Peacebuilding en las Américas (PLA)
The Peacebuilding en las Américas (PLA) program promotes peace and healing in countries where the violent legacy of civil war has added to the continued poverty and injustice that sparked the conflicts. Weapons abound and crime, gang violence and continued political problems have compelled Quakers and others to seek new solutions.
Visit the PLA website: pla.friendspeaceteams.org
PLA also practices community-based trauma healing work modeled on the Healing and Rebuilding our Communities program (HROC), work of our African partners. In Latin America the workshops are called Trauma Healing (Recuperación del Trauma – RdT). In 2007, a Colombian AVP facilitator went with two members of our working group in Burundi to learn about the HROC program. The Burundians were overjoyed to find that despite experiencing devastating violence, they had something of great value to offer others in similar situations. Now, the Colombians have shared what they have learned and implemented in their country, and Central Americans are implementing these workshops in their own communities.
Programs and Locations:
From 2006 to 2015, AVP Colombia completed 314 workshops, impacting over 2,500 participants. With five active regions in Colombia, facilitators continue to develop work in areas of ongoing violence and displaced communities. In 2015, AVP Colombia built on countrywide peacebuilding momentum from peace negotiations by developing programs with women, students, teachers, and health clinic personnel. Community-based Trauma Healing workshops are in high demand as many deal with the suffering and pain of past and ongoing violence.
Current projects include: 1) AVP Workshops with traumatized residents of a community that suffered
a massacre and mass displacement ten years ago 2) AVP Workshops with another where, after being forced to leave their land twice, the government continues to pressure people to leave in order to develop an industrial zone. 3) With funding from the Mayor’s office in Bogota, facilitators are running Basic, Advanced and Facilitator Training workshops to afro-descendant communities, victims of violence, indigenous communities, LGBT communities, and disabled staff.
Since 2007, AVP El Salvador has run workshops in 12 municipalities with over 17 organizations and churches.
AVP El Salvador has focused on work with youth-based programs, working with incarcerated youth at a detention center, at-risk youth in gang infested communities, at-risk male youth who left school to support their families with informal employment, students at middle schools, church youth leaders, university scholarship students, and youth of Salvadoran-American backgrounds.
In 2014, facilitators began workshops with Co-Madres (Committee of Mothers and Relatives of the Disappeared, Assassinated and Political Prisoners of El Salvador), an organization that has maintained a consistent voice of nonviolent resistance in El Salvador for the last 38 years, with the goal of making the majority of the 400 participants AVP facilitators.
In 2016, the main focus has been on building a partnership with Plan International, an international organization focused on the prevention of child abuse and the creation of positive social environments in families and communities.
Most of AVP Guatemala’s work focuses on youth, teachers, personnel in prisons, and community leaders. They are currently active in nine municipalities across seven of the 22 departments in Guatemala and run the majority of their workshops through organizational and educational alliances.
In 2015, AVP Guatemala took off under the leadership of the new Guatemalan Coordinator, Lorena Escobar. Escobar mentors facilitators through a Facilitators Collective, a group of active facilitators who meet regularly for trainings. This collective motivated facilitators to complete a total of 16 workshops with 266 participants, 104 of whom were youth. In 2016, facilitators continue giving workshops at a rate of 1-2 per month.
Also in 2015, AVP Guatemala started funding a program with Communidad La Esperanza, a free middle school for at-risk youth that models peaceful alternatives. Director Hilda Vasquez began implementing AVP techniques through formal workshops in 2013 by requiring new students to complete a Basic workshop. The teenage students now receive Basic, Advanced, Facilitator workshops as well as 2.5 hours of weekly mini-workshops. Two 16 and 17 year old alumni, who trained as facilitators in 2014, co-facilitate the weekly mini-workshops.
AVP work in Honduras has two main operating areas, and a third on the rise.
The majority of projects are run by the San Pedro Sula-based organization Misericordia Tejedoras de Sueños (Mercy Dreamweavers), a woman’s empowerment group funded by Sisters of Mercy. Tejedoras works with women in poor neighborhoods, youth in a center for children born to HIV positive women, students in a Middle School from low-income neighborhoods, with incarcerated women at the local female prison, and with groups of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean (Garífuna) women in their struggle to save their land from exploitation by outside groups. Some of the most challenging work has been with an indigenous group, the Tolupanes, where a struggle to prevent a mining project has resulted in the murder of community members.
In La Ceiba, AVP workshops are primarily with inmates in the El Porvenir National Prison. Currently, a group of inmate facilitators will lead their first Advanced workshop after having done two Basic workshops in the Prison last year. Community work is being developed by four active AVP facilitators who are expanding the facilitator group and bringing Community Based Trauma Healing workshops to the personnel of local schools.
New momentum has begun in Gracias Lempira, where a Franciscan Sister is reviving AVP work that began five years ago. Plans are being developed to lead workshops in the community, prison, and neighboring towns.