaches law at Cooley Law School. She had arranged for our visit to Oxford University to talk about our experiences and the Sunny Center with students there. 


Taiwanese interpreter Howard with Sunny and Peter at the market. Photo by Peter Harkins.

We bid goodbye to our Taiwanese Exoneree guest LinXun nicknamed “Liam” and his translator Howard, and we also welcomed our second female Exoneree, Krissy, from America. She enjoyed her time in Connemara and made friends with all the furry and feathered members of the Sunny Center community.
Krissy and goat friend.
Brother Joseph Pio in meditation. 

And finally, in September, we had a visiting monk from Italy, Brother Joseph Pio, who visited the Sunny Center on his way to see the Pope in Phoenix Park in Dublin. 


Our Belgian activist visitors enjoyed their stay. 

We hosted a group of activists from Belgium who were eager to learn more about our healing techniques and survival yoga at the Sunny Center.

Sunny Center Coordinator Anne Driscoll gives a talk at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUIG.

And in October, we spoke to the National University of Ireland at Galway Innocence Clinic that was launched last fall by our Sunny Center coordinator, Anne Driscoll, a US Fulbright scholar  overseeing a new initiative to teach students about the causes of wrongful convictions and how to investigate them.


Welcome home!

On November 3, we officially launched the “Exonerees for Exonerees” Community in Tampa, Florida. The Sunny Center now hosts the world’s first and only dedicated community of its kind for people who have been released after Wrongful Conviction. At the Exonerees for Exonerees inauguration, Sunny was in attendance along with Dorothy, our Exoneree Support Coordinator, as well as the new exoneree residents, a representative from the State Attorney’s office, and other supporters and friends.

L to R, Guadelupe Blanco, organizer of the conference, Dean’s partner Pam and Peter at the EIN conference. 

And on November 9th, Sunny and Peter attended the third annual European Innocence Network conference in Barcelona, which gathered representatives from innocence projects in 12 countries, including Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Britain, Holland, Spain, Italy, Macedonia, Croatia, Poland, Israel and Switzerland.  


From L to R, Sunny, Antonella Rowetto, and Peter presenting at secondary school in Turin. 

During the month of December, we took a trip to Turin, Italy where Sunny’s book was launched in Italian! The book launch and our presentation was held in a church where we were very warmly received. 

Sunny holds up the Italian translation of her memoir Stolen Time.


We can scarcely believe 2018 is nearly over! As we look back over the year, we a gratified that our Sunny Center family continues to grow and flourish. We look forward to 2019 with anticipation as it promises many new developments, hosting more guests, and making meaningful connections.

We are grateful for the support and passionate involvement that we have received from our Board and our supporters around the world.

We couldn’t do the work without your help.

Every gift matters. Every donation helps us to help others. And we hope you will consider the Sunny Center for your year-end giving. And we especially welcome recurring donations, as they are the gifts that keep on giving! 

We thank you for your continued interest and support.

From all of us here at the Sunny Center, and all of those who have been helped by your generosity, we wish you a Happy Holiday Season and Healthy New Year!

Peace and Love,

Sunny and Peter 

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