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June 2015            Newsletter of Initiatives of Change USA
Issue No. 32

 

    

 

There is now a written report from the Healing History conference. It is published online but if you would like us to send hard copies please be in touch with our office.

While our main focus was on the conference in the first part of the year several other important things were happening. In this issue we report on the launch of Creators of Peace Circles in Washington, DC, the graduation of the 2015 class of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship, the third in a series of Trustbuilding Forums, a fundraiser for the Caux Scholars Program and news of this year's class who are just arriving in Caux, Switzerland. And we will tell you more about the two international interns who helped to make the Healing History conference possible.

   

Creators of Peace Circles
Each of us can be a peacemaker
By Kathy Aquilina

The idea for Creators of Peace circles started with a memory of the traditional way women have gathered around the kitchen table to talk over the joys and sorrows of the day. This circle was often one of both comfort and empowerment. Jean Brown, from Australia, has developed a series of ten such kitchen table conversations that she calls "gathering points" around the concept of peace.

It's easy to understand the power and vital importance of this process when you are in a conflict situation. But others of us who may long for world peace in the abstract might wonder what has this to do with me? So this intentional process helps make us aware that each of us can be a peacemaker.  

In early March fourteen women gathered in a home in Northern Virginia for the first Creators of Peace circle in the US. We focused on the same questions that form the basis of every circle convened in more than 40 countries where Creators of Peace is active: What is peace? How is peace created? How is it destroyed? What are the qualities of a peacemaker?

This Peace Circle was wonderfully facilitated by Willemijn Lambert of The Netherlands, assisted by Glory Amek Mbah from Cameroon. The safety of the circle allowed participants to share about the turning points in life. Some wrestled with painful hurts or feelings of betrayal and anger. But with a circle of friends willing to listen and an opportunity to reflect more deeply, we discovered the miracle of freedom and forgiveness. Read more ...

More Creators of Peace circles are planned in the US. If you are interested in participating, please contact Kathy Aquilina at the IofC office in Washington, DC.   
Trustbuilding Forum Series
Not a second chance but a first chance
Rob Corcoran

On August 15, 1996, Daryl Atkinson began serving a prison term with the Alabama Department of Corrections for dealing drugs - a first time offense. He was facing a possible 99 years behind bars but pled guilty in exchange for a 10-year sentence. He was released after 40 months for good behavior. While in the "big house" he began to gain a vision for what his life could become.

Fortunately for Daryl, upon being released he was warmly accepted by his loving family who supported his desire for higher education first at a community college and then at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today he is senior staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and a passionate and eloquent advocate for criminal justice reform.

The US with just five percent of the world's population has 25 percent of its prison population. Between 1970 and 2005, the number of people incarcerated increased 700 percent, due mainly to the failed "war on drugs." African Americans constitute about 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.

"Mass incarceration is a symptom of a deeper American sickness," says Atkinson who spoke in Richmond on May 12 at a Trustbuilding Forum organized by Hope in the Cities in partnership with the YMCA which hosted the event, the Richmond Peace Education Center and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. "We have a bloodlust as a nation and we have not accounted for all the violence in our history that we have profited from." There has never been any accounting, he said, for the centuries of chattel slavery and Jim Crow repression. "To do this right we have to deal with structural racism and malignant capitalism." He called for "a Marshall Plan, not for giving communities a second chance but a first chance."  Read more
Healing History 2015 Update
Moving the process forward
Susan Corcoran

At the heart of the Healing History conference were ten working groups that not only led the various breakout sessions but had begun a conversation before the conference and have continued to collaborate through phone calls and virtual meetings in the weeks since. Each one is developing a clear deliverable to move the process forward.

One of the groups that made use of every free moment during the conference for further discussion and planning is dealing with museums and public history sites. Many of those in the group are from slave descendant communities whether in South Africa, the Netherlands, the United States or Curacao. They share a common commitment to tell the untold stories and give humanity to those who have been overlooked by history.

The group addressing sustainable economic development is planning for an ongoing partnership between the City of Richmond's Office of Community Wealth Building and the Wythenshaw Estates in Manchester, UK, one of Europe's most deprived urban communities. Given the growing gang problem affecting the high poverty areas of Richmond, Greg Davis from the UK has expressed willingness to talk with Richmond officials about his work in Manchester and what he has learned about developing trust with gang leaders and channeling their organizational skills and intellect to the creation of small businesses.

