Local road-runner accepts award at Amnesty International Conference in Chicago


Last updated 3/25/2019 at 1:49pm

Members of the North County Chapter of Amnesty International, from left, Alessandra Colfi, Ann Sturley, Kathy Ford, RBVHS students Grace Ehm and Bowen Fan, their teacher adviser Erica Glennon and William Leslie flew to Chicago March 1 to accept the "Sister Laola Hironaka Award" for outstanding local group activism in 2018.

FALLBROOK – When she isn't busy running errands for local residents, Kathy Ford spends much of her spare time fighting for human rights worldwide.

Some may know the Fallbrook woman as owner of Road-Runner Errands, a home-based delivery service that helps people run their errands, whether it be shopping for groceries, dropping mail or making bank deposits for local businesses.

But for 30 years, Ford has also served as group coordinator of the North County Chapter of Amnesty International, a nonprofit, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting human rights around the globe.

Ford was one of several local chapter members who flew to Chicago, March 1, to receive national recognition at the U.S. Section's annual general membership conference.

At the conference's award luncheon, the North County Chapter members were presented with the 'Sister Laola Hironaka Award' for outstanding local group activism in 2018.

"We were honored to have our efforts recognized, but that's not why we do the work," Ford said.

The best part was the huge exchange of ideas and connection with hundreds of others, especially young people who are so committed to protecting human rights, Ford said.

"Getting to share that experience with our chapter's two student leaders, who went with us, was really rewarding. We all came home inspired to get back to work and hopeful for the future," Ford said.

The local chapter members attended workshops, joined in public actions downtown and networked with other activists from around the country during the weekend conference.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate based in London which boasts over 7 million volunteer members and supporters in more than 140 countries.

The organization is most known for their massive letter-writing and petition campaigns on behalf of people and groups whose human rights are under attack by their own governments. Its members work impartially with the goal of holding all governments accountable to the same standard of human rights.

Ford co-founded the North County Chapter of Amnesty International in 1988. Since then, its hosted scores of public events in North County, which have been attended by thousands of San Diegans throughout the years.

Ford said the events are designed to educate and inspire participants to join in the campaigns.

Campaigns the North County Chapter have worked on include freeing jailed prisoners of conscience, stopping torture and executions, protecting refugees, advocating for fair and prompt trials for political prisoners and calling for investigations into "disappearances" by arms of the government.

"So many of the targets for harassment, imprisonment or even extrajudicial executions are the journalists, human rights attorneys and defenders, activists and teachers," Ford said. "They do their work knowing they may be targets and they do it anyway with amazing dedication and courage. The people we work for have lives, families and friends just like us. When they are suddenly hauled away and jailed for speaking out, writing an article, belonging to the 'wrong' faith, or doing anything their government perceives as a threat, who do they turn to? That's where we come in. We know that when a person learns that Amnesty knows about their situation and is working on their behalf, it has an enormous impact. And when you meet someone face to face from China or Nigeria who you wrote letters for who was released because of the appeals? That stays with you forever and keeps you motivated."

The North County Chapter meets twice a month to organize events and write letters to government officials and solidarity cards to their prisoners.

They are currently working on their assigned "adopted" cases. One case involves two university students in Azerbaijan. The students, Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, were tortured into false confessions of drug running after they painted a political statement on a statue of a former, corrupt leader, and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Another case involves a journalist and political cartoonist, Prageeth Eknilegoda, who was critical of the president's brutal policies and "disappeared" in Sri Lanka just days before the 2010 election.

"The beauty of Amnesty is there are so many ways to participate," Ford said. "You can join a local chapter, a school club, write letter from home or participate in an event. It all adds up, and you never know if it's your letter will be the final one that helps lead to a person's regained freedom."

For 25 years, the North County Chapter organized the annual Walk for Human Rights at the Oceanside amphitheater and pier, and for the past five years, the chapter has partnered with the Amnesty Club at Rancho Buena Vista High School to host a Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon at the school.

The Write-a-thon is one of thousands of similar events held globally each December, which garners millions of letters and cards from Amnesty volunteers and supporters on behalf of a dozen selected cases.

Last year's event at the school collected over 850 letters.

Ford estimated that through their chapter's public events they have generated tens of thousands of letters and petitions.

For more information about North County Chapter of Amnesty International, call (858) 735-5708 or (760) 277-0089. Find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Amnesty471.

Submitted by North County Chapter of Amnesty International.

Fallbrook resident Kathy Ford accepts an award on behalf of the North County Chapter of Amnesty International.


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