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July 2014            Newsletter of Initiatives of Change USA
Issue No. 28

 

    

 

Caux, Switzerland As you read this issue the 2014 Caux Scholars program is just beginning at Caux with an outstanding class from 17 countries. The conferences have been in session since the beginning of the month and we are carrying a first report written by John W. Franklin, director of partnerships and international programs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, who attended the Just Governance for Human Security conference.     

 

We are in the final recruiting phase for the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship which begins in Richmond in October. If this is for you, now is the time to apply! In the words of one previous participant: "This program has been transformative. The most valuable lesson is that change - personal, societal, global - is possible. Each of us, no matter what our background, skill set or talents can have a hand in it." Don't miss this opportunity!  

 

You will read more about the bold vision of a National Center for Community Trustbuilding beginning to take shape in Richmond, VA, this fall with help from a generous lead grant from the W.K. Kellogg foundation.  

 

As thousands of children cross our southern border take a moment to read a commentary from Oscar Contreras, born in Guatemala but here in the US since 1995.  

 

Just governance for human security
Being a better listener

John W. Franklin, director of partnerships and international programs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, attended the conference on Just Governance for Human Security at Caux and writes about his experience.
 

Like last year, when I arrived in Caux, the mountain was in a cloud. It had rained for days and everything was lush. The skies cleared and revealed the mountains over my stay. In quiet reflection, I decided to be a better listener. At an evening performance of testimony and song, I realized that culture will help me discard my anger and ire toward perpetrators and seek the path of forgiving them.

I was so pleased to find members of my discussion and service group of last year. Many of our colleagues from Mali, Chad and Niger had been brought back by the Swiss Office of Foreign Affairs. I was updated by them and new members of their delegations on the situations in their countries. Colleagues in Niger want assistance on a proposed museum in Agadez. I attended two special meetings on their region, the Sahel...

 

Tensions ran high between the Ukrainians and the Russians. During one plenary as a Ukrainian woman was describing the photos of recent demonstrations and conflict, I could hear the interpreter from Russian to English crying as she interpreted. Both groups met all night behind closed doors ... 

 

Eighty percent of the Ukrainians and Russians signed a resolution and presented it at the plenary session the following morning as I headed home via Geneva. Caux permits adversaries to talk in that neutral space. Then, just as I was leaving, the Malaysian passenger plane was shot down to the anguish of all. Read more ...   

 

Further reports from the Caux conferences  

Center for Community Trustbuilding
A  vision becomes reality 
By Susan Corcoran

Initiatives of Change, through its Richmond-based Hope in the Cities program, will launch a National Center for Community Trustbuilding this fall. The project is supported by a lead grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Its purpose is to "sustain strong inclusive communities anchored in systems for healing the legacy of racial history."

Reconciliation Statue "Richmond has made remarkable progress over the past two decades in uncovering and acknowledging its history," says Rob Corcoran, IofC's national director. "More recently we have begun to connect that history of slavery and segregation with its impact on today's structures and public policy, highlighted  by the work of the mayor's Anti-Poverty Commission."

Through collaboration with local and national organizations, the center aims to develop a creative learning environment where processes for trustbuilding, reconciliation, and community change are regularly learned and effectively practiced. "This vision for Richmond as a center for community trustbuilding has been growing for several years," says Corcoran. "The sustained work by many individuals and institutions makes this a timely moment to take this exciting next step."  

Two first major building blocks for the center are the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship, which launches this October and the convening of an international forum on Healing History, Overcoming Racism, Seeking Equity, Building Community in April 2015.  
Community Trustbuilding Fellowship  

Applications are coming in for the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship that begins in Richmond, VA, in October. You may not live in Richmond but it could be worth making the journey to discover how this city is being transformed from a symbol of racial division to a community that is willing to confront its history and the legacy that remains. Interest in sending community representatives is growing in cities such as Memphis, TN, Dayton, OH, and Washington, DC.
     
The Community Trustbuilding Fellowship increases the capacity of community leaders to overcome divisions of race, culture, economics and politics by creating a network of skilled facilitators, capable team builders and credible role models. The program is for a diverse class of 25 and is structures around five residential weekend modules. Scholarship funds are available, including for travel if needed.

More information on dates and topics

2015 International forum in Richmond

Initiatives of Change, in collaboration with the University of Richmond and other local and national partners, will host an international forum on Healing History: Overcoming Racism, Seeking Equity, Building Community in Richmond, VA, April 6-10, 2015. Participants will explore the legacies of racism and how communities can work together to build trust, heal historical wounds and create economies that work for all.

