Colombia Update

New Developments Unfolding in Colombia - Peace Process Impacted

The international reports coming out of Colombia in recent days, reflect the most current on-the-ground information from our Global Associate in Bogota, Lissette Mateus Roa

Although the situation is volatile and things are changing almost daily, Lissette remains committed to finding solutions to the violence in her country through peace initiatives like the ESPERE methodology. She also remains cautiously optimistic about the peace process, despite the recent set-backs.

The set-backs that are most noteworthy, include the FARC staging numerous attacks around the country once the negotiated ceasefires were abandoned. These included almost daily attacks on oil pipelines and others to the electrical grid. Lissette commented directly on this:


[quote]After the (abandoned ceasefire) we have had different FARC attacks around Colombia. Most of them against police and the oil industry–they have caused the biggest environmental disaster in the last 10 years, because they blew up a pipeline causing the spilling of more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil into nearby rivers, streams and mangroves. It's very sad ... last week there were 2 bombings in Bogota where one person died, but those bombs were set by the ELN."[/quote]

- Lissette Matueus Roa


More on the recent roadblocks to the overall peace negotiations and the agreements already in place can be found in this excellent editorial at the Economist. From the piece:


[quote]It was never going to be easy. Three times since the 1980s Colombian governments have tried but failed to broker peace with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Even so, the latest talks seemed set to succeed in ending a conflict that has dogged Latin America's third-most-populous country."[/quote]


As we said, Lissette remains cautiously optimistic and each new day in Colombia brings updates to the situation. Just yesterday, a new announcement was made by FARC which could lead to a new ceasefire beginning later this month. Lissette points to the many people in her country working everyday towards peace. She sent along this video featuring a project that her husband's organization sponsored. Not unlike our partnership with Lissette in finding ways to bridge the differences in communities trying to overcome the scars of the civil conflict in Colombia, this video shows how ex-guerrillas are on the path to forging a new peace by taking part in a unique reintegration course.


March 2015 Newsletter

It's been a long winter, but we finally see hints of spring as the light changes ever so slightly. And each day we see more than a hint of our work making a difference in the communities we partner with.

Watch a brief video overview of this newsletter: 

New Community Leaders Taking Root

Participants in one of the Gulu ESPERE Workshops.

GULU, UGANDA – In January and February, two new workshops were conducted in Uganda, using the ESPERE Methodology first developed by our colleagues in Colombia. These workshops catered to the specific needs of the local participants and served teachers, former abductees, young mothers, street children and those directly impacted by regional conflict. A full report with photos chronicling the unique partners, setting and community members in Gulu can be found within the full story here.

With program co-creator Lissette Mateus Roa overseeing the work, and Global Associate Denis Okello coordinating on the ground from Uganda, ESPERE is in a great place to continue its growth in this region and Denis reports that there are two upcoming workshops which will "draw on the human spirt, connect those looking to build a better future and prove that ESPERE's cornerstone concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation rise above the legacy of hate."


[quote]Each successful attendee of the Workshops will carry forward the accomplishments and lessons learned from their participation to benefit their communities at large. We have several more Workshops already underway."[/quote]

- Denis Okello, Goldin Institute Uganda


Concern Worldwide Honors Mimi Frankel

GI Advisory Board member Mimi Frankel (far right).

CHICAGO, USA – We had the honor of seeing our long-time Advisory Board member, Mimi Frankel, accept a Humanitarian award from Concern Worldwide. Mimi's outstanding accomplishments reflecting justice, compassion and generosity in her work and daily life were officially recognized at a Chicago event attended by several hundred supporters to social causes around the world. For us, it was a confirmation of what we have long known about Mimi: she is a woman who will bring all her energy and devotion to raising awareness for the issues she believes in, especially ones which allow women to lead in solutions to benefit their communities.

Brave Leadership for Peace

Dr. Anayatin coordinates relief efforts in Mindanao.

MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES – We can't say enough about the ongoing work of our Global Associate in the Philippines, Dr. Susana Anayatin. Despite recent increases in violence in Mindanao, she continues the struggle for peace in Mindanao and Susana leads by example in her daily life as a teacher, environmentalist and organizer for the peace movement.

Already several times this year Susana has reported on the personal impact of the conflict and loss of lives to colleagues and friends, but this only makes her redouble her efforts to the cause of peace. While the story begins to get the attention it deserves from the established press here in the west, we have known how important it is to tell the story from Susana's perspective - and we will continue to do this while supporting the important work making a difference in Mindanao.

Promoting Gender Equality at the UN

Colleague Michael Di Maria (far right) at the UN gender equality conference

NEW YORK, USA – Recently, our newest Advisory Board Member, Akif Irfan was in attendance at a United Nations event exploring the issue of gender equity amongst young people in developing countries. Akif skillfully connected our ongoing work in places like Haiti with the conference's themes, while building relationships with colleagues interested in the same leadership initiatives, like Michael Di Maria of the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

Haitian-American Connections

Elsie Hernandez - Founder and CEO of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago

CHICAGO, USA – We continue to find inspirational leaders in our own backyard and last month we were excited to interview Elsie Hernandez - the founder and CEO of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC). Elsie put her dream of building a museum on hold for over ten years while raising a family, but her determination and vision have paid off with the launch of the Haitian American Museum in Chicago. An entire community now has a voice and the city at large has a new museum that helps all Chicagoans understand and celebrate Haitian art and culture. Elsie is just the type of local leader with an international reach that we love to partner with and feature for others to learn from.

Next Newsletter

Watch our next newsletter for an exciting progress update from our partners around the world. Can't wait until the next newsletter? Get your Goldin Institute fix by jumping onto our Facebook Page for the latest news as it happens.

