W&J Hosts Mediators Beyond Borders International

Created: March 11, 2015
Last Updated: July 16, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (March 10, 2015) – Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBB), an organization dedicated to promoting a peace “able” world, was hosted at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) March 5-8 as team members developed a trauma-informed curriculum for use in their international peace-building projects.

MBB is an international, virtual organization that builds local skills for peace and promotes mediation worldwide. At the invitation of local individuals or organizations, MBB volunteers work with the disputants themselves to bring mediation skills to prevent, resolve and promote healing from conflict.

A partner with W&J since the development of the Conflict and Resolution Studies (CRS) integrated semester in fall 2013, MBB has been an invaluable resource to the students and faculty of the CRS concentration. Prabha Sankaranarayan of Pittsburgh, President and CEO of MBB, and Mary Jo Harwood, co-leader South Sudan and trauma specialist, presented to the faculty as part of the initial preparation for the concentration.

“We were delighted because the [CRS] program’s multi-disciplinary approach is very much MBB’s approach–in that we are a multidisciplinary team. So it was really exciting to see that W&J was creating this curriculum that was for students from all the different programs,” said Sankaranarayan.

The partnership continued after the initial introduction with the faculty, and so when the organization was seeking a workspace for their international team to meet, W&J seemed like a good match. “To reciprocate we wanted to make ourselves available to the faculty and students of the program; to see what we could offer to strengthen the program, and enhance it by increasing awareness of resources of the programs that are going on out there. The fact that our team is four women is also a great opportunity for people to see the involvement of women in peace-keeping,” said Harwood.

Curriculum team members included Sankaranarayan and Harwood, Ginny Morrison and Dr. Suzanne Dobson. Morrison is a program consultant who has worked in Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria and is part of the developing South Sudan team. Dobson, a trained psychiatrist, is a member of the trauma team and has worked in Rwanda and Kenya.

The group met with W&J students and faculty over dinner on March 5 to discuss their vision and experiences in conflict resolution across the globe.

One of the key topics was the developing South Sudan project, the most recent MBB effort to promote peace.

MBB was invited to begin mediation training efforts in South Sudan by college-age students whose experiences as interpreters applying psychological first aid in Kenya inspired them to consider the impact of the civil war on their generation of young people. These South Sudanese students, in their desire to break the cycle of violence in their country, reached out to MBB. Morrison, part of the South Sudanese team, explained that once they assess the situation, they will utilize their new trauma-informed curriculum to develop conflict skills.

“For youth this is really about resisting being swept up in other people encouraging them to fight. Being able to say, no I’m not going to do that. I am going to live peacefully,” said Morrison.

The curriculum being developed on the W&J campus will be particularly relevant in MBB’s efforts in countries where violent conflict has occurred.

“The work that we do, if you look at the conflicts around the world, cycles of revenge are such a common underpinning of so many of these conflicts,” said Sankaranarayan. “Part of what inspires us is the belief that you can address those cycles of revenge by addressing people’s pain. So it is a prevention technique and we can only do some good by addressing the pain that people have. Otherwise it will continue to act itself and has the potential to continue to self-perpetuate cycles of violence.”

W&J students were actively engaged by the topic and left a deep impression on the MBB team. “All of us walked away from the program so impressed with the students; with the questions, with their knowledge and their commitment,” said Harwood. “That is inspiring to me, to think that we have another generation of folks coming up being committed to peace-building.”

Mediators Beyond Borders International

Mediators Beyond Borders International builds local skills for peace and promotes mediation worldwide. In partnership with organizations around the world, MBB works to design projects and develop multidisciplinary teams to increase local abilities to heal from severe conflict; reconcile communities; and prevent, manage and transform conflict sustainably into the future. For more information on how to support these efforts visit www.mediatorsbeyondborders.org

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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