April 2015 marks 150 years since Emancipation and the end of the Civil War as well as the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights march and the passing of the Voting Rights Act. Despite great strides toward racial healing, the wounds of history and systemic racism continue to hinder efforts to build healthy, inclusive communities in America - and in societies around the world. April 2015 provides a context in which to explore the question: What can we as a global community learn together about how to heal history, understand the legacies that keep us apart and generate energy for building healthy inclusive societies?


HHCAux opening
The forum aims to continue the themes
addressed at the Healing History conference held in Caux, Switzerland, last summer and to convene representatives from the field of racial healing and equity including practitioners, scholars, leaders of grassroots and national organizations, representatives from business and government, and students from the US and other countries that are experiencing the legacy of racial and ethnic discrimination.

As well as the University of Richmond and other area educational institutions, the forum will bring together organizational allies in Richmond such as the American Civil War Center, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and Richmond Hill Retreat Center, who share a common vision and understanding of the values and process needed for effective racial healing and equity work.

Prospective collaborations with national organizations include the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (Washington DC), Everyday Democracy (Hartford CT), the Faith and Politics Institute (Washington, DC), and the William Winter Institute (University of Mississippi). Participants in the 2013 Caux Healing History conference will play an important role. The forum is supported in part by a grant by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Fundraising for Caux Scholars
Peacebuilding is part of the journey 
By Rob Corcoran

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a Vietnam veteran remembered his uncle who lost an eye in the battle to liberate Europe. Kenny Robison, who was gravely wounded himself in 1968, was honored as a "Sponsor of the Year" at a special fundraising event for the Caux Scholars Program in Washington, DC.

Kenny said that he and his wife Debbie were inspired to support the young peacebuilders from many parts of the world: "I have seen and experienced what violence and war can do to people. Conflict is a part of life. Yet, I have come to realize that conflict doesn't have to mean that violence is the only way to deal with conflict. It all starts somewhere, even if it's nothing much more than lifting your big toe off the floor," he said, referring to his own road to recovery. "The big toe is the center of one's balance. Remember that life is a journey and that peacebuilding is just a part of one's journey."

Another honoree, Brian Kennedy, a retired executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield, said, "Caux Scholars supplies a vital need in a tumultuous world" with its "dedicated idealistic and realistic" participants. Referring to IofC's core principle he said, "A long time ago I encountered the revolutionary idea that change begins with me."

Bringing greetings on behalf of the ambassador and "the whole team at the Swiss Embassy," Daniel Hunn, the deputy chief of mission, said, "We are proud and honored to have this program in Switzerland." He highlighted the importance that his country places on peacebuilding and supporting good governance and said, "Caux is the ideal place to prepare young people for the task of peacebuilding." Read more ...
Welcoming a new IofC board member
Solving problems before they happen

Bill Hamilton
, a native Texan with 40 years' experience in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of Texas state government, has just joined the Initiatives of Change USA board. Bill is also actively involved in local, regional, and state government and civic initiatives in the Austin/Capital Area region and served as mayor of Rollingwood. He is a consultant with Bill Hamilton and Associates. He talks with Rob Corcoran.


Rob: What has been the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of your career so far?

Bill: Solving problems before they happen. In my first foray into neighborhood activism, I was part of a small group of Rollingwood neighbors who walked door-to-door in a referendum calling for our city council to use surplus funds to buy 10-acres of neglected athletic fields, located next to city hall in the center of town, which the founding members of the Optimist Club were threatening to sell for million dollar home lots. They needed the money and figured the city fathers wanted to have the improved property values. We prevailed in a 3 to 1 citywide vote. The renovated park, with a lot of "sweat equity" from volunteer projects in the renovated park, is now, although not without controversy, one of the most valuable amenities in that small town. I guarantee this step by just a few of us put a lot of lingering issues behind the city and shows that "people will defend what they create." It pays to be proactive and take charge of your own destiny.

Rob: What most excites you about the work of Initiatives of Change?

Bill: The opportunity to take some of my own personal, maybe even parochial, experiences, and, working with the other IofC Board members, find ways to show that my experiences are not only comparable - but that they are valuable and transferable - to similar situations in other neighborhoods, communities, and cultures around the US and, by extension, to the larger world. While my short story about a small neighborhood park is perhaps simplistic, I take the lessons I learned with me every day, especially while serving as an elected official, as well as working with other elected officials committed to public service.  Read more ... 
Commentary
Someone is knocking at the door   

Oscar Contreras
was born in Guatemala and has been in the United States since 1995. Since 2007 he has been a program host at WBTK 1380AM, the Latino Family Christian Radio Station in Richmond, VA. He writes about the current humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexican border:

A neighbor, who lives two houses up the street, who we had not met before, came one day desperately banging on our door. My wife, Rachel, was home with our children at the time, Elena, 3, and David, 2. Our neighbor squeezed herself between our door and the screen door, knocking frantically. Rachel was afraid and had no idea what was going on. It looked like our neighbor was looking for a refuge and protection, but how would my wife know?  Regardless, Rachel was faced with a dilemma.  Should she let this lady into our home and try to help her or should she call the police and protect herself and the kids?

