Peace en las Americas Coordinator Mónica A. Maher sends us this April 2021 update on PLA’s work on “planting a sustainable peace” in Central America. PLA is an initiative of Friends Peace Teams; Cece Yocum (Tampa) is our SEYM representative.
Covid infection continues to increase in the region, with new curfews and States of Emergency in Colombia, Ecuador and Central America. Hospitals are overwhelmed, with long waiting lists for the ICU. Ecuador and Peru reportedly have the highest rates in the world of Covid deaths per capita. In Colombia, desperate small business owners have taken to the streets in protest of the new restrictions. Shockingly, in El Salvador, one of our Peace Baskets recipients, María Felipa Herrera, was assassinated outside her sister-in-law’s house in San Salvador by unidentified gang members. We dedicate the ongoing work to her. Despite the multiple tragedies, commitment of Peacebuilding en las Américas (PLA) colleagues remains high, unity strong and creativity fresh.
Friends Peace Team Collaborations:
Peace Libraries and Power of Goodness
The last month has offered several exciting opportunities for PLA country coordinators to receive training from Nadine, Clerk of Peace Ministries, on both Peace Libraries and Power of Goodness projects. PLA coordinators are considering mobile AVP libraries. Thanks to the help of Turtle, they are planning to document their own Power of Goodness stories in Spanish with workshop participants. The emerging collaboration brings us all great joy.
Community Mental Health: Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
In-person workshops and activities:
In Guatemala, Lorena Escobar reports that she looks forward to offering more in-person activities for youth due to high levels of depression and anxiety, with suicide now being the second cause of death among adolescents.
In La Ceiba, Honduras, PLA Representative, Ondina Murillo, carried out Father’s Day events on March 18 and 19 in coordination with the Committee Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CONAPREV) in the Barrio Inglés and El Porvenir Prisons for men. Artistic activities sought to raise the men’s spirits as many are suffering from depression due to the extreme bio-security measures, which prohibit family visitors. Internal AVP facilitators were in prime form leading light ‘n’ lively exercises, singing original songs about the AVP philosophy, and motivating others with their musical instruments. Says Ondina, “I felt very proud; the AVP presence was palpable and outstanding.” Afterwards, on March 25, Ondina co-facilitated two Mini AVP Workshops on alleviating stress for 53 men living in the Barrio Inglés Prison.
In Ecuador, Beatriz Villarreal, of the Institute for Human Rights Assistance, and I finished co-facilitating the AVP Advanced Workshop on Responding to Domestic Violence on April 9 with eight Kichwa women leaders of Jambi Mascari (Searching for Health) in the Andean Highlands of Cotacachi. All expressed interest to take the AVP Facilitator Training, which we plan to carry out in bi-monthly in-person sessions in April and May.
Across the region, transnational facilitation teams in March completed the ninth and tenth online AVP Basic Workshops, and the third AVP Advanced, for international groups of Spanish-speakers. To date, people from 16 countries have participated.
In Colombia, Bibiana and Patricia Duque of Antioquia co-facilitated an AVP Basic with Anlly Noraña offering six online sessions in March. The fourteen participants included Franciscan Sisters from Colombia and youth from Ecuador, a very unified group who exhibited great interest throughout the process. Gratitude to facilitators abounded: “You have been a blessing during these times of anguish. I want to thank you immensely for listening to me and giving me tools to grow as a person and community leader.“ “This has been an opportunity to re-connect to that Transforming Power that is within me and to become aware that I am always growing and can find a non-violent solution to conflict.” You have offered me “the possibility to widen my vision of the world and to know that as a person I have a mission in and for this life.”
Food Sovereignty: Vegetable Gardens
In Guatemala, work on the Peace Schools´ vegetable garden is on hold due to a new curfew and State of Emergency, imposed with the spike in Covid. Unstable internet makes virtual follow-up with students and their families difficult.
In Ecuador, the heavy rains have slowed, so the indigenous women leaders in Cotacachi are planning to harvest the high-protein beans (chochos) of their collective garden soon. Beatriz Villarreal and I hope to be there to help.
—-Monica Maher, PLA Coordinator