Thursday, April 14, 2022

April Feature: Theodore Richards. by Alexa Giambra

“We believe that our students can become creators of culture, not merely consumers..”- Theodore Richards
Theodore Richards is an American writer, philosopher and educator living in Chicago. He is also the father of three daughters, which he reveals is the most important aspect of his life. Twelve years ago, Richards started a non-profit organization called the Chicago Wisdom Project, which trains educators to guide people to think differently about education under a more “holistic” lens. The organization has curated a range of programs from retreats to community gardens to after school and summer programs, etc. The Chicago Wisdom project grew from a small after school program in the south side of Chicago, to a larger organization with a companion program in Baltimore (The Baltimore Wisdom Project). “Several years ago, The Chicago Wisdom Project merged with the Baltimore Wisdom Project, and is now known as ‘Wisdom Projects, Inc.’, Theodore proudly told us. So, what led Richards to start this organization? He has traveled all over the globe which allowed him to see firsthand how the capitalist industrial worldview is harmful and problematic. Aside from this, he also learned from notable educators that have taught him skills such as martial arts, philosophy, theology, and so on. When he was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, he spent a great deal of time working an after-school program which struck his passion for creating a more just education system in which young people who come from challenging backgrounds have access to a proper education. His goal is to remind them that they are worthy and each have something unique to bring to the table.
However, the organization is not the only way Richards is spreading this awareness. The Reimagining Podcast, which initially started as an online magazine called the Reimagining Magazine, is described by him as generating an “apocalyptic moment” with a need for new stories. Richards wanted to create a space where people can share these new ideas and offer different perspectives. The podcast covers a variety of genres including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Since its release-date two years ago, the podcast has featured a new guest for every episode who reimagines the process of what it means to be human. The rewards of Richard’s work are the relationships that are established and nurtured in the culture of caring that has also created a warm and inviting community. Richards has written seven books, each which can be found on his website, including numerous genres such as philosophy, fiction, and poetry. He is currently writing a new book about the work his organization has done! In Reimagining the Classroom, out in December, Ted reflects on “how the classroom is a learning space for the metaphors we want to create.” The favorite book he has written is A Letter to My Daughters.This book is centered around his story; how he traveled around the world at a young age and was able to directly experience the disconnectedness of the world. This realization led him to seek an alternative to this disorder in order to control the world that he fears his children may grow up in.
The most rewarding part of Richards’ job is the relationships that are established as a result. This culture of caring-ness has cultivated a warm and inviting community, building lasting relationships.“I would characterize my work as being centered on figuring out how we can live on the planet in a more compassionate, more sustainable, more deeply-felt way. And for me, that has to do with reimagining the stories we tell about who we are.” Richards is dedicated to ensuring that all students receive an equal opportunity for education, in an environment where all of their creative outlets can be utilized and expressed freely.

