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ISSUE 2 - DEC 2015

HOME AGAIN WHAT NOW? POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHY I BLEW THE WHISTLE

STORIES OF CHANGE

£2.00


Ashley Muller: See page 23

Contents

Turning her village green with energy

08

Grampari: where solutions start from the heart

10

Debt: a spiral which can be reversed

12

Home again – what now?

16

Power to the people

17

Democracy begins with children’s rights

18

More than a drop in the ocean

20

Why I blew the whistle

22

Journey of reconciliation

23

The root of happiness

Initiatives of Change is a worldwide

Changemakers Magazine

We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs in the areas of trust building, ethical leadership and sustainable living.

Editor: Davina Patel Sub-editor: Mary Lean Designer: Laura Noble Photographers: Caux-IofC Foundation, Charlotte Sawyer, Community Money Advice, Daniel Cook, Jason Gairn, Kara Fox, Karen Elliott Greisdorf Cover photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf All rights reserved. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publishers.

movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting in their own lives.

In the UK, Initiatives of Change is a charity registered No. 226334 (England and Wales).

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24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD Tel: 020 7798 6000

Please contact us with your views: @UKChangemakers facebook.com/ changemakersmagazine comms@uk.iofc.org ISSN: 2059-5719

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Photo credit: Kara Fox

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From the Editor Welcome to

Changemakers

W

elcome to the second issue of Changemakers, in which we celebrate people who are making a difference at local, national and international level. Every person has the ability to change our world for the better. If, like me, you are asking what you can do, the answer is to start with yourself. Whether it is healing a relationship or supporting your local community, every action makes a difference. Ann Edwards (p4) set out to make her local community sustainable. Teresa and Laurin Hodge (p12) are drawing on their strong mother-and-daughter bond, and Teresa’s experience of serving a prison term, to help released prisoners reintegrate in society. These are just two examples of the women changemakers in this issue. As Nelson Mandela said: ‘It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.’ For more stories of change and to subscribe to receive Read online updates, visit our website: www.changemakersmagazine.org

Free!

ISSUE 2 - DEC 2015

Davina Patel, Editor comms@uk.iofc.org

HOME AGAIN

- WHAT NOW? Karen Elliott Greisdorf meets a remarkable mother and daughter team, who are offering hope to former prisoners in the US.

T

he founders of Mission: Launch, Teresa and Laurin Hodge, have always made a strong team. Widowed when Laurin was two, Teresa rolled the job of two parents into one. Later, after Teresa served a prison term, Laurin helped her to carry through her dream of helping released prisoners reintegrate in society. Laurin laughs as Teresa says that stubbornness, along with compassion, empathy and faith, is a quality they share. These characteristics stood them in good stead in 2001, when Teresa came under investigation for white-collar crime, just as Laurin was starting university at the age of 17. Three days after her graduation, Teresa’strialbegan.Sheserved70months in prison. By January 2015, when her post-release probation period ended, the wholeexperiencehadconsumedathirdof Teresa’s and nearly half of Laurin’s. In prison, Teresa had begun to focus on what life could mean for her and her fellowprisonersoncethey’dbeenreleased. ‘I was in prison with politicians and

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Our writers Archana Rao Ashley Muller Davina Patel Genevieve Boast

prostitutes,’shesays.‘Therewerecorporate executivesandwomenwithmentalillness; youngwomenintheirteensandwomenin their70sand80s.’Prisonershave‘unlimited time to dream a big and good dream for thefuture.However,whenyouarrivehome the stigma and barriers to employment, housingandbasicessentialsmakere-entry feel impossible.’ Laurinhadentereduniversitywiththe vision of going on to medical school, but graduated at a time of national recession when employment for recent graduates was tough to come by. She worked for a health-related charity in Virginia, but ultimately, in the autumn of 2009, found herself in a ten-month business studies andleadershipdevelopmentprogramme at Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore. ‘I knew my mom had the capacity to come home and do all that she’s doing now,’ Laurin says, ‘but that was never really my plan.’ And yet, she was the one who got Mission: Launch up and running after winning a

business plan competition sponsored by Johns Hopkins. Other awards and recognition followed, affirming Laurin’s determination to develop the not-for-profit. Today Mission: Launch produces software to help ‘returning citizens’ to reenter society on their release, and to shift publicopinionaboutincarceration.Attheir annual Rebuilding Re-entry Hackathon, computerprogrammers,returningcitizens andsocialentrepreneursworktogetherto develop apps and other technologies. Oneprogrammetheyhavedeveloped is Clean Slate DC, which allows residents of Washington, DC to determine whether they are eligible to file a petition with the courts to have their records sealed or expunged. ‘This is impactful because some incidents (like an arrest record, minor misdemeanours and even cases where people were not found guilty after a conviction) follow a person forever – limiting their ability to secure housing and employment,’ explains Laurin. Mission: Launch founded and

Changemakers | 11

John Bond Jonathan Levy Karen Elliott Greisdorf Mary Lean

www.changemakersmagazine.org

STORIES OF CHANGE

£2.00

HOME AGAIN WHAT NOW? POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHY I BLEW THE WHISTLE

Ranna Mosavie Talia Smith Yee-Liu Williams

Changemakers | 3


ANN EDWARDS If I’m living

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Photo credit: Jason Gairn

in a community, I need to help it grow


TURNING A VILLAGE GREEN

WITH ENERGY

Talia Smith meets an environmental activist in the depths of the English countryside.

