Presenting Legacy International: An NGO Dedicated to Conflict Resolution, Peace-Building

Published: 16th June 2006
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Heaven knows that in these times full of cultural misunderstandings and conflict, we need people and organizations that build bridges between people of different cultures and backgrounds. One of these organizations is a Virginia-based NGO called "Legacy International" which is active in 4 main areas:

- Democracy and Civic Education
- Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution
- Leadership Development, and
- Community and Regional Development

Legacy has completed projects and exchanges in these fields with countries as diverse as Kazahkstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Jordan, many of which have significant Muslim populations. Current projects include leadership and cultural exhcange programs in Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Global Youth Village is Legacy's longest-running program where young people from all over the world live in a global village that they cooperatively maintain and help to govern. Along they way they learn about the fundamentals of democratic process, community organization and leadership. Over almost 30 years, more than 2000 young people from 95 countries have taken part in this unique summer training program.

Mary Helmig from Legacy International took the time to tell me more about this interesting organization:

What type of organization is Legacy International and what is its mission?

Legacy International creates learning environments where people can address community, global, and/or personal needs while developing skills and effective responses to change. Areas include cross-cultural and cross-sectoral competency, dialogue and conflict resolution, community development, youth education, and professional and NGO development.

Founded in 1979, Legacy is affiliated with the United Nations Department of Public Information as a Non-Governmental Organization, and listed with U.S.A.I.D. as a private voluntary organization (PVO).

We believe that access to a constructive, peaceful life is a fundamental human right. Yet, since conflict is also widespread in human society, conflict prevention / reduction is an essential endeavor in all parts of the world. Without it, there can be neither democratization, nor development, nor poverty reduction.

So for 27 years, we have worked on international projects, bringing universal democratic values and team-building tools to address local, regional and global needs. Legacy's programs have focused on developing the leadership, skills, and relationships needed to resolve and prevent conflicts. Our programs have equipped thousands of citizens worldwide to emerge as solution providers-helping to set in place building blocks for sustainable, inclusive societies.

Please talk about its history, who founded it?

Legacy International was founded in 1979 by J.E. Rash. J.E. Rash a lecturer, writer, and consultant in education, dialogue, conflict resolution, and the application of values-based, spiritual perspectives to contemporary issues. As the founder of Legacy International, he has been instrumental in creating domestic and international programs in conflict resolution and peace education, professional and NGO development, youth education, community development, cross-cultural and cross-sectoral competency.

J.E. Rash has periodically gathered experts, policy makers and religious leaders to discuss current critical issues of development. Events have included the Global Viewpoints Forum in Washington, DC (including presentations by experts and policy makers in the fields of development, environment, and the Middle East conflict), the Dialogue Workshop for oil companies and environmental activists, the Middle East Environment and Development Professionals Visitor Program, Leadership Development Initiative (designing curriculum and trainings in citizen participation for schools of the Archdiocese of New York City), Community Connections (a USIA initiative providing internships for Russian, Ukrainian, and Bela¬rusian professionals), the Virginia Growth Management Forum, and a wide range of dialogue programs bringing together youths and adults from regions and countries in conflict. In 1987, he received the Friends of the United Nations Environment Pro¬gramme 500 Award for outstanding contributions to the environment..

He also contributed a chapter in Democracy and Religion: Free Exercise and Diverse Visions, edited by David Odell-Scott (Kent State University Press, 2004) which was recently declared an Outstanding Academic Title 2005 by the Journal Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries (January 2006.)

Please tell us about your programs in Democracy and Civic Education, Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution, Leadership Development and Community Development.

Legacy International specializes in strengthening civil society by conducting exchanges and trainings, which center around skill-building and education. The four main areas of work include civic action, conflict prevention and reconciliation, leadership development, and community development. To this end, Legacy has hosted 145 inbound and outbound citizen exchange delegations, international conferences, training events, and training-of-trainers programs, including more than 20 major projects funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Legacy's portfolio includes projects involving majority-Muslim countries, and non-Muslim countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia/Abkhazia, Indonesia, Israel and Palestine, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Many projects aim to build bridges between different sectors and stakeholders -- religious and civic leaders, educators, media, NGO, and government officials.

We have designed special leadership and tolerance training modules with include their own curricula. Legacy's Leadership Curriculum has been implemented in 84 NYC schools. Side by Side?, our tolerance curriculum, is available both in English and Russian, and was used in Perm, Russia. In addition, Legacy staff consult and/or design trainings and training programs in areas such as NGO management, women's issues, civic education, religious tolerance and extremism, Islam and Democracy, conflict prevention, leadership training, and environment.

Please tell us about LINC program:
LINC - Youth Voices in Democracy, Indonesia and U.S. is an exchange program between Indonesian and U.S. high school students ages 15-17. The program is funded and fully supported by the US Department of State. The students will spend 3 weeks in Virginia during the summer of 2006 developing cross-cultural communication skills, and then travel to Indonesia for 3 weeks during the Winter 2006-2007.

Information about Religion, Human Rights & Democracy: Peer Interactions Between Religious & Civic Leaders In The U.S. And Kazakhstan

The U.S. Based Program
Ten Kazakh delegates representing various sectors (religious, civic, and non-profit) from the southern Kazakh and Zhambyl regions traveled to the U.S. for a training program in Washington DC, Baltimore, New York City and small towns and rural regions in southern Virginia. They experienced team building, sharing their common interests, and observed US models and concepts that could most appropriately be transferred to their communities. The results have been both exciting and inspiring. Following are brief reports on some of the work completed by participants in the program.

Follow-up from the U.S Based Program (TIC)
Svetlana Beissova, Executive Director of the Taraz Initiative Centre, worked closely with Sergui Kislov and Varvara Naidenova, also alumni. Sergui works in local government and is responsible for 22 cultural groups. Varvara's NGO trains women in skills that can generate income for them.

Inspired by what they had seen in Goodwill in Roanoke, VA, they approached an NGO in Taraz that represents handicapped persons about the concept of setting up a Goodwill organization. In June 2005, TIC undertook the venture itself, involving women who were unemployed. They found a room, and put an announcement in the paper. They solicited and received donations from two political parties to place more newspaper ads, and handed out and posted flyers.

U.S. Delegation to Southern Kazakhstan
In Shymkent, six U.S. representatives visited the offices of the Women's Business Association (Legacy's partner in Kazakhstan) and Bereke, an NGO that works with USAID on several community development projects.

What is the Global Youth Village?
The Global Youth Village is a summer leadership program for youths ages 13 – 18. For 27 years, the Global Youth Village has been empowering young people to achieve their personal best. Program activities help participants discover a common ground for understanding people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, thus encouraging core human values such as peace, justice, tolerance, ethics, service, and equity.

Each summer, youths from many backgrounds, cultures, and countries have the opportunity to delve into a wide range of topics and explore the customs, traditions, joys, and hardships of their peers around the world. They develop confidence and an expansive world view which stays with them for life.

We provide critical leadership and cross-cultural training to students who will, in turn, bring these skills back into their community. Over the course of nearly three decades, more than 2000 young people from 95 countries have participated in our unique summer training program.

What are Legacy's plans?
Legacy will continue to offer quality educational programs throughout the world, helping communities and people build a better tomorrow for themselves and their societies.

Thank you, Mary, for introducing your organization to us. We wish you the best of luck for your current and future programs.

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