Those focused on the social determinants of health (SDOH) are working on ideas to develop a curriculum and a training protocol to empower local residents as "champions" to advocate for policy change/resources needed to improve the structural forces influencing the SDOH in their community. This could be piloted in Richmond before sharing it with partners doing similar work around the country.
Read more ...

If you are interested in connecting with any of these working groups please email our office.
Two International Interns
A journey of personal growth and discovery

Glory Mbah Amek
, from Cameroon, and Willemijn Lambert, from the Netherlands, recently came to Richmond for three months to work as interns and help with preparations for the Healing History Conference. They have also facilitated a Creators of Peace Circle and a training for facilitators in Washington, DC. Randy Ruffin interviewed them for Breakthroughs.

Glory is in the final stage of completing her MA degree in English, the second official language of Cameroon. She is the volunteer coordinator IofC programs in the littoral region where she lives and also has a small cosmetic business. Her initial contact with IofC came in 2008, when she represented her university at a youth leadership forum and found a new level of trust through the mutual storytelling and sharing of experiences. IofC has become a "way of life" for her and its guidelines have helped shape her life. Among other things, she sees "the need to forgive others not only because her bible tells her to do so, but also because it is the start of a healing process. This includes self forgiveness as well."

Having encountered IofC's Creators of Peace (COP) initiative, which empowers women to be peace builders, at an all-African conference in 2012, Glory organized a peace circle in Cameroon and was then trained as a facilitator herself.  Since then there have been peace circles in both English and French regions of the country. Read more

While in Cambodia working with an NGO for five months during her undergraduate studies, Willemijn met up with IofC's program Action for Life through colleagues. She loved meeting this very international group of people who seemed to be on the same wave length with her - they were on the road to leadership and were searching within themselves. Through the group she was connected with IofC in the Netherlands and later went to Caux and participated in a Peace Circle.

Willemijn had been studying international development, but her experience in Cambodia, working with the Alliance for Conflict Transformation, confirmed her growing interest in peace studies, and she pursued a Masters at Bradford University in the UK. After participating in a COP facilitators training in Oxford, she concluded that the peace circles complement the work that is happening in the peacebuilding realm, and after organizing a peace circle in Bradford, she knew: "THIS is the work I'm called to do - creating safe spaces where wholeness and healing can start to happen." For the past three years Willemijn has been organizing and leading peace circles in the Netherlands. Read more
Caux Scholars Program 2015
The collective impact of a common purpose
Jitka Hromek-Vaitla

With the world focused on the tragedy of the earthquake in Nepal, the guests at the annual Caux Scholars fundraiser, on May 1st at the McGuire Woods Law firm in Washington, DC, watched a video created by 2003 alumni and current BBC reporter Abdujalil Abdurasulov about the situation in Nepal. He was hosted there by incoming Nepalese scholars Ankit Khanal and Jini Agrawal  who shared their hopes about rebuilding their country.



Masters of ceremony for the evening were Anjum Ali, IofC board member, and Mark Kennedy (CSP 2013), a lawyer in Washington DC.  Eight other alumni attended. 

Lauren Leigh Hinthorne (CSP 2003), who is presently a fellow at USAID, said: "I was a bit apprehensive as I rode the elevator up to the CSP fundraiser. It had been over 10 years since my last contact with Initiatives of Change and I wasn't sure what to expect. I entered the room a bit hesitantly and Kathy Aquilina immediately came running over to greet me. From that point on, the evening felt like sort of a homecoming. I am thankful for having reconnected with Barry Hart and Ajay Rao after all these years, and am deeply inspired by the accomplishments of other alumni. But above all, I am reminded of the collective impact that is possible when such a diverse group of people unites behind a common purpose. I wish those 'headed up the mountain' a very productive summer!"

Two 2015 CSP incoming scholars were present to represent this year's class at the fundraiser: Alice Cao from Vietnam who is studying at Berea College in Kentucky and Stequita Hankton who is a medical student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Read more ... 
Community Trustbuilding Fellowship
There is no such thing as a comfortable risk
Rob Corcoran

"Change starts with me!" says Ebony Walden, a city planner and consultant, summing up her key learning as part of the 2014-2015 Community Trustbuilding Fellowship class which concluded in March. Ebony was one of 30 community leaders from Richmond and five other cities who took part in the five-module residential program.
Mural done by Willemijn Lambert
"I learned the importance of my own spiritual development and practice as a change agent. There is a level of groundedness and self-awareness that is necessary to engage authentically and peacefully around difficult subjects. "I am also more willing to be open and engage others with an ear toward listening. I feel like I have a better understanding of my own limitations, predispositions and growth areas, of the role of history in present day situations and some tools to design and facilitate a dialogue around community issues."