Srilatha Lakkaraju - Newletter Coordinator

Summer 2014 Newsletter

It has been a busy summer for us at the Goldin Institute! Visits from global advocates, interviews with local community leaders and progress with our partners around the globe have kept us moving forward both locally and abroad. We are thrilled to share this latest update with news from our recent work on the ground in Uganda and Zanzibar.

Watch a brief video overview of this newsletter: 


In June, Diane and Travis travelled to Uganda to participate in a training led by our Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa from Colombia. Lissette trained our partners in Uganda to use the ESPERE methodology. Developed in Colombia, the methodology is designed to engage the local community by using schools as centers for reconciliation for former child soldiers in the region.

The training took the form of an intensive eight day workshop wherein program participants learned about strategies to promote forgiveness and reconciliation and obtained tools to carry these ideas forward within their community. Sixteen individuals—including child combatants, teachers, counsellors and community members—from five different regions of Northern Uganda participated in the training.

ESPERE Training for Former Child Soldiers in Uganda.

From theoretical to tangible, the workshop began by developing the concepts that would lay the foundation for communities to reintegrate former combatants and develop resiliency against the practice in the future. Language barriers, cultural differences and preconceived notions quickly dissolved as the ESPERE program took root with participants and it became clear that the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, especially towards young combatants, is universal.

The first three days deconstructed the idea of forgiveness and what it means to forgive. Beyond verbally saying the words "I forgive you," workshop attendees learned that forgiveness requires tools, engaged with a thoughtful process, to fix problems that arise for both victims and perpetrators. In addition to a cultural perspective, forgiveness was presented through an academic and practical viewpoint, connecting with all participants in ways that honored and enhanced their personal and communal affiliations. Participants explored ways that forgiveness is instrumental in mending the societal fabric tattered by conflict. Over the next two days, participants were guided through approaches to reconciliation that highlighted the need for an individual to think about the bonds they are trying to fix and identify the terms on which a newly reconciled relationship can function. During this session, surprising connections occurred between everyone in the room. Even though the scars of war were etched in the hearts and minds of both participants and trainers coming from very different circumstances and regions, everyone shared the desire to return to a peaceful community without hostile relationships.

On the sixth day of the workshop, program participants now equipped with the conceptual foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation went through a "train the trainer" session. Lissette taught program participants the methodology behind the ESPERE program so they are able to lead the reintegration program themselves. Finally, the last two days of the program leveraged what was learned and developed plans to put this knowledge into practice. Program participants met with former child soldiers and created action plans based on their insights and aspirations. Speaking with former child soldiers allowed program participants to understand their needs through the new lenses of forgiveness and reconciliation. The first-hand perspectives of the former child soldiers also informed participants about gaps in their society that they could address. The attendees and eventual graduates put together action plans to concretely outline their next steps to carry forward the tools and knowledge gained in the workshop for an outcome that was beneficial and sustainable for their community.

Action plans created by program participants consisted of strategies to train between 15- 90 individuals of varying backgrounds on the ESPERE program throughout the Northern conflict zone of Uganda. By engaging former child soldiers, formerly abducted women, students and survivors of violence, the ESEPRE program will carry forward the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation with the aim of bringing peace to the community. The Goldin Institute is looking forward to partnering with these program participants who will lead community driven social change for reintegration.


Following the training in Uganda, Travis and Diane headed to Zanzibar for a three-day Peace Camp hosted by our colleagues at the Arigatou Foundation and the Global Network of Religions for Children, an international interfaith network dedicated to securing the rights and well-being of children worldwide.

Dr. Maudarbux leads a discussion on the causes of violent conflict in the Horn of Africa region.

The event had youth participants from Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Each of these countries have experienced conflicts fueled by violent extremism. The Camp provided youth with the opportunity to share their experiences and come up with solutions that can prevent violent extremism, especially amongst the youth. Our partner from the Arigatou Foundation, Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, convened this group of youth peace ambassadors from throughout the Horn of Africa region and facilitator Belall Maudarbux trained them in new approaches to stop the growing trend towards violent extremism in the region. Based on our work in Uganda and Zanzibar, the Goldin Institute is excited to expand our partnership over the coming months to scale up this youth peace ambassadors program throughout our network.


Recently, KOFAVIV co-founder and 2012 CNN Hero of the Year Malya Villard-Appolon was in Chicago to update us on her work to provide social and legal support and combat sexual violence against women and girls in Haiti. While she was here, she courageously shared her story in a taped segment that aired on National Public Radio's Worldview program as part of a show dedicated to current issues in Haiti. In addition to the interview with Malya about her efforts to stop sexual and gender based violence in Haiti, the hour-long program included a live panel discussion on the latest legal proceedings to hold the U.N. accountable for the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

Global Associate Malya Villard (pictured right) during a speaking engagement at Loyola University.

A Look Forward

Watch our next newsletter for an exciting progress update from our partners in the Philippines and an exciting new online initiative that will profile innovative grassroots leaders and initiatives from around the world.

If you have suggestions of individuals who may want to receive this e-newsletter or stories you think we should tell, please contact us at

Reconstructing Haiti: Presentation by Malya Villard

We are pleased to share this broadcast of Malya Villard-Appolon's lecture in Chicago on April 22, 2014 at Loyola University.  In this public lecture, Malya spoke about her advocacy work from the courtrooms and IDP camps in Haiti to venues around the world including the UN Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. State Department and the IAHRC. Malya was awarded the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year for her work as co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims).  

KOFAVIV is a Haitian grassroots organization that provides social and legal support in an effort to combat sexual violence against women and girls. Based on our partnership with KOFAVIV to fight gender-based violence in Port au Prince after the earthquake, we know first-hand the power and effectiveness of Malya and her team in Haiti.