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seamen’s strike of 1966. When she was 23, she was invited to work as a multi-lingual secretary in Brazil. ‘I was always fascinated by South America and the ancient civilisations there,’ she says. She spent seven years based at the MRA centre near Rio de Janeiro, working with dockers’ families and in the favelas. She also spent time in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. In 1980, she married Roddy Edwards and moved to his family’s home in Walkerswood, a village in the hills of St Ann, Jamaica. There she started a plant nursery on the farm and got involved with the community, working with the women to restart the local branch of the Jamaica Federation of Women. This led to the creation of a centre where women could socialise but also, more importantly, provided a kerosene tank. This meant women no longer had to travel three miles to the nearest tank or cut down trees for fuel. Ann campaigned with

the community for the government to clean up the unlined municipal dump, which was threatening the underground aquifer on which the area’s water supply depended. They staged a play, which was seen by the local MP and covered by radio and press, and finally blocked the main cross-island road in protest. Fourteen years later the Edwards moved to the picturesque village of Wenhaston. In 2007, she and others started the Wenhaston Energy Support Group to look at reducing the carbon footprint of the village. ‘I have always felt we needed to be responsible for our environment and conscious of what we are leaving behind for our children,’ she says. One of the group’s projects was to help raise funds to install a biomass boiler and solar panels for the village hall, the first stop on my village development research mission. A second group grew out of the support group, to focus on planting

School tree planting project

n November, the UK faced its first possible power outage, due to lack of energy production. Small communities around the country have been steadily working on initiatives to cut energy consumption and promote renewable energy. One such is Wenhaston, in Suffolk. Ann Edwards is one of a band of eco-conscious people who are aiming to turn Wenhaston into one of Suffolk’s greenest villages, by taking energy savings and environmental protection into their own hands. ‘If I’m living in a community,’ she says, ‘I need to be part of it and help it grow.’ This passion was forged in South America and Jamaica, where she lived for over 20 years. Ann’s parents worked full-time with Moral Re-Armament (MRA), the international moral and spiritual movement that later become Initiatives of Change. She left school at 16 to travel with an MRA musical which toured UK ports during the big

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Photo credit: Jason Gairn

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Blyth Woods tree planting project

woodland as a sustainable resource, for recreation and to teach children from the local school about the importance of trees. ‘It is important to plant a legacy for future generations,’ Ann says. ‘Wenhaston is known as a pioneer village for renewable energy and Ann has been instrumental in that process,’ says Sue Gow, who has worked with her on a number of village initiatives. ‘She works quietly and incredibly hard behind the scenes to make change happen, bringing people together and working along with her.’ In 2002 a group of parents got together to see how to improve the amenities for young people. Ann became chair of the local sports group, which raised £144,000 over the next seven years to build a skateboard park, a multi-use games area and a tennis court. Ann was elected to the parish council in 2007 and has taken up a wide range of causes, often in a coordinating role – helping to secure land for allotments, contesting planning applications, campaigning for environmental awareness, petitioning for affordable housing and helping to organise ‘Give and Take’ days. ‘Each project that Ann works on has a social side – a community ethos,’ says Alan Hoddy, member of the allotment www.changemakersmagazine.org

committee. ‘She is fair and listens to everybody’s opinions.’ What motivates this avid gardener and mother of two to spend so much time working on local change? ‘Leaving the planet in a good state,’ is Ann’s first answer. ‘We can’t leave it to the politicians, we all need to look at how we use resources and ensure we live within our means.’ Making a difference is also a motivator: ‘I enjoy working with people for a positive end.’ So is faith. She quotes St Francis’s prayer, ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’ and says that she believes in taking care of God’s creation. Working for social change has its challenges and frustrations. Time is one of these and getting the right balance. At one point, Ann was working three part-time jobs as well as looking after elderly parents and the family. ‘There is the challenge of working with very different personalities – and not letting frustrations get to you when things don’t go according to plan.’ How does she deal with the pressures? ‘Roddy is a strength for me, especially to discuss matters with,’ she says. They seek guidance and inspiration together by taking time in silence every day, to try and find a higher wisdom. This helps to root her and gives space for reflection. ‘I try to take time to understand people and

to build on people’s strengths: then they are more likely to be happy to be involved.’ When I ask about future projects, thinking Ann might be slowing down, my assumption is proved wrong. She runs through her continuing commitments: involvement through the Parish Council with the Neighbourhood Plan; finding the balance between development – so that young people can afford to live and work in the village – and maintaining the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the school and woodland project; encouraging people to invest in renewables. This is where democracy is built – at the local level. Ann is an example of this local democratic process at its best. According to Heather Phillips, who has served on Wenhaston’s parish council for a staggering 60 years, the councillors’ responsibility is ‘to improve village life, to listen to people and to bring their concerns to light’. Heather invited Ann to be part of the locally based Relief in Need Trust, which has existed for 500 years. Knowledgeable, caring and passionate were some of the words used by locals to describe Ann. With her determination, commitment, unassuming leadership, she builds teams that work to make change happen – for the common good. Changemakers | 7


Two opposing groups get together to build a 50ft box to protect a spring in the village of Viver: in all 100 villagers volunteered on the project.