Others shared similar lessons that are informing their life and work. "The Community Trustbuilding Fellowship enabled me to converse openly and honestly with people from diverse backgrounds about topics such as race, religion, and socio-economic status - topics often discussed only in silos of like-minded people," says Cassie Price, Community Initiatives and Program Manager at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, University of Richmond. Read more ...

Meet the 2015 class
Reflections
Still unfolding as a trustbuilder

Duron Chavis
, one of the 2015 class of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship, is an activist, urban gardener and promoter of a green movement to bring healthy living to African American communities. He writes here about his experience:

The most important learning experience I took from the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship was the emphasis on the difference between facilitation and teaching. So many times we see a top-down model of community activism and engagement. The differentiation between facilitating a longitudinal process, crafting a space where those involved can create solutions together, versus teaching facts, data and techniques is so very important for improving the quality of sustainable community solutions. Learning to lean on my own personal narrative as a reference point but to be careful that what I bring into the room can shift the caliber of the experience for everyone involved has also been a big paradigm shift as well. 

 

I am working in Petersburg and I have been very conscious to walk with the various stakeholders and partners in the development of the urban agriculture efforts we are developing. I have been very clear that we are not trying to take the lead on any efforts but that we are very interested in crafting a dialogue around the issues so that the community can do the work with us. Read more ...   

A sustainable path to relationships of trust

Charlotte Freeman
has worked with Initiatives of Change for the past 3 years. She has now moved to the West Coast with her fiancÚ where she is also pursuing a PhD.
As I look back on my last three years with Initiatives of Change (IofC), I am struck by the clear personal and professional growth that I have both experienced myself and witnessed in others. The priority set on IofC's core values of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love allows relationships to be explicitly guided by these values - both within the office and beyond. I have learned that, while upholding these absolute values may force us to confront difficult conversations, when faced together, these challenges can be the most rewarding and sustainable paths to relationships of trust. This is true on a societal level as well as with inter-personal interactions.

I look forward to maintaining this standard of compassion in my personal and professional life as I move forward as well. After four years in Washington, DC, my fiancÚ, Woodrow, and I moved to San Jose, California where Woodrow has started a job as the Associate Director of Medical Programs and Impact for ReSurge International, a non-profit organization that conducts emergency surgeries and medical training in impoverished communities around the world.

I am continuing my Educational Doctorate in Organizational Leadership at Pepperdine University and also launching my own organizational development consulting practice in Silicon Valley. My consulting work will focus on helping high-tech companies create cultures of inclusion that encourage greater diversity in the work force. Diversity and inclusion have been major challenges for the high-tech industry and I know that my consulting work will benefit greatly from the value I have learned to place on absolute honesty and love while working for IofC.  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.   
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Community Trustbuilding Fellowship
There is still time to apply!
Applications are coming in that promise another wonderfully diverse group of outstanding individuals for this year's Community Trustbuilding Fellowship.


This unique program 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.
Caux Conferences
2015 
Exploring the human factor in global change


June 26-July 1
Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy

July 3-8
Just Governance for Human Security

July 10-14
Caux Dialogue on Land and Security

July 16-19
Addressing Europe's Unfinished Business
International Peace-Builders' Forum

July 27-August 2
CATS - Children and Adults - Partners for Change?

August 4-9
Seeds of Inspiration

August 10-15
Impact Initiatives Challenge

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Caux Scholars in India
Consider taking part!
The Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) in India focuses on the integration of sustainable development and peacebuilding. The invitation is to young leaders, community organizers, and scholars from different countries and cultural backgrounds, aged 21-35.

The 4-week program will be held from December 2015 to January 2016 (Exact dates to be confirmed).

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Website Update


In the last few weeks the Initiatives of Change website has undergone a facelift thanks to an amazing international web team spread over several continents.

It may not appear very different to you but it is now readable on a mobile phone. We are keeping pace with the demands of the modern world!

You can now easily explore the website, watch a video, read the latest news and even make a donation all on your phone. Check it out!
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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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