March 2016            Newsletter of Initiatives of Change
Issue No. 36


"If you want to be a bridge you have to be prepared to be walked on." This was a favorite adage of John Coleman, a great reconciler in Richmond, VA. As trustbuilders we are tasked with building bridges across the "us" and "them" divides and the ruptures that are appearing in our nation and the larger world. In a commentary Cricket White writes about what it takes to heal the wounds of society. 

Other articles in this issue of Trustbuilders describe efforts in Richmond, VA, and Troup County, GA, to address issues of racial division and social inequity. A group of women in the DC area spent a weekend considering the obstacles to peace and how to strengthen their inner peacebuilding qualities. And to give us a global perspective we include articles from team members who have spent time in recent weeks in Nigeria and India.

This is a good moment to consider attending one of the Caux conferences in Switzerland this summer. The program is listed in this issue. 
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Unpacking the Census - 5 years later
A call for regional action on poverty
By Rob Corcoran
"This is a testament to the difference that citizens working together with policy makers can make," said Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones addressing a forum attended by more than 150 area residents who had come to assess the impact of five years of sustained efforts to reduce poverty and to discuss next steps. Jones was joined by Tyrone Nelson, chair of Henrico County Board of supervisors, and Carrie Conyer, vice chair of the of Chesterfield County School Board, underscoring the reality that poverty is now a regional challenge, not just a city issue. The forum was organized by Hope in the Cities (HIC) and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) in partnership with the city's Office of Community Wealth Building. It was hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Tom Silvestri, the president and publisher, welcomed the participants.

Mayor Jones recalled that in 2011, at a forum organized by HIC and VCIC, he had announced the formation of the city's first Anti-Poverty Commission tasked with developing "realistic strategies for serous change." The movement to address poverty was given impetus by HIC and VCIC which used 2010 Census data compiled by Dr. John Moeser of the University of Richmond to create a video and then trained 40 facilitators to conduct community conversations across the region.

Mayor Dwight C JonesThe mayor pointed to the creation of the Office of Community Wealth Building, "recognized nationally as a promising model for implementing a holistic approach to poverty reduction, working across all the key sectors - employment, transportation, housing and education." He said, "We need to understand that [systemic poverty] is no accident - it's the result of policy decisions made generations ago to cement in place the patterns of segregation that have defined our city for so long.... You can't undo 400 years of history overnight." The ambitious goal is to move 10,000 families out of poverty by 2030, 1000 a year, one family at a time. Jones invited his audience to "imagine what this Richmond of 2030 would be like if we achieved these goals....We can heal our city and bring real hope to all our citizens." Read more
Community Trustbuilding Fellowship
We all swim in the same river

Rob Corcoran
talks with two members of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship class who have traveled from Georgia to participate in the program.
After 22 years as a Georgia state representative, Carl Epps was called to the ministry. For the past 10 years he has pastored a church in the West Georgia area. He resides in LaGrange, a city of 30,000 residents 67 miles southwest of Atlanta, which serves as the county seat of Troup County. Born and bred in LaGrange, Carl, who is African American, co-chairs a county-wide effort for honest conversation and trustbuilding. 

Last year, Carl and his colleagues called on Hope in the Cities to lead a series of training sessions for a wide cross-section of Troup County community leaders. In the course of the training he met. 

Ben and his wife came to LaGrange in 2009 with Mission Year, a Christian mission program focused on community service and justice. "For that year we shared a house with two other couples, so we had to deal with all the personal dynamics and learn to deal with conflict!" Ben now works with DASH (Dependable Affordable Sustainable Housing), a nonprofit that was formed in 2002 to provide a holistic array of housing services ranging from home ownership opportunities to credit repair and community building programs. He also runs a farmers market.

Carl says the Troup County initiative is important because "race always has a way of seeping into the conversation." He says, "Three mayors and other elected officials have sincerely taken on the dialogue. There is recognition that we are a diverse community."  Read more
Capturing our thoughts in one word

Jacqueline 'Jacquie' Johnson is Manager of Programmatic Diversity at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC. She reflects on her experience as a Community Trustbuilding Fellow.
Purposeful. At the end of each weekend module during the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship (CTF), participants are asked to share a word or brief phrase that describes their feelings or key takeaways. Depending on the events and content discussed throughout the weekend, this exercise can be more or less challenging at certain times than others. Going into module 4, I think of purposeful as a combination of all the words and phrases I've shared throughout the course of the fellowship: silenced (module 1), flexible (module 2), valuing the question (module 3). 

