GATHER Alumnus Lo Ivan Castillon Shares Update from the Philippines


Greetings from Phillippines!

The Volunteers’ Initiatives in Bridging and Empowering Society (VIBES) is pleased to share with the Goldin Institute’s supporters about our activities in September 2019.

What were the highlights from your work this month?

VIBES through its Chairperson, Lo Ivan Castillon, participated in the Consultation Meeting as an organizational member of the Technical Working Group in the finalization of the Bangsamoro Transition Youth Priority Agenda (BTYPA) of the Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on 13-14 September 2019 in Kutawato Resto, Cotabato City. The objectives of the activity were to present and discuss the draft document and arrive at a final version which can be presented and discussed with the youth-serving ministries and development partners. BYC Executive Director Marjanie Macasalong, PhD, also a member of parliament, was in full support of the crafting of the BTYPA as a transition plan for 2019 to 2022. It was supported by UNICEF and UNFPA.


There were five priorities - health, education, peacebuilding and security, governance, and active citizenship. The peacebuilding and security priority ensures the promotion of human security, inclusive disengagement with reintegration programs, and the prevention of youths from association in armed groups, including participation in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and management initiatives, as well as safety efforts and development in the Bangsamoro region that contributes to national peace and security. It also integrated the youth, peace and security in all the strategies, objectives and programs considering the current and relevant issues confronting the youth in the region.

The draft BTYPA was presented to the ministries and offices of BARMM and to the development partners in the region on the 16th and 23rd of September 2019, respectively. Also, VIBES, as one of the members of the Technical Working Group of the Kutawato Messaging Hub, had a strategic planning on September 19-20, 2019 together with other CSOs and government agencies in Cotabato City and provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato. Hosted by Moroprenuer Inc. in the Bajunaid Building in Cotabato City, the activity was initiated and supported by the Equal Access International Philippines.


The Messaging Hub was also officially launched on the 20th of September with the goal of engaging grassroots communities on peacebuilding in the BARMM. It has the following outcomes:

  • Increased community engagement in the normalization process and in the transition of BARMM
  • Increased participation of youth and women in promoting peace
  • Improved community socio-economic condition through social enterprise promotion
  • Established positive and interactive community platform for information sharing and advocacy development


What activities were organized?

  • In line with the celebration of National Peace Consciousness Month and International Day of Peace, VIBES conducted Basic Peace and Conflict Workshop for Children to 53 young leaders of Notre Dame Village Central Elementary School (NDVCES) on September 25, 2019 on the NDVCES grounds in Cotabato City. Several activities were facilitated where young leaders enjoyed and had fun during sharing and discussion sessions.
  • September 5 October 5 is the celebration of Teachers’ Month. VIBES officially launched “Message for My Teacher” where the public were invited to share their messages to their teachers and take a selfie photo with them to be posted on their social media pages.
  • VIBES is one with the world in striking for the climate. As part of our strike, we are challenging our fellow Vibers to take a video of themselves stating their commitment to save the environment and challenge 3 friends to do the same. This is an online platform campaign.



Thank you and more power!


Lo Ivan Castillon
+VIBES Philippines

Chicago Park District Explores Partnerships with Peace Fellows

On June 18, 2019, the Chicago Peace Fellows met with Derrick Faulkner, the Area Manager, and Art Richardson, the Regional Director, from the Chicago Park District. Together they held an open discussion of how the places and programs of the Park District can be used to further peace building and violence prevention over the summer. Art opened the conversation by acknowledging that "outreach is not engagement" and that the Park District relies on partnerships with community leaders like the Peace Fellows to authentically hear from the community and to establish collaborations that respond to the challenges and aspirations of all Chicagoans.


The Fellows were excited to learn about the Park District's "Summer Pass" initiative which allows one child per pass to attend any of their neighborhood Parks' summer programs free of charge. The Park District is rolling out this pilot program in specific west and southside parks to bolster participation and provide opportunities for youth who might not otherwise afford the fees of summer programs.


Each Fellow was also given a Summer Pass to pass out to a member of their communities.

