The Peace Army of Costa Rica

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The Peace Army of Costa Rica

Costa Rica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In this world of ever increasing violence, there is a growing need to teach skills for peaceful conflict resolution. Our idea with the Peace Army is to teach two peace skills to an entire country so that they can pass them from generation to generation and attain a lasting peace. This idea was born of the synergy between two proven methods for building peace skills. First, the skill of "feeling peace", using the Institute of HeartMath's Freeze-Framer, builds emotional intelligence and improves emotional stability and anger management. Second, the skill of "speaking peace", based on Dr. Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC), shows people how to connect with themselves and others through empathy and honesty.

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Position in the Ethics Mosaic of Solutions
Factor

Individualism

Principle

Developing self-awareness and interconnectedness

Innovation
Idea:

In this world of ever increasing violence, there is a growing need to teach skills for peaceful conflict resolution. Our idea with the Peace Army is to teach two peace skills to an entire country so that they can pass them from generation to generation and attain a lasting peace. This idea was born of the synergy between two proven methods for building peace skills. First, the skill of "feeling peace", using the Institute of HeartMath's Freeze-Framer, builds emotional intelligence and improves emotional stability and anger management. Second, the skill of "speaking peace", based on Dr. Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC), shows people how to connect with themselves and others through empathy and honesty.

How do you do it:

We believe that teaching these skills to children is the best way to create a lasting culture of peace. To do this, we train school teachers so that they can pass this knowledge on to their students. We teach Freeze-Framer through both verbal instruction and computer software that uses a finger sensor to monitor heart rhythms, teaching students to align the activity of the heart and brain. Our certified trainers also offer the NVC model, taught in over 30 countries, which has stood the test of time and cross-cultural effectiveness. In 2004, we trained 28 volunteers, 19 public and 30 private school teachers, and 25 community members through 15 training workshops and 30 hours of intensive practice. These numbers have grown in 2005.

Innovation:

In the Peace Army, our dedication to nonviolence teaches us that, whenever we become disconnected from our compassionate nature, we have a tendency to act in ways that can cause pain for everyone in our lives, including ourselves. So, while both Freeze-Framer and NVC have long been used separately, using them together focuses on the roots of violence, helping to build a strong foundation of inner peace for individuals while simultaneously creating more peaceful communities. At the same time that we are working on the grassroots level in schools, we are also working with the Costa Rican people, influential leaders, universities and government toward a national operational model for building peace across generations.

Impact
Impact:

Our methods are built on the principle that young people are the optimal conduit for creating positive, systemic change at a national or societal level. Costa Rica is especially fertile ground for teaching peace skills due to its inspiring history of a citizenry dedicated to peace. The educational system allows young people and adults to work together to impact society. Our goal is that all of the willing teachers throughout the country learn the skills of "feeling peace" and "speaking peace" through proven methods so they can then offer them to their students. Over time, each individual will learn to consciously pass on these two essential skills of peace and Costa Rica will become a model of practical peace for the world.

Ethical Action:

Recently, a teacher who had participated in our trainings found himself in a heated conflict with the director of the school. When neither party seemed able to reach common ground, the teacher approached our director, Rita Marie, to inform her that he was going to write a letter to the school board recommending that his director step down. When Rita Marie asked if he had tried any of the methods we had been practicing, she was met with silence. After a few seconds, he said he would get back to us. Using Freeze-Framer to calm his intense anger, he used his newly developed NVC skills to "speak peace" with his director and resolve a conflict that might have jeopardized the well being of the entire school.

Replication:

Since Feb. 2003, we have been focusing on our pilot project in one school, using this stage of growth to train our trainers and fine-tune the teaching of our methodologies. In this manner, we are confident that we will eventually expand to include all Costa Rican schools. In fact, we will begin working in a second, more "troubled" school in September 2005. These two projects provide the arena to adequately test for national expansion and lay the organizational groundwork for growth. At the same time, the word is spreading about the positive contribution of the Peace Army movement in Costa Rica, which will pave the way for replication. We hope that our success in Costa Rica will prove to be a replicable model for the rest of the world.

Sustainability
Sustainability:

Our core of volunteers has been constantly and consistently growing. Now that our lead trainer has finished his own training, we will be able to easily train more trainers and quickly expand into more schools. Similarly, because our methodology relies on teaching teachers, there is a built in mechanism for long-term sustainability. As the children learn more about these skills, their ideas will permeate the culture. Finally, we have also received an endorsement from former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, the Nobel Peace Laureate who likely be the next President of Costa Rica beginning in 2006. His influence may prove to be instrumental in making this a national effort that can become an example for the rest of the world.

Organization Size:

Staff includes the director, lead trainer, organizational developer/webmaster, and an assistant. Volunteers include curriculum developer, volunteer coordinator and strategic planner, plus 25 others.