GRAMPARI: WHERE SIMPLE SOLUTIONS START FROM THE HEART

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short walk from the conference buildings at Asia Plateau, the Initiatives of Change centre in Panchgani, India, takes you to Grampari, the rural and ecological centre. At the core of all its programmes are the concepts of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ and of inner listening. The first thing you see as you walk into the compound is the ‘tippy tap’: a handwashing device made from a plastic water container, three sticks, a bar of soap and some string, and operated by a foot lever. Because the device is hands-free, it doesn’t spread infection. It is estimated that handwashing with soap could save 1.2 million children’s lives each year. Grampari promote this simple device, along with a cheery handwashing song, in schools around the area, as part of their health and hygiene programme. They stress that they are not a charity, but a development organization, whose programmes are designed, implemented and maintained by the 8 | Changemakers

local communities. Eighty per cent of Grampari’s staff are local. The building next to the tippy tap is home to Grampari’s livelihoods programme. Here women train for a sewing certification, which qualifies them for a government subsidy to buy a sewing machine. Shubhangi Autade, who manages the livelihoods programme, is full of stories of how earning power has transformed life for women trapped in traditional, and sometimes abusive gender roles. The programme also trains young people to make, maintain and market solar lanterns, giving them both technical and business skills. The lanterns enable children in homes without electricity to study after sunset. Other courses include IT skills, mobile phone repair, brick making and embroidery. Grampari’s organic farming programme promotes ecological means of cultivation, which are showcased in the garden around the centre. Its watershed programme teaches villagers how to look

after their springs. Its youth and governance programme offers training for those involved in village councils and for young people. In 2014 it gave awards to women who had taken leadership in their communities. The winning self-help group ran a successful poultry and dairy business in a remote village, and marketed packs of ingredients for Hindu festivals. Eleven of its 14 members were illiterate. The winning woman sarpanch (head of the village panchayat, or council) had rallied the women in her village to pipe clean drinking water from their spring, close down a liquor shop and ensure that all the houses in the village were jointly owned by husband and wife. Grampari has recently launched the Grampari Adopted Village programme, which brings together all Grampari’s programmes to work with villagers who want to create an ideal sustainable village. Five villages have been adopted under this scheme. www.grampari.org www.changemakersmagazine.org

Photo credit: Grampari

Mary Lean visits a rural development centre in India which is driven by local needs.


PROTECTING

THE SPRINGS Why did Archana Rao give up her career to work at Grampari? one aquifer provides water to several villages, villagers sometimes have just two pots of water per day for an entire household. Earlier this year eight villagers came to our office. They wanted to resolve an issue with a neighbouring village. We discussed the problem. We also talked about the depletion of water in the springs. We ended with a time of silence to seek any fresh ideas. After five minutes of silence, one person shared his ideas. ‘In our village, we all protect each other’s homes,’ he said. ‘Why can’t we protect our hill in the same way, by bringing together

all the villagers and villages who live around the hill?’ During the following weeks, this proposal was discussed in the villages, and understanding grew that this was how they could protect the aquifer in the hill. In June villagers from several villages came together with us to form an aquifer committee – Bhujal Dharak Samiti. This will be the first committee in India established to look after an aquifer. Inspired by this Grampari-driven initiative, other villages are now working independently towards forming similar aquifer committees.

School children with the tippy tap‘Make handwashing device Tunbridge Wells: it Happen’ event www.changemakersmagazine.org

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Photo credit: Grampari

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n 2013 I chose to leave London, a city I loved, and a job in publishing I loved, and returned to India to work at Grampari. I had decided to endeavour to live a compassionate life. I am nowhere close to it yet but I keep trying. I work on the watershed programme, which aims to protect the springs in the region so that the villages get clean drinking water, and to put water back into the earth so that the aquifers – the underground basins of water – are recharged. In India the aquifers are depleting at a dramatic rate. In our region, where


Heather Keates at the CMA Conference

DEBT: A SPIRAL WHICH

CAN BE REVERSED

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eather Keates, the founder of Community Money Advice (CMA), knows what it is to live with crippling debt. In 1992, her life was thrown into turmoil by the death of her third child, Tom. He had been born with no pulmonary artery, a rare condition which involved weeks in Guys Hospital in London. He was not expected to live past his fourth birthday. Heather, who had had a difficult pregnancy resulting in many weeks in hospital, was recovering from his birth and her husband’s business was faltering. ‘Sometimes we even had to borrow to put petrol in the car just so we could visit him.’ 10 | Changemakers

