I am a (fill in the blank)

May18

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoller

With this vertical juxtaposition of two internationally renowned compositions – my intention is to bring into sharp focus the contrasting values of someone viewing oppression of the ”other;” and doing nothing about it – and the other value of viewing oppression and welcoming those oppressed “others” to come and find a safe harbor for themselves and their families.

This school season, I had the great good fortune and privilege to work with refugee and immigrant families in our Connect & Communicate program.  The sessions, however, were initially advertised as Family Reunification workshops.  When we got right down to it – both titles were applicable.

After the first gathering with these families, I found myself looking up the Statue of Liberty poem – New Colossus.  I hadn’t read the entire poem for decades – just memorizing, as many of us do, these verses: Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

These immigrant and refugee families I am honored to work with, without knowing;  inspired and challenged me to put myself in their shoes.  The shoes were painful. From the harrowing and oft times fatal journeys from their Homelands to America; the crossings of deserts on foot; children traveling alone; being detained in camps for months at a time – and on and on and on.  And then there are the reasons people strike out for the unknown – leaving behind the home they Love; the family and friends they Love.  Reasons you and I cannot even wrap our minds around.

In short, I want to encourage us all to push back against hate.  Push back and actively participate in any event; in any activity; in any march that you can for Justice.  It is imperative, it is time.  There can be no Peace if there is no Justice.

First they came for the immigrants…..

Naeemah Jackson, Family Programs Director

April Donor Thank You

May16

Please join us in thanking the following donors for the month of April:

  • Annie Christ-Garcia
  • Kathleen Cleary
  • Joanna Green
  • Sarah Haas
  • Allison Kellum
  • Lisa Meece
  • Stacy Robinson
  • Despi Ross
  • Amy Stewart
  • Erin Tanner
  • Barbara Townsend
  • Dr. James and Linda Trippi
  • Janie & John Westermeier

Volunteer of the Month – April

Apr19
 
Roger Frick is our Volunteer of the Month. Roger is a Peace Learning Center Board Member and volunteers with youth programming. Jay Horan, Director of Engagement works closely with Roger and says, “Roger is a bright light of positivity. He is always ready to help out and does so with a kind smile and positive attitude.”
 
Roger, thank you for everything you have done for our organization. We are very grateful to have you on our team!

Climate Change and Peacemaking

Apr19
by Kristina Hulvershorn, Director of Humane Education and Restorative Practices
February 27, 2017 was a big day for the youth of Indianapolis.  On that day, our city passed a Climate Resolution, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use, and help make our city climate-change resilient. This resolution makes our city the largest in the country with a youth-led resolution of this kind.  That’s right..youth-led.  Youth of varying ages met with city councilors, helped with the language in the resolution, and gave speech after speech to their city council members, passionately articulating why we all need to pay attention to climate change.
 
City Council Vice President Zach Adamson, the sponsor of the resolution remarked “I am overjoyed to see our city take this important step in reducing our negative impact on our environment and stand as an example for our residents and other cities. I’m also grateful for the vision of our City Council and our mayor to make these critically important changes. I’m proud to have played a small role behind the extraordinary drive and effort of these young Hoosiers who will inherit the world we leave them.”
 
How did we get here?  This group of youth became connected 3 years ago through a joint project of Peace Learning Center, HEART and Earth Charter Indiana.  We had the idea of connecting youth concerned about this issue for a week-long summer camp. We offered them interactive and immersive humane education opportunities to deepen their understanding of the issues as well as the opportunities we all have to make change. It has snowballed (no climate-pun intended) into something that is really quite amazing.  The youth have taken what they have learned and are applying it in varied and wonderful ways.  Aside from the Climate Resolution, youth have been connected to a number of policy initiatives.  We also have a number of youth who have started groups at their own schools to tackle school policy and practices like recycling.  We have youth who have taken the initiative to give to their peers what helped them get to where they are- humane education learning opportunities on the subject of climate change!  Youth have created games, reenactments, plays, and songs to educate others.  One of our fifth graders actually asked her principal if she could present to a couple hundred of her classmates on climate change.  In her free time she created a presentation and even handled it like a champ when the presentation technology didn’t work.  Humane education is a powerful thing. 
 
You might find yourself wondering what does climate change have to do with peacemaking?  Because I don’t have 10,000 words to spare, I’ll try to distill it down to a few key points.
            
Our path is not sustainable. Sustainability isn’t shorthand for “please recycle.”  It refers to our planet’s ability to literally sustain humankind. It’s about survival of our species.  I speak for most parents, I assume when I say that we would like for our children to inherit a planet where they can live healthy and peaceful lives. 
 