[quote] "We measure success not by how much money we bring in, but by the number of children we serve.  No family will be turned away from Park programs because of an inability to pay.  We'll make it work for families." -- Art Richardson, Regional Director[/quote]

Art and Derrick spoke about the other free programming the Park District offers throughout the city, including initiatives like free music and art programs in Lawndale and mentoring and leadership camps. Such programming is paid for by large city events like Lollapalooza, through sponsorship from large companies such as Nike and LL Bean, or through partnerships with institutions such as the Lincoln Park Zoo.


Peace Fellow Robert Biekman asked how the Park District sought to "build community as a means of violence prevention instead of waiting for a tipping point" and then having to use programming as a reaction. Art Richardson shared his commitment to "recruit Ambassadors from the community" where local residents can enter into a "give and take relationship" with the park, working together as a partnership to build safe neighborhoods. Currently Park Advisory Councils (PACs) are the primary place for this to happen, but Art and Derrick both also noted how conversations with change makers such as the Peace Fellows lead to productive partnerships.

[quote]"It is better to do it together than fail alone." Art Richardson, Regional Director[/quote]

Peace Fellow Jacquelyn Moore asked about programming for teenage youth, a demographic she targets in her work. She shared that there is generally ample programming for young children but fewer opportunities for teens.

[quote]"You turn twelve and the world turns its back on you and then wonders why you are a mess." -- Jacquelyn Moore, Chicago Peace Fellow[/quote]

Art admitted that previous difficulties in working with teens had led to reduction of programs for that age group but gave examples of how the Park District is actively reversing that trend to create more opportunites for teens oustide of their successful youth employment programs. The "Extreme Team Camp" is a successful 6-week program that happens in 35 parks and is looking to grow.


Diane Latiker, a Peace Fellow from Roseland, asked about the Chicago Park District's strategy to follow-up with and stay engaged with the children and youth it serves. Derrick and Art invited advice and partnerships around keeping youth engaged and seeing them return to programs each year. Diane suggested that the Peace Fellows could work with the Park District to help create a follow up program, or perhaps be the follow-up mechanism, for the children, youth, and families that utilize the summer programs. "How can we be that continuity and connect for the Park District after the summer programs end?" she asked.

The two-hour conversation ended with the exchange of contact information and several follow-up meetings schedule for fellows with the manager of their neighborhood park. Art Richardson let all the Peace Fellows know that he would happily provide support and waive fees for Chicago Peace Fellow events and was looking forward to speaking individually with Fellows about their shared summer projects and neighborhood initiatives.

Solving Tough Issues through Community Parliaments in Uganda

Warm greetings from Uganda!

On Saturday, April 20, Youth Leadership for Restoration and Development (YOLRED) organized a community dialogue, called a ‘Kabake,’ where the community was granted a platform to share their experiences and derive solutions. The dialogue was attended by, among others, local council leaders, the police, child rights activists, business men and women, and the general community.


In the Layibi Division of the Gulu Municipality, there had been an epidemic of rape, robbery and violent attacks, especially on women in Library Parish. The community was engulfed in fear and hopelessness. Women could not walk out of their houses past sun-set if they were to avoid rape and attacks. Those in business had their property and money robbed, even in broad daylight, by a known gang who threatened them with violence or murder. And yet both the police and local leaders could not help the situation.


Mrs. Beatrice Ayat, a member of the local council and secretary for community service and production who represented the division chairperson, said the situation in the area had gotten out of hand because the perpetrators of violent crimes who started as children and would only steal from people had grown up and gained confidence to attack directly.


Ayat said they openly robbed people and raped women, threatening to beat the victims or torch their houses if the crimes were reported.

[quote]“I am so thankful to YOLRED for organizing this dialogue. When we have a problem in our community and we meet and discuss, we can always find a solution,” Ayat said.[/quote]


The officer in charge of Layibi Division police station, Assistant Inspector of Police Wilbert Adekere, said as police, they have been aware of the insecurity in the area but could not take any action because no member of the community was opening up to tell them who the perpetrators were.