Tom was only five months when he died, alone, in an emergency air ambulance on the journey to Guys Hospital from France, where the family were on holiday. ‘When the world around you totally disintegrates there are two choices,’ says Heather. ‘You can either fight or let it completely overwhelm you. But for us, we had our Christian faith that we just clung to.’ Then the medical bills started to arrive – along with demands for repayments of the amounts borrowed to enable them to put food on the table – over £30,000 in all. The Keates family had to sell their home and came close to losing

everything. ‘We kept on borrowing just to live,’ remembers Heather. ‘It was as though we were trapped in a downward spiral, often borrowing just to pay back debt with no real idea how to reverse the spiral.’ Family, friends and their church rallied round, and their care and support got the Keates family through it. Over the next 12 years, they managed to pay back what they owed as Heather’s husband, Tim, found regular work and his business picked up. The experience prompted Heather to think of those struggling through equally hard times, with no access to advice and support. ‘How www.changemakersmagazine.org

Photo credit: Community Money Advice

Yee Liu Williams discovers how one woman’s personal tragedy gave birth to a network of debt advice centres across the UK.


Looking back, Heather says, ‘I don’t know how we managed given how little our combined knowledge and experience of the money advice sector was at the time.’ She believes that CMA’s unique service is not just practical advice but listening to clients ‘to give them the space and time they need to piece their lives back together’. In today’s tough economy, CMA sees a wide variety of clients from all sectors of society including those on low incomes and the ‘striving professional middle class’. The subject is often hidden and unspoken. ‘Teachers, police, banking and service sector workers – many of them homeowners – are struggling with mortgages, secured loan, and credit card debt. Typically they are already financially stretched but

have been pushed over the edge by circumstances beyond their control.’ Heather admits that there have been times when they have been out of their depth and uncertain about what lies ahead, but she holds to her belief that ‘God will provide’. She shows me around the eco-build home which Tim has painstakingly created from a derelict old barn. Life for the family is very different from those dark days 20 years ago. Since 2004, Heather has been looking at the issues surrounding personal debt across the nation, with a view to shaping policy and legislation. CMA is implementing an ambitious plan to offer the hope of freedom from debt to thousands of people each year, by further extending its network across the UK.

Community Money Advice www.changemakersmagazine.org

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Photo credit: Community Money Advice

many people go through dark times without that bedrock, having to face circumstances similar to ours, sometimes of their own making and sometimes through no fault of their own?’ Her faith spurred her to take action. She approached her church fellowship in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, with the idea of ‘offering help and advice to anyone in the congregation who wanted it’. In 1997 they set up their first ‘drop in debt advice clinic’ in Burgess Hill. Community Money Advice (CMA) was registered as a charity in 2003, and has since helped 158 churches and local groups around the country to set up debt advice centres, offering services from training in budgeting and form-filling to handling personal insolvency.


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Photo credit: Larry Bercow, NYC 2015

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HOME AGAIN –

WHAT NOW? Karen Elliott Greisdorf meets a remarkable mother and daughter team, who are offering hope to former prisoners in the US.

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her and her fellow prisoners once they’d been released. ‘I was in prison with politicians and prostitutes,’ she says. ‘There were corporate executives and women with mental illness; young women in their teens and women in their 70s and 80s.’ Prisoners have ‘unlimited time to dream big for the future. However, when you arrive home the stigma and barriers to employment, housing and basic essentials make re-entry feel impossible.’ Laurin started university with the vision of going on to medical school, but graduated at a time of national recession when employment for recent graduates was tough to come by. She worked for a health-related charity in Virginia, but, in the autumn of 2009, found herself in a ten-month business studies and leadership development programme at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. ‘I knew my mom had the capacity to come home and do all that she’s

doing now,’ Laurin says, ‘but that was never really my plan.’ And yet, she was the one who got Mission: Launch up and running after winning a business plan competition sponsored by Johns Hopkins. Other awards and recognition followed, affirming Laurin’s determination to develop the not-for-profit. Today Mission: Launch produces software to help ‘returning citizens’ to re-enter society on their release, and to shift public opinion about imprisonment. At their annual Rebuilding Re-entry Hackathon, computer programmers, returning citizens and social entrepreneurs work together to develop apps and other technologies. One programme they have developed is Clean Slate DC, which allows residents of Washington, DC to determine whether they are eligible to file a petition with the courts to have their records sealed or erased. ‘This is impactful because some incidents,

Changemakers | 13

Photo credit: Karen Elliott Greisdorf

T

he founders of Mission: Launch, Teresa and Laurin Hodge, have always made a strong team. Widowed when Laurin was two, Teresa rolled the job of two parents into one. Later, after Teresa served a prison term, Laurin helped her to realise her dream of helping released prisoners reintegrate in society. Laurin laughs as Teresa says that stubbornness, along with compassion, empathy and faith, is a quality they share. These characteristics stood them in good stead in 2001, when Teresa came under investigation for white-collar crime, just as Laurin was starting university at the age of 17. Three days after her graduation, Teresa’s trial began. She served 70 months in prison. By January 2015, when her post-release probation period ended, the whole experience had consumed a third of Teresa’s life and nearly half of Laurin’s. In prison, Teresa began to focus on what life could mean for