Tens of thousands of children are now banging on our door and it looks like they are looking for a refuge and protection.  Something is going on and it is happening at our door step.  Unaccompanied minors as young as seven, mainly from our neighboring countries Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, are traveling hundreds of miles full of danger and uncertainty. Some children do not make it. Children's bodies have been reported found on the shores of the Rio Grande. Some children are robbed, raped and abused during their journey. This is also happening on this side of the border. Because of the trauma, memory loss has been reported among the children. The number of children surpasses 50,000, so they end up sleeping in warehouses on the floor and only with basic services. These are children who are celebrating birthdays while detained with no one to rejoice with them. The government is not giving access to non-profits or religious organizations that would at least provide moral and spiritual support to the children while the minors await an unclear process. How long can an eight year-old girl wait for some hope and security? How much longer does she need to travel?

Each child has his or her own story to tell. What we know is that many of them come from countries where gangs have taken over certain areas. Even though everyone should feel safe in their own home and have a sense of security, most of these children are running away from homes infiltrated by violence. The kids are being aggressively recruited and threatened daily by these violent gangs. At my church, we have prayed for the safe keeping of young women and men that have been kidnapped for money in Central American countries. According to a report by UNICEF in 2011, more than 30% of Guatemalans, including around two million children, benefit from a family member's financial support sent from the USA. The gangs know that the children are vulnerable and that their families in the USA are willing to sacrifice everything and send the money that the gangs are demanding. It is a circle of violence in some of these neighborhoods. The children are either forced to join the violence, or try to survive by running away to pursue some kind of stable ground they can call home. The USA seems to be that place.  Read more ...
We hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding.   
Thank you!
In this issue
Being a better listener
A vision becomes reality
Community Trusbuilding Fellowship
2015 International Forum in Richmond
Peacebuilding is part of the journey
Solving problems before they happen
Someone is knocking at the door
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2013 Annual Report
Initiatives of Change International

 
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from our office 
Creators of Peace Circle in Crimea

Foundations for Freedom initiated the first Creators of Peace Circle in Crimea.

As Ukrainians, Russians and Crimean Tatars, the participants came from different backgrounds and held conflicting views and opinions. They agreed to listen to each other with open hearts, seeking to understand the other side, even if it was not easy or comfortable.

Sometimes the discussions were very hot, but they kept that agreement and managed to build a level of trust that allowed them to start speaking about things they could not talk about at the start. Read more ...
A new film from South Africa
Beyond Forgiving
Beyond Forgiving trailer
This award winning film depicts the true story of two South Africans trying to move beyond their pain towards forgiveness and healing.  
Caux Conferences  2014
Caux: the door is open 

This short video by Karen Elliott Greisdorf introduces you to the Caux conference center. 

June 30-July 4 
Caux dialogue on land and security

July 5-10 
Trust and integrity in the global economy

July 12-17 
Just governance for human security

July 20-24 
Seeds of inspiration

July 26-August 1 
Children as actors for transforming society

August 3-8  
Living in a multicultural world

August 10-13  
International peace-builder's forum

More information, reports and pictures of this summer's conferences are available on the Caux website
2013 Healing History conference report

Print copies can be ordered from our office  
 Hope & inspiration
Check out the tools for change  in our books and media catalog
 
 

Trustbuilding  

by Rob Corcoran

 

A new study guide and toolkit provides questions for reflection, conversation and action.  

AAA flyer image
The Imam & The Pastor  

 "The African model for finding peace amid the continent's warring communities"  The Times (London) 

 

An African Answer  

The second film about the work of these two African peacemakers. 

 
Initiatives of Change, USA
 
is part of a diverse global network with an 80-year track record of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and forging partnerships across divides of race, class, religion and politics.  
 
Our vision
We inspire a vision of community where a commitment to reconciliation and justice transcends competing identities and interests. 
 
Our mission
We equip leaders to build trust in diverse communities through a process of personal change, inclusive dialogue, healing historical conflict and teambuilding 
 
Our focus
We connect core values with personal and public action with a focus on racial reconciliation, economic inclusion and interfaith understanding.
 
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