Projects Funded in 2015:

Médicos Descalzos

Médicos Descalzos is receiving its third and final year of funding from the Martín-Baró Fund. In 2014, Médicos Descalzos was able to complete a comprehensive guide to the five additional mental health challenges identified in previous participatory and action research with Ajq'ijab', Mayan traditional healers, who serve as culturally and economically accessible health and mental health resources for rural indigenous communities. This popular education manual will be completed in mid-2015 and will be presented in a department wide meeting of Ajq'ijab'. In addition, the 2015 grant from the Martín-Baró Fund will support a participatory project with local midwives, an initiative based on observations of psychological problems confronting Mayan women in childbirth that contributed to maternal or infant deaths. Project coordinators will document local understandings and practices through participatory workshops with Mayan midwives and then return the knowledge they generate to them and to other midwives through illustrated popular education books and participatory workshops, thus contributing to enhanced preventative health and mental health resources for pregnant women. Finally, Médicos Descalzos will continue to facilitate cultural exchanges between Ajq'ijab' and psychiatric residents at the National Mental Health Hospital, Frederico Mora, educating the latter in Mayan traditional beliefs and practices and thereby contributing to these health workers' psychosocial and preventative mental health work among the Maya.

"The Awakening"

The Awakening is entering its third and final year of funding by the Martín-Baró Fund. It operates in the Swat district of Pakistan, under extremely difficult and threatening security conditions, including assaults and other forms of interference from both military and governmental agencies, as well as from terrorists. During the past year, these conditions forced it to delay some of its programs temporarily. As a result, some of its activities during the coming year will need to be devoted to training participants on safety and security, and the creation of trauma healing manuals.

The group's goal is to build a violence-free, socially cohesive society through conflict resolution, and to break cycles of violence both in the wider community and in the individual homes of its members. It will be pursuing these goals through the formation and orientation of peace committees and support groups for women, men, and transgender members—as well as through training focused on conflict management and resolution, trauma healing, breaking cycles of violence, and encouraging nonviolent ways to build healthy individuals and communities.



NOMADESC was awarded a third year of funding this year. Nomadesc has worked since 2000 to address poverty, trauma, and hopelessness brought on by the Triana massacre in El Valle de Cauca, Colombia. Faced with a continued military presence and a deep feeling of injustice in the region, Nomadesc's "Mujeres de Triana" or "Women of Triana" project strives to help the community heal through ancestral practices which remember and celebrate the victims.

This past year, Nomadesc organized several workshops on the theme of "Saving Ancestral Practices of the Victims of the Via Cabal Pombo." In addition to their concern with preserving ancestral practices, the group also worries that planned tourism, as well as highway and mining development in the area, threaten their way of life.

This coming year, the Mujeres have several community workshops planned incorporating concepts of human rights and psychosocial accompaniment, including the fifth "Meeting for Life, Memory and Recuperation of the Ancestral Practices of the Victims." This workshop will also include the creation of a "memory notebook" by the community, in which many of their customs and practices will be recorded and preserved.


Action des Femmes a la Non-Violence
Democratic Republic of Congo

Action des Femmes a la Non-Violence (AFN) was granted a third year of funding in 2015. AFN is a grassroots organization in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, founded in 2008 by women and girls who came together as one to campaign for the abolition of the ongoing gender-based abuse, sexual harassment, torture, and sexual violence against women. With their grant from the Fund last year, AFN implemented two training workshops on women's human rights, leadership and governance entitled "Legal campaign against sexual violence and impunity." They conducted other leadership workshops that encouraged them to participate actively in decision-making processes as protagonists in their homes, work places, community and in the society.

This coming year, seminars will be held on women's human rights, literacy and leadership capacity building. They will also establish a vocational skills development center to enable women and young girls to acquire practical skills that would allow them to become self-sustainable and improve their financial situations. The center will offer programs in sewing, and hairdressing, manicure and pedicure. The women will also learn financial management skills and they will establish a revolving capital fund with their own money to help finance the material costs of the women's small businesses in this collective.