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Photo credit: Karen Elliott Greisdorf

the Rebuilding Re-entry Hackathon HayaanParticipants fortnightlyatmeeting in Brent


such as an arrest record, minor offences and even cases where people were not found guilty of any offence, follow a person forever – limiting their ability to secure housing and employment,’ explains Laurin. Mission: Launch founded and manages the Rebuilding Re-entry Coalition, a network of organizations, individuals and citizen-led movements concerned with the challenges facing those who have been imprisoned. They also run a social enterprise which helps to finance Mission: Launch by producing software for commercial clients. As Mission: Launch was being built, Laurin took part in the Caux Scholars Programme held at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, Switzerland. The month-long course, which focuses on conflict transformation and building trust and peace in the community, played a critical role in shaping Laurin and Teresa’s life vision. ‘Trust is one of the things you have to repair from the perspective of the general public,’ says Laurin. ‘You have to repair the breach of trust that may have sent someone to prison.’ www.changemakersmagazine.org

They asked themselves, ‘Could we look at trust-building as a tool to welcome people back home?’ Mission: Launch’s Director of Communications and Special Projects, Bryn Phillips, first met Teresa at Alderson Prison, where their sentences overlapped for two and a half years. They brainstormed ideas for what the organization could look like one day. Once released, Bryn looked at what other re-entry service providers were doing. She believes that Mission: Launch stands out because it doesn’t adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach. According to Bryn, the different organisations involved in helping returning citizens tend to operate in silos. Mission: Launch brings these different groups together with returning citizens to find ways of simplifying the ‘precarious’ reentry journey, indirectly and directly through the Rebuilding Re-entry Coalition. Laurin and Teresa are invited to speak around the US and have received a number of funding grants. The most recent, from the federal government’s Small Business

Administration, will enable them to develop Mission: LaunchPad, an entrepreneurial training programme for former prisoners, to give them an alternative to traditional employment, from which they are so often barred. In October, the US Department of Justice announced that 6,000 drug offenders will receive early release from prison. It is clear that Mission: Launch’s work will be needed more than ever in the coming months and years. They are about to expand from Washington, DC to Baltimore. When Laurin was a child, Teresa was her biggest ally. While Teresa was incarcerated the tables turned, with Laurin supporting her. Now, after nearly five years apart and after navigating the re-entry journey together, their partnership is stronger than ever. ‘Many people recognize issues and systematic dysfunctions and leave them for the next person to correct,’ says Bryn Phillips. ‘Laurin and Teresa have the attitude, If not us, who? If not now, when?’ To learn more about Mission: Launch visit www.mission-launch.org Changemakers | 15

Photo credit: Karen Elliott Greisdorf

Participants at the Rebuilding Re-entry Hackathon


POWER TO

THE PEOPLE John Bond reports on the Kenyan TV company which is spurring communities into action.

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He found financial backers and Fountain Media was born. Soon he had a team of journalists, presenting a variety of TV programmes with a focus on creative community action. Kenyan men were dying in large numbers from adulterated alcohol known as ‘illicit brew’. To combat this some women started Mothers Against Drug Abuse (MADA). Fountain Media helped them organise large demonstrations in six of Kenya’s 47 counties, and publicised the response. Before long President Kenyatta ordered the police to crack down on the brew-makers. Now Fountain Media is working with MADA to establish community rehabilitation centres. ‘We encourage communities to come up with their own solutions instead of relying on the government,’ writes journalist Johnson Mwakazi. They are also tackling bribery in

Kenyan commerce. Fountain Media offers publicity to businesses that refuse to pay bribes. Those who sign up are interviewed on TV, and the interviews have proved popular with viewers. So far over 500 businesses have signed up. And the community is an everpresent watchdog, ensuring these businesses do not backtrack on their pledge. Then they turned to the universities, arranging debates on corruption. These debates also made good TV, and introduced Fountain Media to students with the skill and commitment to fight for integrity. Now a network is growing, and 300 young Kenyans who are fighting corruption meet every month with Fountain journalists. Their latest venture is a national festival aimed at overcoming interethnic tensions.

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Photo credit: CAUX-IofC Foundation

B

edan Mbugua’s commitment to change-making has seen him imprisoned twice. And now he is pioneering a radical approach to broadcasting. A well-known Kenyan journalist, his first prison conviction came for exposing rigging in the 1988 Presidential elections, his second for exposing bribery in Kenya’s judiciary. Today, thanks to the struggle of people like him, media freedom has grown. And Bedan rose to become a General Manager in Kenya’s largest private media organisation, establishing nine radio stations, a TV network and a newspaper. But this did not satisfy him. ‘One day I thought, why does the media miss out on so much good news? If you watch a TV story that inspires you to get involved, that gives you power. We need this power if we are improve our society.’


DEMOCRACY BEGINS WITH

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS How we treat children determines whether they will grow up to create a just society, writes Jonathan Levy.