Assistant Inspector Adekere consequently invited members of the affected community to secretly walk into his office and tip him on any security problem.


The Honourable Rose Aparo, a member of the local council, said she was going to forward the people’s plight to the council for discussion. She expressed confidence that the council would arrive to a logical conclusion that would save the community.

Mr. Odong Walter (We-yoo), the Community Sensitization Officer, said he was going to meet with the area Local Councilor One and his executives to forge a lasting solution to the problem. Collins Chwa Kisembo, the Counsellor and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at YOLRED, appreciated the community for attending the meeting in large numbers. T

The former child soldiers also had the opportunity to share their experiences and receive healing in what we called testimonial therapy, which aims to heal the traumas and symptoms of depression, low mood and PTSD within the vulnerable populations.

In addition to sharing news from our recent Community Parliament, we are pleased to provide an exciting update on the project for which we raised funds through Indiegogo: the construction of a community resource center to offer counselling, training and recreational services to the victims.  Some days it feels impossible to get this up and running, but we remembered one thing that was also core during our GATHER class that "adaptive challenges require changes in values, beliefs and approaches to work."

To that end, we have set off with a group savings and loan plan with the hope of driving the group towards a self-reliant, participatory development that should be sustainable. "Start with what you have" is the principle we applied for the construction of the community resource center. The Indiegogo funds we raised during GATHER for this project was not enough to acquire the land by itself, but we are building on these donations from around the world with local support.

[quote] We are happy to report that together we were already able to secure a piece of land, where we plan to have a permanent headquarters for YOLRED![/quote]

My sincere thanks for the support the entire team at the Goldin Institute gave us during our GATHER course, especially with the Indiegogo campaign, which made all the above development possible. I will share additional updates as we progress on our services to the community and the development of our headquarters.

Best regards,

Ladies of Virtue Recognize Youth Leadership

On Saturday, May 18, the Ladies of Virtue (LOV), founded and led by Chicago Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel, hosted their 2019 Recognition Ceremony to honor high school and eighth grade graduates as they move on to the next chapter in the program.

Chicago Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel honors the Ladies of Virtue and provides support as they prepare to head to college.


[quote]"Our 8th Annual Recognition Ceremony is a time where our Ladies of Virtue sisters showcase their talent, share what they learned throughout the year, and express how they made a difference in their communities.” -- Jamila Trimuel, Ladies of Virtue[/quote]

 “Over 150 of our dearest supporters - comprised of our LOV family and friends, sponsors and community partners - joined us to recognize all of our girl's wonderful accomplishments," Jamila explained.

Ladies of Virtue youth participants showcase their artistic talents at the recognition ceremony.
The youngest of the mentees, affectionately named the Gems, are drawn from the 4th – 8th grades. When the ladies graduate from the 8th grade, they become high school mentees, affectionately named Queens, which continues from the 9th through 12th grades. High school graduates are encouraged to join the LOV 4 Life program for alumni and sometimes even move on to become mentors themselves.

The program opened with a welcome video from founder Jamila Trimuel in which she recognized the legacy of her former mentor, the Rev. Willie T. Barrow. The Rev. Barrow paved the way for Trimuel to follow, leading her down the path to her passion of mentoring. Trimuel also acknowledged the Chicago Foundation for Women for their recent $35,000 grant to LOV to help with operations.

Ladies of Virtue youth participants share their learnings in a presentation at the 2019 Recognition Ceremony.
Throughout the ceremony, mentees from the Gems and Queens groups showcased their talents in the form of spoken word, theatrical skits, and dance performances. They also shared what they learned throughout the year and recapped some of their favorite moments, including college tours, senior trips, and a professional etiquette luncheon they attended earlier this year.

LOV took extra care of their seniors during the recognition ceremony by gifting them with scholarships in excess of $5,000 and care packages full of items to get the ladies started on their college journeys. Most importantly, each high school graduate was personally recognized by her mentor in a very emotional farewell speech that should guide them through college and into their adulthood.