Monday, February 14, 2022

February Feature: Leslie Lanes

By Alexa Giambra
Meet Leslie Lanes, a long time mediator and a recent restorative justice practitioner who has been in women’s circles for many years. She currently lives in Southern Oregon with her husband. Leslie is also an avid ping pong player and even plays in an all-men’s club! She is interested in connecting with the land, and is the proud steward of an organic garden. While she had previously lived in an intentional community, she says, the same values of connection and communication in a relationship still apply whether it be in a workplace, a family, a school classroom or a community. Leslie’s work in the areas of restorative justice and mediation have allowed her to bring her community together and connect with them on a personal level. One such project took flight when she and a group of women came together hoping to provide a positive impact on teenage girls. Since she had been a part of women’s circles in the past, she believed that younger women should also be given the opportunity to have this experience - to use their voices, to come to know themselves, to learn to embrace diverse points of view, to feel their own sovereignty. In 2006, she founded The Rose Circle, where young women would ultimately make the decisions about how they want their circle to be with the help of adult women mentors. Lanes believes this concept teaches not only empowerment to the girls, but it also displays how the mentors aren’t there to impose on their conversation. Rather, they are there to listen, ask questions, encourage conversation and be curious. The circles have expanded over time to include men and boys calling for a name change in 2015 to the reimagined “Rogue Valley Mentoring”. Adults volunteer their time to be trusted mentors for the children - different from a parent, a coach or a teacher. As a Mediator, Leslie has worked with different relationships where there is conflict - husbands and wives, parent and child, employer and employee. While mediating between parents and teenagers, she saw how often the parent lacked the skills to listen deeply to their child and instead reacted from their own childhood wounds. Leslie’s vision is for all people to learn these skills through being in a circle or taking training so that they can have healthy relationships with their family and peers. Having a mentor is another way for youth to see modeled a way of being that is strength-based. ”If I can assist in bringing some understanding between individual people, then I feel like I’m contributing to bringing peace to the world in some small way”, said Lanes, who also believes that mentorship should be a part of our education system.
As mentioned previously, Lanes has recently found her passion in restorative justice, and is finding ways to spread that throughout her community. She is fostering “elder circles” in which three women provide a space for young girls who have gotten into trouble. The catch is, that rather than harshly punishing them or frowning upon them, they go through a restorative process where they learn to become better citizens of the community. Lanes points out that there is a ripple effect to a person’s actions. While many people may not be aware of this, our actions actually affect a much larger group of people than we may think. In these circles, the girls come to realize the harm they have caused and the impact of that harm. They then find ways to make a positive change, such as doing community service or issuing an apology. Rather than locking them up or expelling them from school, they learn about the impact that their actions had, they learn to take responsibility for their actions and are then welcomed back into the community with their confidence restored. The girls then get to meet with the three women in the “elder circle”, where the women actively listen to what the girls have to say about their process and how the experience has made a difference in their life. Particularly noteworthy is the last round where ‘appreciation’ is expressed to the girl for what the women have learned about her in the short span of time they have been with her in the circle. Lanes has encountered many girls who have never in their lives received this much appreciation before, where perhaps they haven’t been listened to so intently “Instead of ostracizing youth who have done harm and calling them out, it’s a way of calling them in,” says Lanes, who aims to assure the girls that there is a place for them in the community, and that they are not alone.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Sande Hart - Innovator and Activist

I'd like to introduce you to Sande Hart whose generosity of spirit includes all the world's women.

In her own words....  
On Sept 11th, 2001, as I was trying to make sense of what was happening in NY,
the moment the 2nd plane hit I heard, 
“gather women’.  I did not know where I was to find these women or who was whispering in my ear. I had no experience of being in circle. I was the youngest of 3 sisters, missing out on what “sisterhood” looked like since they were a generation older. So I clearly had no idea what to do with the women once I gathered them.  Regardless, I had my marching orders. I found the women, opened my front door, and got out of the way. We named her S.A.R.A.H., as in the Mother of All Nations. We gave her the acronym Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope, and when the IRS incorporated us years later, they inadvertently added “The” in front of our name, which affirmed our sacred task.


We spent the first 13 years addressing the communal fear and distrust through dynamic programs that were very localized to Southern Ca, yet now we are entirely focused on global and universal problems and international in scope.  In that way we can, with integrity, think locally and act globally.

All of our programs tug at the roots of systems of domination and patriarchy. Along with Ann Smith and LauraSa Ava, we developed our signature initiative; The General Congress of Women to honor the Mothers Day Proclamation, which calls for “…a general congress of women, without limit of nationality to convene and address the great and general needs of peace”. S.A.R.A.H. fit the bill, and the Beijing 12 Critical Areas of Concern distinguishes our “great needs”.  We hold the vision for existing and/or new circles joining us and applying S.A.R.A.H.’s Four Essential Elements; Circle Principles, Agreement of Care and Caregiving, Financial Wholeness, and Recognizing the Ecosystem of our Interdependence; the very elements that S.A.R.A.H. can declare as our claim to success. If these accelerate an existing circle’s efforts or appeal to a woman to start her own circle, we will have realized our goal of growing sustainable circles.

Everyone has their healing work to do, and mine is to surround myself with women I can trust and with whom I can play and create projects and initiatives to move mountains.  This requires us to recognize our contribution to perpetuating domination systems and offer dynamic and creative ways to hold one another accountable, and support each other to show up with new bodacious and creative ways. We feel this is what our Mother Earth is asking of us; to show up in our glorious unique ways. Sisterhood in circle is our answer


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Celebrating one woman's story and Wings, the organization she founded in Guatemala.