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and discrimination. They are important, but they are the symptoms of something deeper, which touches on our relationship to our fellow humans. Participation is the building block of democracy. It creates active citizens and thriving civil societies. It can hold governments to account and challenge corruption and undemocratic practices. Where do we teach people that their input is a valuable resource? Our relationship with humanity starts in the womb. Then we are born. During our formative years, we build our understanding of society, first in the family, then at school and through recreational opportunities and our encounters with health centres and social welfare. We learn from our elders’ behaviour. We observe whether we are respected or humiliated, whether we are protected, under-protected or over-protected, whether our opinions are taken seriously. We see whether we are enabled to find our unique place in democracy, whether we are thought of as true competent partners. These elements will determine our way

of understanding our world and its complexities. They will decide whether we acquire a critical consciousness which allows us to make informed decisions so as to transform ourselves and our society for the better. Many thinkers, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau onwards, have pointed out that an upbringing which does not respect the values of democracy (such as choice, decision-making and individual opinions) will not produce a just society. These fundamental elements are nothing more than the rights that we universally promised to the world’s children 27 years ago through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. George Orwell said, ‘Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.’ Really? Maybe we need to change this. Jonathan Levy is the programme director of the Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) conference at the Initiatives of Change Caux Conference Centre. Changemakers | 17

Photo credit: CAUX-IofC Foundation

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ur knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind, said Charlie Chaplin. ‘We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.’ At the end of 2014, the Executive Director of UNICEF stated that as many as 15 million children are caught up in violent conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine. These include those who have been displaced in their own countries as well as those living as refugees outside their homelands. An estimated 230 million children live in countries affected by armed conflicts. As an educationalist, my whole adult life has been centred on children. This has taught me that the key issues with which the world is grappling come back to universal values of humanity. These issues include injustice, corruption, undemocratic processes, lack of trust and integrity, conflict and power struggles, racism, cultural intolerance


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Photo credit: Kara Fox

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MORE THAN A DROP

IN THE OCEAN

Amina Khalid fled from war in Somalia and now works for peace. She talks to Davina Patel.

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Feeling ‘stuck’ and searching for a way to ‘dream again’, Amina took part in a training course on mediation, communication and conflict resolution whilst studying her A-Levels at college. ‘The training was a wakeup call and a U-turn,’ she says. ‘I wanted to find ways of supporting others who might be going through a similar situation.’ Amina’s father introduced her to Initiatives of Change (IofC) and she became an Outreach Associate and later Communities Programme Consultant, using her training in schools, communities and colleges. She began to attend the monthly meetings of IofC’s partner organisation, Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy. She noticed that these meetings tended to focus on how to bring peace back home in Somalia. She suggested that they should also address the conflicts within the Somali diaspora in the UK. ‘This is our host country, so this is our home. Life is about giving and taking and I feel we have received so much, maybe more than what we would have received back home. It is time to give back to your community. In the Qur’an it says, “Who are your

people? Your people are anyone around you.” ‘ Peace Begins at Home was born. Peace Begins at Home promotes peace and reconciliation in the family and reaches out into the community. Dialogues have taken place in cities across the UK and internationally. ‘Somalis have a strong culture of peace but it is often within the older generation,’ says Amina. ‘Respected elders used to come together and talk openly about their problems. The children weren’t there, so they never experienced how to face conflict.’ The training sessions bring together Somalis of opposing tribes to talk about issues within families and between generations. In the process they open a new channel of communication and begin to talk about community reconciliation and the causes of tribal division. Working in peace and reconciliation has helped Amina to realise her dreams. She has turned her experiences into something positive that has the power to change the world. She quotes Rumi: ‘You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.’

Peace Begins at Home workshop

any people would want to forget the trauma of fleeing from war only to face racism and prejudice in what was meant to be a safe haven, but not Amina Khalid. Her experiences have inspired her to set up Peace Begins at Home, which runs intergenerational and conflict resolution dialogues for communities across Britain. Amina and her family left Somalia when she was a teenager, because of the civil war. ‘I remember having a beautiful childhood, one that didn’t have any destruction or conflict,’ she says. ‘It was very family-oriented. I lived in a community that believed in doing everything together. I never felt lonely or isolated. When the civil war started, everything changed. We couldn’t stay there.’ When she arrived in the UK, Amina was bullied and attacked at school, and faced racism. Not knowing the language or culture proved to be really difficult. ‘That sense of belonging was not there, especially when someone is telling you, “you don’t belong here, go back home,” but you can’t go back because you don’t have a home any more.’