The stakes of peacemaking will continue to get higher.  Scarcity of resources brought on by climate change will create new conflicts, new battle lines, and greater inequity.  If we have the chance to avoid all of that suffering and pain, why wouldn’t we?
 
It’s all connected.  The root causes of racism, sexism, environmental degradation, animal abuse, and many other forms of oppression as we know them, are all rooted in the same systems.  If we can begin to understand the interconnected nature of these struggles, then we can begin to free ourselves from them and generate true equity and sustainability. 
 
It’s time to “Listen to the wisdom of the youth” (one of our key Climate Camp tenants.)  Giving youth an understanding of the issues that affect humans, animals, and the planet as well as the tools to affect change are at the core of our work.  We have a lot of work ahead of us but as these kids have proven, we can make a difference!
If you have a child who you think is a good fit for Climate Camp, check us out at:   http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=og5wdwbab&oeidk=a07edv0fekqeb51560b
 

Volunteer of the Month – March

Mar27
Becca Gratch is our Volunteer of the Month. Becca has been interning with our youth programs and has had a huge impact on the youth she serves. Natalie Spriggs, our Youth Programs Director has worked closely with Becca and says, “Becca is a truly a team player. She is willing to jump right in and support the youth team however needed. Her go-getter attitude maker her a perfect fit for the work that we do!”
 
Becca, thank you for everything you have done for our organization. We are very grateful to have you on our team!

Restorative Justice Circles in the Classroom

Mar27

by Clare Wildhack-Nolan, Youth Development Facilitator

I believe that Restorative Justice is a powerful tool as an educator and community member. The process is powerful as well as the solutions created.
 
I have been doing Restorative Justice Circles with a teacher who has been struggling with behavior issues in the classroom.  I want to support the teacher’s desire to build relationships and to capture kids’ hearts in his classes.  This teacher has a remedial English class with a lot of students who are frustrated with that topic and have not passed their ISTEP.  Needless to say, many of them rather just not be there.  I can’t say that Circles are always productive when participants don’t want to be there, but in this situation, I think it worked. They create a feeling of community and is built around the concept that everyone in the group should have a voice, are knowledgeable, and contribute worthwhile information and experience. The culture of RJ Circles often fosters a feeling that is the opposite of ISTEP prep.
 
In third period we now have done proactive circles, designed for relationship building and student generated themes of discussion.  The other day we were able to have a restorative circle.  The group was able to share and problem-solve sharing honest reflection regarding their own class dynamics.  Students contributed their concerns around individual behaviors as well as the boredom they sometimes face with curriculum.  The teacher was able to give perspective on his situation of having to balance state standard requirements for the course along with trying to make it more interesting for them.  Students were able to express that they understood his perspective and there was not anything he could do about it at times. 
 
In other classrooms, where it was their first circle, relationships already started to improve.  Many of the students admitted that they had never really talk to each other nor did they know everyone’s name. We began building and sharing more information about each other. 
 
One of the classrooms consists of a multi-lingual mix of students. Almost half of the class is learning English as a new language. Their first circle was one of the only times for the entire class to have a whole group discussion or even sit together as a whole group.  Issues regarding language barriers came up and it was an opportunity for us to talk and educate through those differences that create barriers. In the future, I would like the group to spend time discussing the challenges and benefits of being a multi-cultural school and classroom, spending a good deal of time coming up with solutions to the challenges and creating plans to build better understanding.
 
The day overall was successful even through there were different challenges. Circles are a way to address the challenges in the moment as well as overtime.  By using circles, students had a voice to express their opinions on topics such as: who they are, what laws they think should be changed, what they would do if they were governor, and input on their own classroom climate.  I can’t wait to see what happens over time, and I’m glad that I can support this teacher who understands relationship building is key to creating a better classroom climate.  The teacher thinks that if circles had started at the beginning of the school year that their classroom community would be in a better place.  Now this teacher will be able to implement them next year from the start.  

Volunteer of the Month – February

Feb23
Maria Ruiz is our Volunteer of the Month. Maria has been interning with our Youth Programs for the past year and has had a huge impact on the youth she serves. Natalie Spriggs, Youth Programs Director, has worked closely with Maria and says, “Maria has been such a joy to work with. She is now one of our meditation experts in teaching children how to take peace breaths and meditate. She has a wonderful calming effect on children. She is out in our schools doing restorative practices each week, as well as at Peace Learning Center helping lead field trips for schools that visit us. We truly could not do the work we do without her!”
 