Chicago Peace Fellows Practice Appreciative Inquiry at Breakthrough Ministries

On Wednesday, May 1, the Chicago Peace Fellows met at Breakthrough Ministries in East Garfield Park for our fifth workshop focused on the concept of Appreciative Inquiry. We started the workshop with a tour of the building where Breakthrough Ministries delivers services for residents of Garfield Park on the city’s West Side.

Breakthrough Ministries has been working in the community since 1992, when it opened a men’s shelter. They provide groups, job training and other services to aid their population. The Chicago Peace Fellows asked questions about their services and how they came to be. They were able to ask employees about their ambitions and learned how the organization empowers employees to lead initiatives meant to serve their population.


After the tour of the facilities, we sat down to learn more about Appreciative Inquiry and the principles that underlie the skill. Goldin Institute Executive Director Travis Rejman gave a crash course on how Appreciative Inquiry is about genuinely listening to people that you speak with to hear their ideas, confront your own assumptions and invite others to share their goals, ambitions and vision for the future.

We then broke into pairs to practice asking and answering appreciative questions. There was a lot of laughter and authentic interaction. One of the fellows expressed how this framework helped them learn how to better interact with people that are facing social emotional challenges such as depression. By learning how to ask questions and focus on what works while truly appreciating their responses, we can interact in more constructive ways.


After the workshop on Appreciative Inquiry, the Peace Fellows toured the entire Breakthrough Ministries campus, which includes several buildings in the neighborhood, a women’s shelter, food pantry, facility for outreach workers and the Family Plex, which houses a coffee shop, gym and meeting rooms.

While on that tour, the Peace Fellows witnessed a large-scale police operation in progress at an apartment building that was not part of Breakthrough Ministries’ campus. The incident was a reminder to the Peace Fellows of the urgency and relevance of their work.

Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel, founder of Ladies of Virtue, an award-winning mentoring and leadership program that has empowered over 1,000 girls, ages 9 to 18, on the South Side commented:

[quote]“It was a great tour. I really enjoyed it. I’m still decompressing and reflecting on the fact that we literally saw armored trucks and all those police officers along with helicopter hovering around. That was crazy! But I also enjoyed seeing the children laugh and play inside at the Family Plex while all that was going on outside."[/quote]


Reflections on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

At 4:53 pm, January 12, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the island of Hispaniola, comprising the two nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, 15 miles southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“In ten seconds, everything the population took decades to build was destroyed,” recalled Goldin Institute Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims). With additional damage from two aftershocks hours later, some three million people were impacted, one-third of the Haitian population. Over a million people were displaced as their homes were destroyed and between 85,000 and 316,000 were killed, based on varying estimates offered by USAID and the Haitian government with international relief agencies.

Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, founder of KOFAVIV, reflects on the 2010 Earthquake.

Reflecting on the recently passed ninth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, Malya recalled, “On that day, nobody had a roof on top of their head. Everybody took refuge on the streets and parks, which caused what we called ‘the camp phenomenon’ and led to women enduring inhuman and degrading conditions. At that time, basic services were non-existent, insecurity was the norm, and women faced very difficult situations.” Assisted by the Goldin Institute as well as various international NGOs, Malya and her colleagues at KOFAVIV not only provided basic reproductive and medical assistance to displaced female survivors of sexual assault and rape, but also trained male allies to be guardians of women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

The months and years since the earthquake have seen additional disasters, natural as well as man-made. In October of the same year as the earthquake, Haiti was hit by a cholera epidemic following the discovery of cases in the areas around the Artibonite River, the longest in the country and a major source of drinking water. Identified as a South Asian strain of the cholera bacteria, the disease was quickly traced to Nepalese soldiers who were stationed in Haiti as peacekeepers at that time. Before the epidemic could be mitigated, 770,000 Haitians were sickened and 9,200 died.

Two years later, Hurricane Sandy inflicted further physical damage on the island of Hispaniola, setting Haiti even further back on its slow march toward rehabilitation. Then last February, an internal investigation by Oxfam UK was made public, revealing systemic, widespread use of sex workers - many underage - by Oxfam foreign staff since the 2010 earthquake.