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Changemakers | 19


WHY I BLEW

THE WHISTLE

A

s a teenager I got caught up in drugs, and at the age of 17, I was jailed for shoplifting. A police officer came into my cell and just said one thing, ‘Gen, you are worth so much more than this.’ Then he left. To this day I don’t know his name. But his remark turned my life around. I fell into a job at a logistics company in Sheffield, where I was at university. It was a warehouse, so it was pretty much all guys. It was run on fear and the dictatorial management style of the people at the top. But anybody who had a spark, passion and enthusiasm got promoted very quickly. 20 | Changemakers

Within a year, at the age of 21, I was running a team of 17 people, all older than me, not having a clue about leadership, but finding my way having jumped into the deep end. My team was responsible for all of the stock that belonged to our customer, the biggest satellite television network in the UK. About a year into this I started to discover that where it was saying on the system we should have lots of boxes of satellite dishes, there were just big gaping empty holes. So I started asking questions. I was told by the warehouse, ‘Oh it’s just a system problem, don’t look at it.’ But it was my job to look at it. So, I started asking

questions higher up. They said, ‘Oh, no, just don’t look at it, it’s an audit fault.’ But the more I looked into it, the more I found these boxes were showing up in places where they shouldn’t be. Over a couple of months, I found that the company had lost, stolen, misappropriated about £1 million worth of our customer’s stock. I was scared. I knew what the right thing to do was. But I agonized over it for about three days. The stories I created in my head, from the basis of fear, overruled that quiet voice of my intuition. I made up every story in the book: you’ll lose your job, no one will give you a www.changemakersmagazine.org

Photo credit: CAUX-IofC Foundation

When Genevieve Boast found that stock was going missing at the company where she worked, she faced a difficult decision.


reference, you’ll have no credibility, you’ll have to go back to digging in the field and make no money (I used to be an archaeologist)… On the morning of the fourth day I walked back into the office, took my phone and locked myself in the computer server cabinet. I called my friend at our customer, and said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ And I did. There was silence at the end of the phone. Then he said, ‘Wow, Gen, thank you so much. I’ll try and protect you.’ And I was thinking, ‘Thanks… but you’re not going to be able to protect me.’ I’d been asking questions for

months. Everybody knew it had to be me. My life at work became a living hell. Every meeting was painful. I thought, ‘Okay, so now I’m faced with another decision.’ I called up my friend at our customer and I said, ‘Look, mate, I’m going. I can’t stand this any more.’ He said, ‘Don’t move, someone will call you back in half an hour.’ In half an hour the newly appointed Head of Supply Chain at the customer rang me. He said, ‘Gen, I’m so impressed with what you did, I want to create a job for you with us.’ That opened the door to my career in the media. For the next

seven years I had several different jobs there. The positive ripples of that into my career spread wider and wider – and I ended up marrying the person who had given me that first job. I cannot believe the magic that has happened in my life as a result of that one decision to stay in integrity. This article is abridged from Michael Smith’s new book Great Company, published by Initiatives of Change, 2015. ISBN 978-1-85239-047-1. Copies can be ordered at £10.00, including p&p, from Initiatives of Change, on 020 7798 6000.

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HOME AGAIN WHAT NOW? POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHY I BLEW THE WHISTLE

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HOME AGAIN

- WHAT NOW? Karen Elliott Greisdorf meets a remarkable mother and daughter team, who are offering hope to former prisoners in the US.

T

he founders of Mission: Launch, Teresa and Laurin Hodge, have always made a strong team. Widowed when Laurin was two, Teresa rolled the job of two parents into one. Later, after Teresa served a prison term, Laurin helped her to carry through her dream of helping released prisoners reintegrate in society. Laurin laughs as Teresa says that stubbornness, along with compassion, empathy and faith, is a quality they share. These characteristics stood them in good stead in 2001, when Teresa came under investigation for white-collar crime, just as Laurin was starting university at the age of 17. Three days after her graduation, Teresa’strialbegan.Sheserved70months in prison. By January 2015, when her post-release probation period ended, the wholeexperiencehadconsumedathirdof Teresa’s and nearly half of Laurin’s. In prison, Teresa had begun to focus on what life could mean for her and her fellowprisonersoncethey’dbeenreleased. ‘I was in prison with politicians and

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prostitutes,’shesays.‘Therewerecorporate executivesandwomenwithmentalillness; youngwomenintheirteensandwomenin their70sand80s.’Prisonershave‘unlimited time to dream a big and good dream for thefuture.However,whenyouarrivehome the stigma and barriers to employment, housingandbasicessentialsmakere-entry feel impossible.’ Laurinhadentereduniversitywiththe vision of going on to medical school, but graduated at a time of national recession when employment for recent graduates was tough to come by. She worked for a health-related charity in Virginia, but ultimately, in the autumn of 2009, found herself in a ten-month business studies andleadershipdevelopmentprogramme at Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore. ‘I knew my mom had the capacity to come home and do all that she’s doing now,’ Laurin says, ‘but that was never really my plan.’ And yet, she was the one who got Mission: Launch up and running after winning a

business plan competition sponsored by Johns Hopkins. Other awards and recognition followed, affirming Laurin’s determination to develop the not-for-profit. Today Mission: Launch produces software to help ‘returning citizens’ to reenter society on their release, and to shift publicopinionaboutincarceration.Attheir annual Rebuilding Re-entry Hackathon, computerprogrammers,returningcitizens andsocialentrepreneursworktogetherto develop apps and other technologies. Oneprogrammetheyhavedeveloped is Clean Slate DC, which allows residents of Washington, DC to determine whether they are eligible to file a petition with the courts to have their records sealed or expunged. ‘This is impactful because some incidents (like an arrest record, minor misdemeanours and even cases where people were not found guilty after a conviction) follow a person forever – limiting their ability to secure housing and employment,’ explains Laurin. Mission: Launch founded and

Changemakers | 11

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HOME AGAIN WHAT NOW? POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHY I BLEW THE WHISTLE

Changemakers | 21


JOURNEY OF

RECONCILIATION Cathy Nobles followed the First Crusade’s route to Jerusalem to ask forgiveness for the Crusades. Now she is applying the lessons in Luton. She talks to Ranna Mosavie.

