International Communities for Active Nonviolence, North America

Stories & Testimonials

Testimonials

From a kindergarten teacher in Argentina

For an ordinary teacher like myself to be able to participate in decision-making with the principal, the inspector, and the city school supervisor, for us all to understand each other and be able to express our opinions as peers in these meetings, is an experience I never dreamed of, something that moves me deeply just to talk about.

In these conversations, we find solutions together that we never could have reached in the old way, when we were identifying with our different ‘levels,’ focusing on our differences, which only caused tension. Even so, an important point is that after these Cooperative Assemblies, we all go back to fulfilling our different roles in the organization.

From an ICAN volunteer in Argentina

It’s very difficult to accept the idea that we need to do ‘service activities,’ things we do just because we want to help someone else.

We find that this makes us feel better, more in agreement with ourselves, even if we can’t explain why very well.

Every time I help someone regain their hope in a better world and see them doing something positive for others disinterestedly, without expectation, my faith that ‘we can change the world’ grows.

Stories

VILLA REGINA – Becoming a Nonviolent City
May 2014

This 2012 video (Spanish only) shows the development of the Nonviolent Cities Project in Villa Regina, a city of 20,000 inhabitants in southern Argentina. Nestor Zaninelli is principal of a high school with 700 students and 116 teachers. When he began distance training almost four years ago, he decided almost immediately to transform his city into a “Nonviolent City.” From the beginning, besides initiating institutional change at school, he opened up the program to other non-educational institutions. For example, a taxi company and the local police department were able to participate through a radio program that a local radio station invited him to use.

Nestor was also able to make an arrangement with an important local university, which has since become an “Active Nonviolence Training Center.” As of this year, 2014, the university is holding training sessions for two groups of 40 people each, ages 15-65, among them housewives, professionals, high school and university students. Training is bi-weekly and lasts all year. A prerequisite for receiving the university certificate is for participants to have applied their knowledge in an institution as practical “homework.”

Last year’s participants have continued working actively in various institutions in Villa Regina, as well as in two other cities nearby. The core team, which has grown to 32 participants, meets every two weeks to talk about how the project is progressing. Some core team members are teaching the courses this year at the university, and others are working with the project in other institutions and other cities. Many of Nestor’s high school graduates have enrolled in universities around the country to continue their studies and keep spreading the proposal.

This year the Rio Negro Province Department of Education has proposed that the annual gathering of the International Communities for Active Nonviolence (CPNVA- Consejos Permanentes Por la No Violencia Activa) be held in Villa Regina, and is paying travel and hotel expenses for participants from Buenos Aires. They are giving program volunteers the use of a theater that seats 300, and propose inviting people from the entire province. The Villa Regina City Council has just passed a resolution declaring the Nonviolent Cities Project to be in the city’s best interest.

The most interesting indicators at Nestor’s school are that 4th and 5th year students are teaching first and 2nd year students, giving the Active Nonviolence Training regularly in their free time. Other schools have been inviting these students to talk about what they are doing. (In such a small city this kind of “demonstration effect” spreads by word of mouth.)

At Nestor’s school people are talking to each other and seeing things in a new way, and this has changed the relationships among the different levels. Student violence has diminished so much, both in school and out of school, that this year many parents have expressed interest in the Nonviolent Families training, and others have called to express their gratitude for the changes they’re seeing in their children.

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VEDIA, ARGENTINA – A Nonviolent City
Story of a Beginning
April 2014

Exactly one year ago, in April 2013, ICAN volunteers began offering the Active Nonviolence Training in Vedia, a small city in Buenos Aires Province.

The idea of bringing this project to Vedia came from one of the trainers, who is currently teaching the courses at a university in Buenos Aires. She thought it would be very good to be able to bring these tools to her home town, where she had already been working with the World March for Peace and Nonviolence that took place a few years earlier.

To make this happen, she got in touch with the mayor of the town in December 2012 and made a presentation about the “Nonviolent Cities Project.” The proposal was very well received by the mayor, who put at her disposal everything necessary to launch the first training. He got the project declared of Official City Interest, thereby gaining the support not only of the mayor, but of the entire municipality. That organization helped us get the publicity we needed with the local media (radio stations, newspapers, and television) to spread the word, the physical space for the meetings (the city library), and a travel allowance, since we would be traveling every two weeks to give each of the nine meetings.

The training, given by three women, ended in August of 2013, but the certificates were awarded in March of 2014. The ceremony was carried out by the trainers along with the mayor, and the City Library where the nine trainings had taken place was named an Active Nonviolence Training Center. Out of the fifteen people who began, six completed the training. Participants included teachers and city personnel, including the mayor’s secretary and some other civil servants.

This year we plan to continue with our second training, open to the whole community, with the collaboration of those who have already been trained, and also extend the Nonviolent Cities Project to other districts in our region.