Despite the loss of their physical offices due to insecurity and death threats, the volunteers of KOFAVIV and the women they serve endure and persist. Exiled to the United States, Malya’s dedication and connection to the KOFAVIV community is unwavering.

“Even after nine years of these unfortunate events, the situation in Haiti remains the same,” she observed. “The consequences of the earthquake continue to haunt women. Their misery is not over. Even today, they are homeless and their safety is more at stake. They are raped every day.”

Seeking Peace from Somalia to Dharamshala

Meeting for the first time in Dharamshala, India over the course of seven days in October, I had the opportunity to meet Goldin Institute team member Jimmie Briggs with whom I shared the unique opportunity to not only be in intimate dialogue with Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate the Dalai Lama, but be in community with nearly two dozen global youth peacemakers from around the world. The program which brought them together was the United States Institute of Peace’s (USIP) “Generation Change” initiative.

I was selected to participate as a grassroots youth leader based on my organizing work in Puntland, Somalia; while Jimmie attended as a mentor based on his past with the organization on the issue of child soldiers and SGBV (sexual and gender-based violence) against women and girls. In total, I was joined by 26 youth leaders from 14 countries spanning the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.

Gather Fellow Abdiweli Waberi Meets with the Dalai Lama

Through a competitive call for online application to a youth exchange program for young peacebuilders from around conflict zones of the world, I was able to secure a position. I had high expectations for my trip to Dharamshala!  I was very excited to meet with inspiring and courageous youth leaders from across the world to learn from them and see and hear their experiences in bringing peace and change within their communities.

Goldin Institute’s Jimmie Briggs was one of half a dozen mentors present throughout the trip, including accompanying the youth leader cohort to meet with the Dalai Lama, as well as participate in group exercises and workshops. As Jimmie told me:

[quote]In fact, I met His Holiness a number of years ago at a peace conference in Derry, Northern Ireland, but this was my first opportunity to actually sit and have a true conversation. It was definitely a memorable visit. -- Jimmie Briggs, Goldin Institute Director of Community Learning [/quote]


My trip to Dharamsala was another step taking me forward toward a bright future in my career and life. I hoped to meet with thought leaders who were source of wisdom and experts in building sustainable peace for communities and I did. To listen to their powerful, personal and professional experiences -- as well as the choices they have made -- met, exceeded and surpassed my expectations.

[quote]The Dalai Lama said to me that ‘Humans are social animals and everyone needs a community survive.’ This statement taught me the importance of building strong connections between active citizens of my community to unite their efforts and avoid conflict of interest between them. [/quote]

I was able to participate in this unique opportunity as the Chairperson of the Somali branch of the African Youth and Child Network for Human Rights (REJADH), but also as a participant in the inaugural class of GATHER Fellows. It was a whirlwind trip, as I graduated as a GATHER Fellow exactly two weeks after returning home from India. Without question, my experience with the Dalai Lama and fellow youth peacemakers in USIP’s Generation Change improves the project I developed through GATHER and deepens my commitment to work for peace.

This reaffirmed my strong believe towards the old saying “Your network is your net-worth.”

You can learn more about the project I am working on and get involved by visiting my Indiegogo campaign!


Nothing For Us Without Us

On the 3rd of October, 2018, we at Youth Leaders for Reconciliation and Development (YOLRED) hosted our community visioning summit, an important part of the Gather curriculum, which was attended by 56 community members from various categories including youths, older people, and local leaders.

During the sessions, participants were formed into four groups by Diana Opira Alaroker, a YOLRED staff member and also a Gather Fellow who served as facilitator, to give possibilities to everyone to discuss the community assets they have. The leaders from these groups later made a presentation based on their identified community assets and Diana presented a summary as well as shared with them the asset map.


