Building Community in East Greenwich

PaulHow do you improve a community? Inch by inch. That’s the idea behind – and the title of – a special forum that took place on Monday, March 24th, at Swift Community Center in East Greenwich. “Inch by Inch: Building a Better Community Through Peace and Nonviolence,” included a community pasta dinner and several brief overviews of youth programs at the high school.

Then Dr. Paul Bueno de Mesquita, Director of the URI Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies, spoke about the Center’s mission to institutionalize nonviolence on campus, throughout Rhode Island, our country and internationally. He has just returned from an alternative spring break trip to Nepal with a group of 20 URI students, faculty and friends to train Nepal students and peace leaders in nonviolence. He described several of the many events the Center sponsors throughout the year and encouraged involvement from the East Greenwich community.

It was the first of several events that are planned in East Greenwich in order to establish a team of leaders who will become formally trained in the nonviolent methods of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The hope is to include students, teachers, school administrators, parents and other community members, with intensive training to take place in the fall. The goal is to educate and empower the people in the East Greenwich community to become the leaders!

Center staff and members of the URI Student Nonviolence Involvement Coalition got everyone up and moving through a brief activity that involved participants as a way to further build community. The Center’s table of materials was a big hit, as everyone was invited to take home bookmarks, pens, and booklets on Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence.

The evening ended with an hour of live music with the well-known local folk music duo Atwater & Donnelly, who sang and danced, and thoroughly entertained us. Over sixty-five participants celebrated community and shared food and songs with friends, old and new.

The program was sponsored by the East Greenwich Academy Foundation, EGHS Youth to Youth, and the Town Drug Program. Bob Houghtaling, the Director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, and Lindsay Daskalopoulos, LICSW, Citizens Who Care member, and Health & Wellness Committee member, have been key collaborators in this endeavor.

The Center is working hard to bring Nonviolence into communities and to empower leaders.  We are excited to be doing this in the town of East Greenwich. – Lacey Feeley, Center Intern