22 | Changemakers

school until she became involved in work for peace in the Middle East and Africa. In the run-up to the ninth centenary of the start of the First Crusade, Cathy and two others developed the idea of ordinary Christians walking and travelling in the crusaders’ footsteps to apologise to Muslims, Jews and Orthodox Christians for ‘the atrocities committed by those claiming to represent Jesus’. Over three and a half years, approximately 2,500 Christians took part in this Reconciliation Walk. ‘Confessing our mistakes allowed others to confront their own actions that create hatred,’ she says. Cathy is continuing this work in Luton through the Reconciliation Walk Community, which aims ‘to train and empower others into a life of peacemaking’. They offer a course in justice and reconciliation, arrange field trips to conflict zones and encourage the sponsorship of children in Rwanda and the Middle East.

In 2013 the Community team moved to Farley Hill to work alongside a local church. With another charity, Groundworks, the Reconciliation Walk Community are turning land belonging to the church into a community gardening space, running classes which enable neighbours to get to know each other as they start their own gardens. ‘They came from different backgrounds and gained not only new skills but built friendships with people different from themselves.’ Cathy is also a member of the mediation team that support the police and community when there is a far-right demonstration, and is starting a Muslim and Christian women’s encounter group at the University of Bedfordshire Chaplaincy. Cathy says that the Reconciliation Walk ‘started with a whisper’. Meeting her restored my hope in kindness, a fundamental of all religions that often seems to have been forgotten.

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Photo credit: Kara Fox

C

athy Nobles has travelled thousands of miles in an attempt to unify and educate enemies – and not just from her native Texas to Luton, where she now lives. She also journeyed from Cologne to Jerusalem on an inspirational pilgrimage of reconciliation to mark the 900th anniversary of the First Crusade. Cathy invited me to her home in Farley Hill, a Luton neighbourhood made infamous by the activities of the right-wing English Defence League (EDL). Once a bustling area, Farley Hill has high levels of child malnutrition and other poverty-related diseases, and an undertone of segregation. In her warm Texan accent, Cathy tells me that Luton is ‘a microcosm of the world’s problems’. But it should also be celebrated for its diversity: ‘Luton has such a mixture of humans from all nationalities, ethnicities and religions. I have a desire to make this town work well in its diversity.’ Cathy taught in a secondary


THE ROOT

OF HAPPINESS

I

have a unique multicultural identity – born in Canada, raised in Taiwan, speaking Mandarin and holding a Swiss passport. We moved to Taiwan when I was nine. Part of my parents’ motivation was to expose our family to cultural values different from the individualistic approach of the West. This desire stemmed from my dad’s experiences in the 1970s. My dad was a professional football player, with celebrity status. After becoming a Christian at university, he volunteered with World Vision during the football off-season. He spent three months working with refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge in camps on the Thai-Cambodia border. As a way of furthering reconciliation, he organized sports matches between refugees in different camps. Each match was followed by a time of fellowship, relationship-building, and reflection; and he saw the first www.changemakersmagazine.org

steps of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation begin. The suffering he saw in the camps shaped who he is today. I have not stopped travelling since we went to Taiwan. I have already been to 25 countries. When I was 16 and 17 I took part through my school in two community development projects in the Philippines. We built an orphanage in Mindanao; we worked in orphanages in Manila; we built a community centre in a shanty-town outside Malaybalay; and we ran clinics and sports camps in slums on different islands. These families lived on less than a dollar a day, but the children were smiling, jumping and dancing at the sight of a foreigner. How could they be so happy when they had nothing? Eventually, I had a revelation – it was not the things in my life that should make me happy, but the joy of being in relationship with others. The joy

of these people was contagious. I couldn’t help noticing that it was not I who was there to help them, but they who were helping me. When I was 18, I returned to Canada, and took a gap year in a justice-themed training programme. Our team facilitated workshops on womens’ rights and on freedom of expression and religion in Morocco, China, the Netherlands and Japan. The year inspired me to centre my life on addressing injustice. Since September I have been working full time with Initiatives of Change. I resonate with its vision of inspiring individual transformation to foster global change and its emphasis on open and transparent intercultural communication. Where there is inspiration, there is challenge, and where there is challenge, there is growth. Growth is an absolute if one wants to be effective in making a difference in the world. Changemakers | 23

Photo credit: Kara Fox

Ashley Muller reflects on the experiences which have shaped her passion to work for change.


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Changemakers issue 2  

Welcome to the second issue of Changemakers, in which we celebrate people who are making a difference at local, national and international l...

Changemakers issue 2  

Welcome to the second issue of Changemakers, in which we celebrate people who are making a difference at local, national and international l...

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