I then took the participants through what adaptive challenges are, asked how do we as a community respond to such challenges as well as the opportunities and the vision for the future. Collectively, the participants identified land conflicts, alcoholism, their voices not being heard, stigmatization, and segregation of the former child soldiers and their children, laziness and corruption among others as being adaptive challenges. They noted, however, that taking a joint leadership and responsibility by every member of the community might provide answers to such challenges.


Looking into the opportunities and the vision for the future, the participants considered greatly exploiting and putting land into use as one of their most valuable assets and noted that this also will provide opportunities to employ the unemployed youth. Similarly, they also viewed the Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) scheme as one way of improving their social cohesion and avoiding segregation since it brings people together and requires them to work together. This will improve their household income as well and put them in position to manage their basic needs and attain financial independence.

On speaking to 56 participants of the summit, the Hon. Susan Lapat, a community representative to the office of the Mayor, asked the participants to put into practice what they have learned, adding that this is an eye opener programming to the community that keeps the brain thinking. For long, people have had assets in their community unexploited and hence remained in their current situation. Consequently, she asked the members of the community to now start exploiting and putting into use the assets they have, including engaging the leaders, the Gather Fellows’ teams and other stakeholders in order to realize a joint community leadership towards achieving the change we want in our community. In the same way, the Chairman of Local Council 1 also asked the participants to embrace love and trust for one another so that they can realize the dreams of their shared aspirations as a community.

At the end, everyone was able to realize that “There is nothing for us without us.”


Geoffrey Omony serves as Executive Director of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), the first organization in Uganda designed and run by former child soldiers.

Going Big in South Africa

What a year! What a week! Two years ago, I set out on a crazy journey of helping African youths discover their light – their creative talents – and supporting them to shine this light by transforming their creative talents into solutions to critical challenges facing their communities. I founded an organization called Global Leading Light Initiatives, a grassroots initiative with a global focus in mind aimed at enhancing the capacities of youths to be real assets, and not liabilities, to their communities.

Two years on, with no funding, GLLI has been able to generate community impact which most million-Rand-funded organizations only dream of achieving. This achievement has been thanks to tens of passionate local and international volunteers who have been attracted by our work to give their time and other resources.

The Gather Course has made me understand how many assets I have and how I have been under-utilizing them. And so I decided to go big.
At the end of September, in collaboration with the Association of Universities in South Africa, our organization brought the 2018 National Entrepreneurship Week to our community. GLLI hosted the first Student Entrepreneurship Roadshow at Walter Sisulu University, featuring 3 of South Africa's hottest celebrities and officials from the Association of Universities of South Africa, headed by their CEO, Dr. Norah Clark.


Through this event, hundreds of emerging entrepreneurs from Walter Sisulu University and 6 high schools were inspired to create solutions to critical challenges. Students were offered great sponsorship opportunities to become innovative.

In mid-October, we finally we held our Community Visioning Summit! It was a wonderful day, with a total of 69 participants – 41 students, including 15 from Walter Sisulu University and 26 from 5 high schools in Mthatha as well as 28 adults, 1 official from the Department of Social Development, 8 teachers, 3 university lecturers, 4 social workers and 12 community members.


The youths taught us many things on that day and based on what we are seeing in our community, we can "Build prosperity on resources in which poor people are rich" i.e. their talents, skills, knowledge and culture.

The day after our Community Visioning Summit, I was invited by the department of education to make a presentation at a district teachers' workshop. A majority of high schools in Mthatha district were represented by a teacher at the workshop. I gave an overview of the Community Visioning Summit and shared the experiences with them. Most of the teachers were disappointed they couldn't make it.

I made a presentation about Iziko, our community and school-based parenting program aimed at building healthy child-adult relationships to support young people achieving their full potential.


It was a great honor. Many teachers want to join the "Iziko." They also want our student-entrepreneurship program in their schools.

Dieudonne Anumbosi Allo from the Eastern Cape in South Africa is the Founder and CEO of the Global Leading Light Initiatives, a registered non-profit organization formed in 2014 on a strong conviction that collective prosperity can be achieved in Africa and globally through coordinated grassroots initiatives aimed at creating nurturing and enabling environments for children and youths.

Are you ready to Gather?