Women's Perspective visited Wings and Sue Patterson in 2004 when we traveled to Guatemala for Semana Santa with Patricia Kraus and MayaWorks, to visit Women's programs in Antigua and nearby towns. We visited Wings then and celebrate with Sue Patterson now.

Congratulations on the momentous occasion of Wings 20th Birthday.

We invite you to watch the video on youtube

Who We Are - WINGS Guatemala

Sue Patterson

Sue discovered her passion for helping women as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural area of Colombia from 1966 to 1968, helping them learn about family planning and how to access it. Sue has lived in Antigua, Guatemala since 1996, when she retired from a 24-year career as a US Foreign Service official. Since then, Sue has devoted her time and energy to improving the lives of underserved Guatemalans, especially Mayan women in rural areas, without access to education.

In 1999, a Guatemalan friend contacted Sue asking for help for seven women, all with at least eight children, who wanted to undergo a tubal ligation. Sue contributed from her own funds and wrote to friends asking for donations. Within a few months she had received more than $4,000. She discovered the lack of a non-profit organization focused on family planning in Guatemala, and that led her to found WINGS (Women’s International Network for Guatemala Solutions).

Sue continues to be an active member of the WINGS Board and has contributed fundamentally to the growth of the organization.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Currency of the Heart and Power of the Hands, 15 years of Knitting4Peace by Grace Gallant


Mary Ellen Garrett at the Amiguitos School & Community Center, Veracruz Mexico, January 2020
Knitting4Peace started with one woman’s vision, and continues with the involvement of thousands of volunteers, coordinated by a small part-time staff in Denver, Colorado. At the Chautauqua Institution in New York state in 2004, Susan McKee realized peace was only attainable if women stepped forward in new and radical ways. The next summer, at a mall food court in Chautauqua, Susan outlined her idea for the organization: “It felt as if something was nudging me to create a vehicle for women to prayerfully remember other women in global areas of conflict while simultaneously engaging in intentional, nonviolent action for peace”. She wanted to create a course of action for women to support other women through their hands and hearts. Thus, Knitting4Peace was born, creating a multi-national nonprofit organization committed to providing solace for those experiencing conflict around the world.

Knitting4Peace continues with the involvement of thousands of volunteers, coordinated by a small part-time staff in Denver, Colorado. The group is housed at the Park Hill Congregational United Church of Christ in Denver, Colorado. Supporters across the U.S. make and donate requested items in their own communities, deliver them to other countries, or send them to the K4P offices to be distributed.

“We stitch for each other; we stitch for the recipients of the items we create; and we crochet, knit, quilt, and weave for hope, healing and peace in our world. The tangible items we create are personally delivered to adults, teens, children, infants, and families in local and global areas of conflict." - Knitting4Peace website
Recipients of knitwear, El Centro Humanitario in Denver.

The first knitting program was launched in June of 2006 when ‘Peace Shawls' were made for women living in conflict areas of Sudan. The recipients of the shawls then asked for items for their children, and the ‘Peace Pal’ dolls were born. They are the most popular item. This international organization spreads love to all people through collective action. Since its founding, 15 years ago, Knitting4Peace has provided blankets, mittens, hats, scarves, and unique “peace pals” to people in 82 countries. 

"We’ve delivered nearly 193,000 items, since our founding in 2006. We’ll pass 200,000 items delivered sometime this year, too, which means we’ve served many more people than that, as many items are shared among family members.” Mary Ellen Garrett, Knitting4Peace Executive Director
Peace Pals, Knitting4Peace’s small ambassadors of comfort and support, bring joy to all ages. 

The items are made on a needs-basis. Organizers find out which items are most needed and the information is relayed to the peace pods. Anyone who knows how to quilt, knit, or crochet can donate to this organization. The website provides patterns for ten requested items, including shawls, hats, mittens, or cute “Peace Pal'' dolls. The creators are asked to incorporate an element of 3 in their work; either 3 colors, a pattern of 3, or triangular shapes. The element of 3 represents the spiritual grounding of hope, healing, and peace, and the concept of the person making the item, the person receiving it, and the spirit of life which inspires compassionate service. Volunteers partner with hospitals, schools, and medical facilities. Those who deliver the items are called “delivery agents” and they give the handmade items to many U.S. community groups as well as to people in other countries.
A girl with her Peace Pal, Kenya 2019.