I didn't appreciate the value of the word (or phrase) exercise until module 3, the focus of which was on Dialogue Delivery. We take in a lot of content acting as participant and facilitator in the dialogues - the dual role I recognized only recently. I like to think of the task of capturing our thoughts in one word as a way of mentally sorting through the many great lessons, from the basics to the deeply profound, in order to not lose sight of why we are taking part in the fellowship or any dialogue for that matter. Hugh O'Doherty, guest faculty for the module and one of the most brilliant minds in facilitation refers to the purpose "as the core of the trustbuilding dialogue." In other words, trustbuilding facilitation is about moving people and helping them to show up and to stay open to transformation. Read more
Creators of Peace Circle
Restoring peace one relationship at time

Anjum Ali is a professor of Islamic Studies and has more than 10 years experience in cross-cultural training and speaking on Islam. Born in the US of Pakistani descent, she grew up in Saudi Arabia and has traveled widely. She serves on the board of Initiatives of Change USA.
Who could have imagined that sixty-nine years after the partition of India, two women, whose parents were on opposite sides within the Punjab region, would come together in the United States to facilitate a Creators of Peace (CoP) Circle. My own mother was from the same city as Kavita Kapur's family, Lahore. But my father was from Jalandhar, India and became one of the millions of refugees having to migrate across the border. His family walked all the way from Jalandhar to Lahore to resettle in the new nation of Pakistan. However, Kavita's family was forced to migrate in the opposite direction, leaving their home in Lahore and moving to Amritsar, India. The tragedies, the massacres and the heartache are historical wounds still often found unhealed. But it was through a CoP Circle in 2015 that Kavita and I met. The significance of both a Hindu and Muslim woman coming together to explore peace and help themselves and others further peacebuilding in their own communities should not be lost upon our readers.

With her determination and assistance, we were brought together in Kathy Aquilina's home in northern Virginia to help facilitate a weekend with a new circle of women. The group was very diverse with women of various faiths and some who had barely or rarely interacted with those of other faiths. Our group had women of all ages and a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. Indeed, some had been living in conflict zones for most of their lives while others had much less personal experience of community conflict. 
Read more
Window on the world
The truth of any place is in the people

Cricket White
, a member of the International Council of Initiatives of Change, recently returned from their annual face-to-face meeting held in Lagos, Nigeria. She writes about what she discovered on her journey and from the people she met. 

As I left the United States and headed to Nigeria, my thoughts bounced from images that our media has hyped of burned out villages and crying children, to the picture of enormous ships carrying millions of gallons of oil, to the faces of my Nigerian friends, individuals committed to values in their personal and corporate lives. What would prove to be the "true" story?

I am a member of the International Council of Initiatives of Change and our one annual face-to-face meeting was held in Lagos, Nigeria, January 9 - February 10, 2016. The local Initiatives of Change team invited us to meet there to help us know more about their work and to view the world from their perspective. 
Lagos is the most populous city on the continent of Africa, at 21 million people. With no governmental social services provided, and the poverty and pollution that is a natural byproduct of such density and neglect, it is a place of extreme polarization. The oil industry makes a few people extraordinarily rich and the rest live in modest means or in relative or extreme poverty.

What has emerged is an entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the atmosphere; small retail stalls and stands proliferate across the city, selling everything from fruit to funeral services to fried meats. It is a vibrant, energetic city, with comfort and abject poverty absolutely cheek-to-jowl. Small local buses careen in and out of traffic, stopping to drop off passengers in the street or on the curbs, even as large expensive limousines push their way through the never ending traffic snarls. 

But the truth of any place is in the people, not the cars or the markets. Nigerians that I met and talked to were genuinely, ubiquitously warm, gracious and extraordinarily generous. Whether it was to make a concerted effort to find the thing that a visitor needed, to sharing time or space, there was a warm-hearted outreach to each of us.
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Connecting just governance with inner governance

Charles Aquilina recently attended the Dialogue on Just Governance in India. Here he captures some of the conference highlights:
Seven Americans joined others from twenty-five countries at a Dialogue on Just Governance in the breathtakingly beautiful Initiatives of Change Center at Panchgani, India. This incredibly diverse group included a Cabinet Secretary to the Government of South Sudan, twenty-two from Sri Lanka, a Dean from Michigan State University, a British journalist writing on the Kurdish question, as well as environmental activists and senior civil servants. Together they grappled with some of the major global issues. They also quickly became one community - through sharing practical tasks and by spending times of quiet reflection in the exquisite outdoor surroundings. One marvels how a forest has grown where once only one tree stood at the time the center was opened nearly 50 years ago. 

Highlights of the conference include:
The President of Sri Lanka sent a message through the Venerable Banagala Upatissa Thero, President of Mahabodhi Society. Several Sri Lankans shared painful life stories, giving the rest of us hope that a country with a history of war and violence is moving towards reconciliation and co-existence.

Sudhakar Varanasi, a senior IT manager, described how, when a close American friend died because no quick help was available after a car accident, he was spurred to found the equivalent to our 911 service, initially with private funding and later convincing 19 state governments to buy in. By the 10th anniversary, this service has saved 1.5 million lives. He asks, "If government is not ready, how can I help and push them to do the right thing?" 

