November 2015 Newsletter
Over the past few months we’ve seen a healthy mix of strategic and organic progress at the Goldin Institute as new ideas are emerging into extraordinary initiatives and projects we’ve participated in for years are expanding into greater opportunities for community transformation. In this edition of the newsletter, you can read about the solidarity that was cultivated amongst the attendees of the Foundation for Reconciliation conference in Bogota, Colombia, the growth of a powerful partnership in East Africa that is changing the face of our Child Soldier Reintegration and Prevention efforts and progress on our grassroots leadership development platform.
Watch a brief video overview of this newsletter:
Colombia: Expanding the Network for Reconciliation
A sense of unity and purpose set the tone for the Foundation for Reconciliation’s conference in Bogota, Colombia on October 21-26. Our associates Alexis and Srishtee participated in the conference and brought back with them the powerful conviction that communities, once united around a shared aspiration, can overcome the extreme challenges they often face. In its 5th year, this international convening of peace and reconciliation leaders had representation from the 18 countries including, but not limited to, Bolivia, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Cuba, Venezuela, Guatemala and Ecuador.
Our partner Father Leonel Narvaez, founder of the the Foundation for Reconciliation, led the conference with real world experiences that weaved inspiration, theories and insights into a powerful call for community leadership. Former combatants also took center stage to share the challenges and importance of humanizing and reintegrating former combatants, not only for their own sake, but also for the stability of the community. They told deeply personal stories of how rejection from society and the vilification of former combatants only loosens the threads within the fabric of a community, leaving too many young people vulnerable to violence and extremism.
[quote]While the history and nature of the conflicts varied between the 18 countries, we all shared the same commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation and the desire to continue to learn from each other.”[/quote]
– Srishtee Dear, Goldin Associate
Click here to read more reflections and view photos from Srishtee and Alexis.
Representatives from each of the 18 countries also made presentations detailing how the ESPERE methodology was useful in their communities, proving once again that the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation breaks through cultural and geographical boundaries.
East Africa: Ending Recruitment of Children in Conflict
Our leadership team spent September in East Africa meeting with partners from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Following recommendations from the former combatants who lead our work in Uganda, the Goldin Institute and our partners at Arigatou International are now expanding our efforts to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts throughout the region.
Charles (pictured third from right) was one of ten former child soldiers who led the research team that conducted over 100 oral testimony interviews with their peers to collect and analyze the stories, experiences, and insights of children forced to fight in armed conflict.
[quote]Child soldier abduction and recruitment doesn’t stop at the border. We need a regional strategy to stop a regional problem.”[/quote]
– Charles Okello, Uganda
The knowledge and aspirations collected through this groundbreaking research was collected in the report, Alone and Frightened: Experiential Stories of Former Child Soldiers of Northern Uganda. Charles and two of his colleagues from the research team, Geoffrey and Janet, joined over 40 leaders from Kenya to present the research report and to encourage an expansion of the reintegration program to include a focus on preventing children from being used in armed conflicts in the first place.
The need and commitment to work towards the end of recruitment of children in armed conflict was affirmed by all in attendance, including Goldin Institute representatives and senior leaders from the region such as Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia (Advisor to the President on Peace, Cohesion and Conflict Resolution) and Professor Abdulghafur Elbusaidy (Chairmen of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims).
The Goldin Institute is pleased to work in solidarity with our partners throughout the region on two key initiatives focused on preventing the use of children in armed conflict, particularly in light of the growth of violent extremist groups. This new initiative has two primary elements – a youth leadership development component named the Youth Peace Ambassadors and the public solidarity element named CRAVE: Community Resistance Against Violent Extremism.
One example of the initiative’s results is the work of Maryam Famau, founder of local partner organization known as Peaceful Innovation in Nairobi. We saw first hand how Maryam and her team offers youth who are targeted by extremist groups like Al-Shabab an effective mixture of counseling, peer groups and job training to interrupt the recruitment process. These initiatives are combined with our Youth Peace Ambassadors program to provide advice, support and solidarity to reverse the recent growth of violent extremist groups throughout the region.
Our Team: Welcoming New Associates
Nancy Wairimu is an active Youth Peace Ambassador from Mombasa, Kenya. Nancy has been a youth leader since high school where she was elected as a student representative for the national schools council. Nancy has already participated in trainings for youth leaders in Zanzibar and Kenya.
Marjan Adbulrahman brings a MA in Communications and Media Technology and his experience working to support the CRAVE program with partner organization Arigatou International to his role as a Youth Peace Ambassador. He is currently focusing his work on identifying and collecting Islamic-specific resources to counter the recruitment and exploitation of Muslim youth.
Garenne Bigby has been working behind the scenes to redesign the Goldin Institute website as well as the development of the Grassroots Leadership platform, GATHER. Gather is an online curriculum and community of practice that will transform the way grassroots leaders across the globe learn from each other and implement community driven social change in their own communities. Look for more news on Gather in the next newsletter!
As always, thank you for supporting the work of the Goldin Institute! Please continue to be a champion for grassroots partnerships that create real change in the world.
If you have feedback on this edition of our newsletter, or story ideas you would like to see in a future issue, please contact our Newsletter Coordinator, Srilatha Lakkaraju. If you haven’t already, but would like to receive our newsletter in your email inbox, sign up here.