Freedom Summer Palestine

Freedom Summer Palestine is a grassroots organization run by young people at the Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank of Palestine. The situation for Palestinians is horrific, with daily experiences of restrictions of movement, deprivation of basic resources such as clean water and electricity, and more. Drawing on their knowledge of the African American struggles for human rights, Palestinian struggles for freedom and justice, and other freedom movements around the world, Freedom Summer Palestine wants to involve young people in activities—including theater, photography, art, field trips, music, and consciousness-raising group discussions—as a means to build community and foster critical awareness of the practical situation regarding the Israeli Occupation and its financial and military support by the United States. This project will be housed in the building of another non-profit organization in the refugee camp—the Al-Rowwad Cultural Center—and the latter will offer support and guidance in the form of an elder advisory committee.

This project provides a nonviolent and constructive way for young people to deal with the oppression, racism, and violence that they experience in their everyday lives. The opportunities for emotional and social healing are through understanding power and promoting images of change and visions of a more equitable society. The mental health benefits are a direct reflection of the connection to human rights perspectives through self and collective experiences.


Mobile Art Bus

The Mobile Art Bus was started by Khitam Edelbi, graduate of Lesley College, in 2009. It began when she packed her car—and later her donated bus—with art supplies, and brought her knowledge of expressive art therapy to schools in Israel/Palestine. Her goal was to promote healing in youth living in the stressful, and often violent, conditions experienced by many in Israel/Palestine. As described in the project's proposal, expressive therapies offer techniques for coping with trauma, unexpressed rage and despair. They have so far proven incredibly helpful in assisting Palestinian children and adults cope with severe distress.

With funds from the Martín-Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights, the Mobile Art Bus will launch a pilot training program with a group of 25 teachers from the West Bank so that they can learn to use expressive therapies with their young students and the students' parents. A teacher's manual will be developed to support this effort. The goal is to provide empowerment, resilience, and opportunities for healing to as many people and communities as possible.


Kyabaan Association, Inc.

Kyabaan works to support indigenous youth in the southernmost island of the Philippines, Mindanao. Mindanao is a site of historic and ongoing counterinsurgency warfare aimed at suppressing local movements for autonomy and suspected communist insurrections. Since the War on Terror, the U.S. has been a growing presence in the region providing military training, advising, and counterintelligence to the Philippine armed forces. According to Kyabaan staff, U.S. assisted counter-terrorism operations have resulted in "extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and community dislocations" and have "been rampant and worse under the present regime." Those who suffer the most are children, driven into the "hinterlands" by the fighting and stripped of their daily routines including regular schooling.

Kyabaan has been working among these children since 2005 and will be receiving funding to launch an education, nutrition, and health program for 50 children between the ages of 12 and 17. These youth will participate in student-centered educational activities, food producing neighborhood gardening, and periodic healthcare services. Kyabaan's objectives are to restore a minimum level of routine to these children's lives through activities that will enhance self-esteem and increase the capacity to cope with stresses related to armed conflict. Kyabaan also envisions these youth becoming advocates for positive change in their communities and society at large in part through sharing stories that bring to light escalating human rights violations against indigenous groups in the region.


Project Hajra
Queens, NY

Project Hajra is a grassroots initiative tackling interpersonal, gender-based violence within the Muslim community in Queens, NY. The movement already includes 150 volunteer members, a third of whom find themselves in situations of acute crisis. These mostly Arab, Middle Eastern, and Central/South Asian women have found effective ways to address cultural and religious challenges that might otherwise silence or stigmatize their situation. They host bi-monthly gatherings for peer-organizing at religious gatherings and locations such as beauty salons and private homes. These meetings raise awareness, provide communal support, and offer peer-training. When gatherings are suspended during religious months, programs are offered alongside religious events to focus on women's rights and nurture new community leaders. They do outreach with religious leaders, teachers, and matchmakers. Smaller, intimate groups work discreetly as cells, working through crises, and reaching out to families and communities of abuse survivors. Project Hajra is committed to making interpersonal violence and trauma a communal rather than individual issue within their community. The Fund's support will allow them to reimburse members attending the bi-monthly gathering for gas or metro cards and will provide small stipends for a peer interpersonal violence advocate and for a community member to do translation and childcare.