Projects Funded in 2004:

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

The Association of the Center for Mayan Ixil Education and Development works with youth and women in the rural town of Chajul and its surrounding villages. Chajul is an area deeply affected by more than thirty-six years of civil war and ongoing and entrenched poverty. Prior to its formation, many members of ACEFOMI worked within the town to meet the multiple psychosocial needs of women and children who survived the war and its effects. With funds from the Martín-Baró Fund, ACEFOMI will extend their previous work to include youth and adult women in five rural communities: the villages of Ju'il, Tchacalte', Vi'pech, Ixla' and Visiquitchun. Thirty young girls and women in each community will participate in workshops on women's and indigenous rights and on community mental health. The goals of the training are to create a group-based process for remembering the past, enhancing women's self-esteem and, through participatory and popular education techniques, provide resources through which girls and women can organize their communities toward creating a more just future.

Boarding School Healing Project, South Dakota, Arizona & New Mexico, USA.

During the 19th and well into the 20th century, Native American children were forcibly abducted from their homes to attend boarding schools, where they were systematically humiliated, abused, and stripped of their language, cultural traditions, and family connections. Native children were taught to be ashamed of their identity and themselves, and the devastating impact of these experiences continues to affect tribal life today.

The Boarding School Healing Project is a national coalition of organizations working with Native communities. It seeks to document and raise consciousness about these abuses so that these communities can begin a process of healing, and demand accountability and justice. Current pilot programs are working with the Lakota nation in South Dakota, and with the Navajo nation in Arizona and New Mexico. Members of these tribal communities are being trained to gather documentation using participatory action research, which can include talking circles, interviews, and focus groups. The BSHP is mobilizing a variety of resources in this effort, including mental health professionals, support groups, and traditional healing circles.

A 2004-5 grant from the Martín-Baró Fund will help support the costs of travel connected with documentation and training, food and supplies for tribal support groups, creation of a crisis hotline for survivors, and planning for a Boarding School Day of Remembrance.

The Burmese Refugee Project, Thailand.

The Burmese Refugee project is working in northwestern Thailand with approximately one hundred ethnically Shan refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma), helping them to gain access to education, health care, and legal services. These services are essential to the refugees' quality of life and human rights, and are otherwise denied to them by the Burmese and Thai governments. This project is profiled in the Spring, 2004, issue of our newsletter.

Centro Bartolomé de las Casas, San Salvador, El Salvador.

The Centro Bartolomé de las Casas is a community organization with five staff and many volunteers who work with local communities in economic, social, psychosocial and spiritual development. With funds from the Martín-Baró Fund, two members of their staff and several volunteers will extend recently initiated psychosocial work with women survivors of massacres and families of victims in two rural Salvadoran communities, Arcatao and Perquin. They will train local community workers who will work with an organization of survivors in these communities to systematically address social trauma through a project of recovering memories and through individual and group-based work using creative play, traditional medicines, and acupressure. This psychosocial work is part of a wider community process through which survivors will work to vindicate the past and seek justice towards the future.

Christians for Peace in El Salvador, El Salvador.

With support from the Martín-Baro Fund, CRISPAZ is working with a prisoner support group known as OPERA, for the Spanish initials that stand for Optimism, Peace, Hope, Renewal and Harmony. The group works with young inmates, mostly gang members, in two prisons in El Salvador. High crime rates and the growth of gangs in El Salvador can be traced in part to the unhealed wounds of El Salvador's civil war, and to current economic policies, prompted by the U.S., that exacerbate economic inequality. While the inmates involved in OPERA have contributed to the social violence that plagues El Salvador, they have also been victimized by it. Many have been the victims of violence at home and on the streets. OPERA seeks to address the mental health of young inmates by providing a variety of activities for them in prison including reading circles, craft and music workshops, film forums, and a self-help group that focuses on relationship difficulties, emotional experiences, communication problems, violence, and conflict resolution. OPERA also works to engage inmates directly in denouncing human rights abuses that are occurring in the prisons.

Ibdaa Cultural Center: Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine.

The Ibdaa Cultural Center is receiving funding for a second year to continue its cultural and sports activities with children and youth, and its mental health workshops for parents and teachers. Ibdaa runs a very active after school program (as well as all day programs during school holidays) that is intended to foster the development of constructive youth leadership in the face of ongoing conflict in the Middle East. It does this through a wide array of activities that include sports, music, art, drama, photography, and film screenings for several hundred children weekly. Sports groups, in particular, offer a way for children to channel their resentments and frustrations into productive physical activity. Ibdaa also sponsors field trips that enable youth who have few opportunities to leave the refugee camp to meet other youth from all over Palestine. Ibdaa also hosts crisis intervention workshops for parents and teachers, and workshops on how to recognize the mental health needs of youth and be cognizant of their human rights. With continued funding from MBF, Ibdaa is broadening its focus to include physical as well as mental health of children in its efforts. The Center has added to its activities open health days during which doctors and nurses provide free consultation and treatment for hundreds of children.

Pastoral de Solidaridad y Reconciliación, San Marcos, Guatemala.

The REMHI project of the San Marcos Diocese was part of an inter-diocesan project that produced the report, "Guatemala: Never Again," a documentation of human rights violations in the country. The goal of the project is to motivate the organized participation of the people in the construction of a new Guatemala and the development of a more human and dignified life. REMHI is a response at the community level and emphasizes exposure to history, mental health training, and human rights for the people of San Marcos, which has a primarily indigenous population. In 2004, the project will continue with the work of exhumations and reburials of victims of the violence, which help family members gain closure and cope with the overwhelming fear of reprisal. It will continue to commemorate important anniversaries to prevent the obliteration of the past, and to support the training of community leaders to give workshops that contribute to reconciliation. It will publish a regional report of testimonies gathered from the San Marcos area through which survivors have been able to document the stories of violence, remembering the past to work together to build a better future. This report will be distributed widely through the department and beyond, contributing to furthering community work with San Marcos and serving as a model for other communities undergoing similar processes within Guatemala.