Sharada Pawar, the first woman to be elected as the headperson in her village, spoke of the acute and decades-long water shortage. She managed to get governmental funding to bring in piped water from the mountains. She overcame a lot of opposition from men who did not want a woman to succeed. After her term ended she started training future village leaders in the Initiatives of Change Grampari Rural Ecological Centre. Read more
Healing the wounds of history
The power of sacred stories

Cricket White,
Director of Education & Training for Hope in the Cities/Initiatives of Change, reflects on the power of sacred stories in the process of healing history.

We all have history. Some of it inspires us, and some of it causes wounds. The wounds of history are embedded in memory. And memory frames our understanding of the world, of relationships, of experiences. Memory is the blackboard of our lives where "don't touch the wood stove" and "I love you" are both written in indelible ink. 

Unacknowledged historical wounds remain within the individual and within the community. The wound still exists and can infect. The incidents in our memories are repeated for the benefit of the next generation, for their safety, for their identity. If your people hurt or harmed or humiliated my people, that shame/anger/confusion remains buried deep inside. 

Some say, "Why go back? It's over, it's done and WE didn't do it!" Others say, "I am waiting for an apology to heal - I want you to grovel, to cringe when you apologize. I need to know you MEAN it!"

Hope in the Cities' take on history and memory is founded on our belief in and commitment to reconciliation. We cannot move to a new level of understanding if we haven't acknowledged the wounds that were perpetrated on some by others. It doesn't mean that we are responsible for what others did years, or centuries ago. But it means we have to be honest enough and humble enough to acknowledge that these things did indeed happen. And that there may be legacies emanating from such events that we all suffer from today.

We are all the recipients of history, of stories, the stories that give us identity and values. These memories passed on to us become what we in Hope in the Cities call our sacred stories.
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We hope you enjoyed this issue of Trustbuilders. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding. 
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A new Executive Director
Jake Hershman

Chair of the Initiatives of Change (IofC) USA Board of Directors, H. Alexander Wise, Jr., is pleased to announce the hiring of Jacob J. Hershman as Executive Director of IofC USA, effective April 18, 2016. In making the announcement, Wise issued the following statement on behalf of the Board:

"Jake is a proven leader with sixteen years of management experience with Catholic Relief Services in the Balkans, Southeast Asia, the South Caucasus, the Middle East and the United States. He has led at both the senior level and the grassroots level in conflict and post-conflict environments. 

He has experience in strategic planning and development work; program design, execution, and evaluation; and in leading teams, setting goals, and managing and reviewing performance.

We also believe Jake embraces IofC's spiritual foundation. He understands our mandate to nurture a new generation of leaders. He is well connected in both Richmond and Washington, DC.

Long-time IofC National Director Rob Corcoran is pleased to have Jake as the new Executive Director and looks forward to working with him." Read more
2016 Caux Conferences
Celebrating 70 years of Trustbuilding

June 29-July 3
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 19-23
Addressing Europe's Unfinished Business

July 19-23
International Peace-Builders' Forum

July 26-August 1
CATS - Children as Actors for Transforming Society

August 4-10
Creators of Peace
Living Peace: Celebrating 25 Years of Creators of Peace

August 12-17
Seeds of Inspiration

2015 Caux Report
More than 1400 people from all continents attended the eight International Caux Conferences in 2015. 

Plan on being there this year!
Book review
Beverly Almond - An Ageless Adventurer

Michael Henderson
reviews Anne Hamlin's book about her mother, Beverly Almond. 
As befits a long and bold life
Beverly Almond - An Ageless Adventurer covers a wide canvas. Her memory is still prodigious and so her daughter, Anne Hamlin, has had a fascinating amount of detail to draw on in fashioning her biography. This includes her growing up and her secret service in World War II as well as her struggles with faith and her devotion to the countries of the Middle East. Sixty one of those tumultuous years she shared with her husband, Rev Harry Almond. Read more

Beverly Almond - an Ageless Adventurer is published through Create Space and can be ordered directly from their website. The book is also available via
IofC Film Archive 
Remember to check out some of the outstanding films of IofC, and before that MRA, in the film archives on Vimeo. These films are available for free personal viewing. Licenses are required for non-profit, educational, government or commercial use. Please contact 

Most recently uploaded is:
Walking Buffalo - 1960 World Journey
Walking Buffalo - 1960 World Journey
This color film depicts the 1960 world journey undertaken by 88-year-old Chief Walking Buffalo of the Stoney Nakoda Nation, of Alberta, Canada and Chief David Crowchild of the Tsuut'ina Nation. They traveled, together with their families, to meet the indigenous peoples of Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Uganda where they were welcomed at the highest level by the leaders of those countries.

The film was photographed by Canadian Robert Fleming of Kingston, Ontario, and narrated by Edward Devlin of Ottawa, Ontario, formerly a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Check out other titles at:
 Hope & inspiration
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by Rob Corcoran


Trustbuilding Book Launch
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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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