Emergency Tsunami Relief:

Slum Development Society, Tamil Nadu, India.

The December, 2004, tsunami that hit the Indian coast affected thousands of fishing people whose only source of livelihood was the sea. The Slum Development Society, a former grantee of the Martín-Baró Fund, took crucial leadership in efforts to distribute aid to the people of Chennai. As reported by SDS President D. Benjamin, the organization "helped victims to find alternative sites for living and working, gathered the youth of the affected areas and made them guardians of the aid materials provided to the people, cleaned the coastline and the area around the Srinivasapuram slum dwellings, distributed food packets, and cooked three days worth of food for the people of Srinivasapuram." The Fund's Special Grant to SDS helped to make possible the purchase of tents, school uniforms and other clothing and supplies, and the services of a mobile relief van to take victims to the hospital.The Slum Development Society was previously funded by MBF in 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003. A full report from SDS President Benjamin is in our Spring, 2005, Newsletter.

Projects Funded in 2005:

Asociación Centro de Educación y Formación Maya Ixil, San Gaspar de Chajul, Guatemala

The Martín-Baró Fund renewed its grant to the Center for Mayan Ixil Education and Development, which works with youth and women in the rural town of Chajul and its surrounding villages, an area profoundly affected by more than thirty-six years of civil war and entrenched poverty. Over the past year, despite some resistance by husbands and fathers in the communities, 150 women and youth participated in monthly mental health workshops, sharing their experiences during the war, working through their fears, and developing support networks. Gaspar Ijom, workshop facilitator, reports that participants have begun to incorporate concepts of human rights into their world view, and have experienced "a new self-understanding." The renewed grant will allow ACEFOMI to extend their work to four other villages, as well as to expand its activities in the town of Chajul.

The Burmese Refugee Project, Thailand.

The Burmese Refugee Project seeks to build participatory models for community development, focusing on education and the social welfare of approximately 200 Shan refugees living in northwest Thailand. The Shan are an ethnic group currently persecuted by the national government in Burma (Myanmar), which has banned the Shan language from all public institutions, engaged in systematic rape and torture of the Shan people, and captured many Shan as forced labor for the national army. To escape persecution, as many as half a million Shan have crossed the eastern border into Thailand. In building a well-educated, healthy, and economically robust Shan community, the BRP seeks to create the foundations for a future democratic Burma. Funding from the Martín-Baró Fund will allow the BRP to continue to provide year-round counseling, explore community concerns, provide educational support and supplementary children's programs, and help in accessing health and legal services. In the coming year, the BRP will also develop Shan cultural workshops and a peer educator system on reproductive health issues. This project is profiled in the Spring, 2004, issue of our newsletter.

Boarding School Healing Project, South Dakota, USA

The Boarding School Healing Project, now in its second year of MBF funding, seeks to document and raise consciousness about abuses related to the abduction and forced enrollment of Native American children in boarding schools - abuses which continued well into the twentieth century and continue to affect tribal life today. The project reports that the process of documentation, involving extensive interviews with community elders who were forced to attend these schools, has been slower than expected due to the level of trauma experienced by survivors. However, they hope soon to complete the process on all reservations in South Dakota. The group also offers individual and group support on the reservations, as well as workshops and visits to the boarding schools. This past year they launched a grassroots campaign pressuring the United Nations to implement its resolution calling for a study of genocidal practices against indigenous peoples, including boarding schools. The campaign has allowed them to engage Native communities in human rights organizing, so that they can understand and shape these processes. In addition to continuing these programs, with this year's grant they plan to complete a toolkit for tribal communities seeking to pursue remedies through tribal court systems.

Center for Immigrant Families, New York City, NY, USA.

"I learned how to feel differently about myself and my community," reports a participant in one of the workshops run by the Center for Immigrant Families, "to feel proud of being an immigrant, and to feel how strong you have to be to be an immigrant here." In the past year C4IF has engaged in outreach to more women in the Lower Manhattan Valley neighborhood of New York City, resulting in an expansion of their membership as they continue to work towards the project's mission of promoting psychological well-being, health, development, and organizing for justice among low-income immigrant women of color. With this year's grant, C4IF will continue its outreach, and conduct four community-based workshops on Culture, Migration, and Community Organizing and Creating Community Literacy. They will also conduct a four-part leadership training program on community organizing and popular education for those who have previously participated in these workshops.

Centro Bartolomé de las Casas

The Fund once again renewed its support of Centro Bartolomé de las Casas, which works with local communities on economic, social, psychosocial and spiritual development. The Center reports that they have achieved their primary objective for 2005, which was to accompany the communities of Arcatao and Nueva Trinidad in exhumation processes. They have also begun legal negotiations and psychosocial accompaniment for the exhumation of remains in the riverbed of Río Sumpul, Chalatenango. The group's staff and volunteers consolidated local initiatives toward the recovery of historical memory in the north-west of Chalatenango, incorporating survivors as protagonists in local processes. They have been invited to Chile and Brazil to share their experiences at international assemblies on memory and mental health. With this year's grant, the Center hopes to continue and consolidate their work with a local group of survivors in the northeast zone and to provide psychosocial support to relatives and survivors of exhumations slated to occur in October to December, 2006.

Children's Rehabilitation Center, Quezon City, Philippines.

In the past year, the Children's Rehabilitation Center has extended its community-based psychosocial services in the areas of Eastern Visayas, Southern Tagalog, and Northern Luzon - areas affected by decades of conflict, poverty, economic displacement, and human rights violations. They also provided psychosocial, medical, nutritional, and educational assistance to twenty-one child political prisoners. The programs for children emphasized play therapy, arts, and cultural performance. CRC also offered training on the Children's Rights Framework to human rights workers in Luzon. In addition, they offered counseling for adults, and encouraged them to find alternative methods to challenge government policies of terror in their communities. This year's grant will allow CRC to continue their delivery of services to the displaced families from the Eastern Visayas region, as well as for the child political prisoners. In addition, the Center will continue its arts workshops for children, and its symposia on human rights issues.

Rwandan Women's Peace Leadership Project, Rwanda.

Working with Rwandan women, who suffered some of the most profound physical and psychological effects the country's 1994 genocide, Pro-Femmes, an umbrella group of 40 Rwandan organizations, has implemented a project to train staff members to become trainers in conflict resolution and reconciliation. Last year's grant from the Martín-Baró Fund to the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, a non-profit organization based in the United States, enabled the RWPLP to offer seminars including the use of inter-communal dialogue and other techniques for rebuilding community relations and promoting social healing. With this year's grant, the Karuna Center will be carrying out two additional phases of work with Pro-femmes. Phase I is the final workshop, to review and consolidate learning from the two-year training program, while Phase II is designed to meet the need for further mentoring, through hands-on coaching of trainees, followed by a meeting of all trainees to discuss the lessons learned, challenges they are encountering, and ways they can strengthen themselves as a group of peacebuilders, capable of providing ongoing mutual support.