IrelandThe Sunny Healing Center, Ireland
The Sunny Center is a sanctuary in the West of Ireland, where Sunny and Peter bring exonerees from the USA and all over the world for healing.
“We are so glad to have this opportunity to turn tragedy into triumph, to use the past as fertile ground for planting the seeds of hope and watching those seeds blossom into happy, healthy lives.” – Sunny
Peter and Sunny established The Sunny Center on the west coast of Ireland near the sea, in the midst of beautiful lakes and mountains surrounded by hazelnut trees and pinewoods. It’s in an area that sits on the bedrock of the Earth which, in itself, is very healing. They make use of animal therapy and grow much of their food organically.
During the past twenty years, Sunny and Peter have traveled continually between the United States and Europe, giving presentations at universities and other organizations about their experiences with the justice system as well as in support of the abolition of the death penalty. They give seminars about the benefits the spiritual aspects of healing, learning to forgive and going beyond blame.
The benefit of yoga
Sunny started teaching yoga while still in prison, and continued to teach when she was released. Eventually she wrote A Survial Yoga Manual, which was distributed at classes and seminars around the USA, as well as to and to people in prison with the help of The Human Kindness Foundation. Sunny and Peter practice yoga and meditation together daily.
They have also taught yoga, relaxation and forgiveness in prisons and participated in healing seminars for at-risk youth and immigrants as well as exonerees and prison staff in Europe.
Working with former soldiers and prisoners
In Ireland, they have worked with traumatized ex-combatants and former prisoners from both sides of the conflict in partnership with Seeds of Hope, a non-partisan organization set up to heal the wounds of the Troubles. And they continue to offer support, having established lasting bonds of friendship.
In the US, they have worked closely with groups such as the Innocence Projects Network and other organisations that offer assistance to the wrongly convicted.
“We realized we could help others in the same situation as ourselves. We understood the trauma.” – Sunny
In 2012, the lawyer of an exoneree who was struggling to cope reached out to Sunny and Peter, hoping they could help her client to see a better way forward and find healing. They invited him to live at their home in Ireland. After a month, he left with a sense of hope that maybe he, too, could have a life filled with love and happiness.
Over the years, they have welcomed exonerees from the USA, the UK, Taiwan, Belgium, Ireland and Pakistan. They provide spiritual, emotional and physical support, helping their guests overcome the trauma, isolation and disconnection resulting from wrongful incarceration.
“There is no set therapy, as each person is individual. But everyone is in need of love and connection.” – Sunny
They welcome them as part of the family. The exonerees are in a safe environment, with people who understand and have experienced what they are going through. They give their guests time, space and the opportunity to relax and become comfortable with themselves and the world around them. They listen without judgement. And they try to help each person find a new persona, not one based on their past.
Their work has spread
The work expanded organically as Sunny and Peter met other exonerees and lawyers at conferences in the US and abroad. They have developed a network of fellow exonerees with whom they stay connected and to whom they offer outreach support. They continue to expand their exoneree family, including attorneys and families.
As a result of the world changes in 2020, Sunny and Peter now use internet meetings and phone calls, continuing to maintain a relationship with their network of some fifty exonerees around the world and their families.
They reach out to exonerees’ attorneys and invite them to connect their clients and fellow exonerees with The Sunny Center for assistance, ideally before their release.
Wherever the injustice of wrongful convictions has impacted on people’s lives, The Sunny Center extends its healing program, experience and expertise so that these benefits can be brought to everyone who needs them. And this remains their main focus.
Cooperation with other organizations
The Sunny Center encourages cooperation with other helping organizations. In this way, they each make the best use of available resources. If they are unable to help someone who reaches out, they will connect them with organizations or individuals who can.
“We are all one family with one goal. We are here to help one another through this most difficult period in our lives.”– Sunny
More Sunny Healing Retreat Centers
Peter and Sunny are mentoring people in other countries to create Sunny Healing Centers, helping them to know what works and what doesn’t and to learn about the precious resources available.
Kind people around the country have offered the use of their home, their ranch, or their farm to be used for temporary respite centers for exonerees.
Sunny and Peter are working towards legislation to provide housing for exonerees.
“We are so glad to have this opportunity to turn tragedy into triumph, to use the past as fertile ground for planting the seeds of hope and watching those seeds blossom into happy healthy lives.”