Maria, thank you for everything you have done for our organization. We are very grateful to have you on our team.

Community Peace Building Academy for Senior Care Facilities

Feb14

By John McShane, Community Programs Director

One of my favorite participants in a peacebuilding workshop at a resident retired community told the following story: “Looking back, many of us can remember a time when we were picked on, bullied, or, in some way, made to feel unwelcome or alone. Sadly, this sometimes continues as we move to apartment or resident retired communities. It’s like high school all over again.” She continued, “The difference is that in high school, you had a friend to talk to or could even go home at the end of the day. Worst case was that you knew you were getting out of school one day, that there was an end in sight. The difference here, though, is that for new residents, we don’t have friends yet, we aren’t going home at the end of the day, and for many of us this is the last place we are going to live. We deserve better than that.”

Peace Learning Center began hosting community peace building workshops for retired communities in 2015. The training was provided to residents, staff, and management. Results were impressive. One Service Coordinator reports that:

  • Many residents’ shared they have decided to stay housed in the community.
  • Residents report an increased sense of belonging.
  • Residents are protecting, caring, and contributing to their community. Some Residents are volunteering to host events for the community and residents are also beginning to seek volunteer opportunities in the greater community.
  • Residents are reporting they are very satisfied with the apartment community, Service Coordination program, and the property management team.
  • Residents now have social and community connections.

Based on successes, experiences, and lessons learned, we have created a two-day “Train the Trainer” workshop for Service Coordinators and Social Service Workers, the Community Peace Building Academy. Prospective participants are those who serve either apartment based or residential communities. This two day workshop will be hosted at Peace Learning Center’s Indianapolis facility on March 23 and 24, 2017.

Course materials are based on PLC original work and the Help Increase the Peace Program (HIPP) manual created by the American Friends Service Committee, a time tested curriculum for community peace building. Participants will learn to facilitate PLC learning modules based on:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication skills
  • Community problem solving
  • Understanding diversity
  • Assumptions (Gossip!) and open mindedness

Academy graduates will be certified HIPP and PLC workshop facilitators and will be able to facilitate workshops at their own facilities. Valued at $600 per participant, PLC will provide books, materials, and lunch for the two-day training.

Working with the retired community has been a surprising and beautiful experience. Building and a sense of shared community through dialogue and storytelling has been powerful for all participants – including me. I’ve met and learned from an original “Rosie, The Riveter,” who shared her stories of building airplanes during WWII. I shared memories with Santa Clause! My friend, John, was a Santa at Indianapolis’ L.S. Ayers and Company in the early 1970’s. John told proud stories of his red velvet Santa suit. (There were two, actually. One to wear while the other was at the cleaners!) John and I did some math and think I may have sat on his lap, “back in the Day!”

The community spirit of dialogue with dignity and respect has been a springboard for minimizing conflict and misunderstandings. Watching residents create and grow their own peaceful communities has been inspirational. The Community Peace Builders Academy will help other facilitators to continue the work!

Find out more and register here

Volunteer of the Month – January

Jan18
Lexie Brown is our Volunteer of the Month. Lexie is a senior at Franklin College and is spending her January term volunteering at the Peace Learning Center to help with Special Events. Lexie helped us prepare and manage our 19th Annual Martin Luther King Community Festival. Jay Horan, Director of Engagement, has worked closely with Lexie and says, “Lexie is a hard worker and a joy to be around. She came into PLC and jumped right into her duties without hesitation. I wish we could have her for more than just a month!”
 
Lexie, thank you for everything you have done for our organization. We are very grateful to have you on our team!

Volunteer of the Year – Barbara Oberreich

Dec05
barbaraBarbara Oberreich is Peace Learning Center’s Volunteer of the Year and an incredible supporter of our work. She has been integral in implementing restorative practices in our schools and ensuring volunteers are used and engaged wisely.
Kristina Hulvershorn, Director of Youth Programs has worked closely with Barbara and said, “Barbara is an incredible volunteer for so many reasons. Her persistence, patience, and wisdom have allowed us to build new and meaningful programs and partnerships where there were none before. She has helped bring together a group of dedicated and wonderful volunteers who are helping build peace in some really significant ways. She is always there when we need her (whether it is to help  us by bring soup to feed a group in training, to help mobilize a large volunteer group, to learn about another training, or to help kids in need). Barbara is such a selfless and wonderful person. We are so lucky she is on our team!”
Thank you Barbara for all you do for the Peace Learning Center! You are forever a member of the PLC family!

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