Mary Ellen Garret, the Executive Director of Knitting4Peace has plans to host more online events to support the organization’s volunteers, and add more high school peace pods. Knitting4Peace celebrates its 15th anniversary on June 26, 2021.

To learn more and get involved, please visit:

Follow Knitting4Peace on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Imagine a New Reality with Donna Goodman


Donna Goodman has spent her entire life learning about and advocating for the protection of our Earth and its children. She is an activist, author, and a teacher of sustainability, who has worked in over sixty countries. In our recent conversation, I asked Donna why she focused on water. She described growing up in Connecticut, exploring nature and backyard streams. Later in life, Donna co-founded a science education company teaching preschoolers about the invisible forces of nature, like gravity, magnetism and water. Through her work at a peace and sustainability NGO, Donna began to understand that: “Water is a necessary component of sustainability and peace.” 
During her years in water education, Donna was inspired by the young voices in the sustainability movement. She worked 15 years for UNICEF, and founded Earth Child Institute (ECI), an international NGO in 2002. The idea for the Earth Child Institute, which engages children with climate education, originated from a young intern at Global Education Associates (GEA). ECI has blossomed into a center of sustainability studies and collective action. Today, the climate movement continues to be led by many young voices. Donna has learned from children that they need adults to respect them, and take their projects seriously. The children of today know they have a responsibility to fight for climate justice. The environmental crisis seems like an overwhelming issue however, investing in our young people, especially girls, is an achievable step in the right direction. Donna enjoys reminding people of the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Donna considers her “apple tree” to be her sustainability-driven fictional series, Ecomasters. 

Ecomasters is a girl-led series that brings the stories of a group of young, changemakers. The characters and settings are inspired by the real people and places Donna has encountered over the course of many years. Donna wanted to make her book accessible to children all over the world, which is why Ecomasters includes stories on every continent. The series possesses elements of magic, using the natural and scientific principles of water to create a world of magical realism. Donna believes reading is a fundamental process for young people to expand their dreams. She envisions a final series of five books and multimedia adaptation.

Donna writes in Ecomasters, “Everything here, and elsewhere is connected and dependent upon everything else and, at the heart of that connection, is the Earth’s Life blood: water.” We are united now more than ever because of our shared threat of climate change and our dwindling drinking water supply. Donna imagines Ecomasters to be a vehicle for social change and education by engaging and empowering young women with stories of courageous acts towards sustainability. 

By Grace Gallant

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Laetitia's Compassion Created a Community Center in Costa Rica

Pictured: CEPIA founder, Laetitia Deweer

Laetitia Deweer moved to Costa Rica when she was 23 and she began her volunteer work with PANI, a government child protection agency. While working with this organization, she noticed that children in poverty were in the streets all day, vulnerable to harm and violence. These children were not able to heal from their trauma because they were still experiencing it. Realizing this, Laetitia shifted her focus to combating the root causes of poverty by founding CEPIA (Culture, Education and Psychology for Infants and Adolescents) with her friend Lotje De Ridder. CEPIA was founded in 2005 as a non-profit organization that promotes culture, education, jobs, and health services.

Within the first week of opening the center, 50 children showed up at their doors. As more children and families were drawn to the center, Laetitia and her partners expanded their programs to address a wider range of needs, across many different communities. With the help of counselors, children now have the opportunity to open up about their trauma and begin to heal.

Pictured: Costa Rican children enjoying a CEPIA youth program.

CEPIA has grown its after school programs to include youth creatives, psychological healthcare, childcare, professional training and education, scholarships, environmental initiatives, and cultural education. CEPIA also partners with many organizations, both governmental and grassroots, to fund similar projects in additional locations in Costa Rica.

Pictured: Community members packaging food for those in need with CEPIA.

When the Covid19 pandemic began, it worsened the already harsh conditions for impoverished people. In this time of crisis, CEPIA stepped up their support for the community by providing psychological treatment to over 500 adults, and delivering 8,393 food packages between April and December 2020. The Christmas Campaign donated nearly 500 Christmas packages to families in Guanacaste. For the past 15 years, CEPIA has strengthened community bonds, spreading Laetitia’s vision of healing and devotion.

Visit CEPIA’s website, to see the long list of donors and contributors that helped push the vision forward.