Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ceasefire info

I had a couple questions about Ceasefire, which I am always happy to talk about!

I first heard about Ceasefire a few years ago when I was in grad school getting my MSW (Masters of Social Work) degree. One of my peers brought in a speaker from Ceasefire to talk to one of my classes, which is how I learned about the great things that they do.

Here's a snippet from their website:

The Chicago Project has designed and tested a new intervention — CeaseFire — that approaches violence in a fundamentally different way than other violence reduction efforts. CeaseFire works with community-based organizations and focuses on street-level outreach, conflict mediation, and the changing of community norms to reduce violence, particularly shootings.

CeaseFire relies on highly trained outreach workers and violence interrupters, faith leaders, and other community leaders to intervene in conflicts, or potential conflicts, and promote alternatives to violence. CeaseFire also involves cooperation with police and it depends heavily on a strong public education campaign to instill in people the message that shootings and violence are not acceptable. Finally, it calls for the strengthening of communities so they have the capacity to exercise informal social control and to mobilize forces -- from businesses to faith leaders, residents and others -- so they all work in concert to reverse the epidemic of violence that has been with us for too long.

These activities are organized into CeaseFire's five core components, which address both the community and those individuals who are most at risk of involvement in a shooting or killing:

Street-level outreach
Public education
Community mobilization
Faith leader involvement
Police participation

One of the things that I think is really cool about Ceasefire is that many of their staff members are ex-gang members (many are ex-gang "chiefs", who are the leaders) who were previously incarcerated but are out of jail and want to rehabilitate themselves and others. They actually GO INTO THE TRENCHES and try to mediate between opposing gangs - in the streets of Chicago. As you can imagine, this can be dangerous work, and these men and women are extremely brave to be doing this. Ceasefire has struggled for years to get adequate funding from the state - actually one time they were briefly shut down (from a lack of funding) only to be reopened once Blagojevich realized what great work they were doing. Violent crime had gone done drastically in the areas where Ceasefire was working, so he renewed their state funding so they were able to reopen. Yay!

Last year I had some Ceasefire workers come to speak to the school where I was working at the time, in the Austin neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. The students loved the presentation, and were very receptive to the speakers and their important message. I tried to get them to come talk to my schools this year, but unfortunately they are so overworked and so understaffed that it did not work out. However, I was able to procure a speaker who previously used to volunteer with Ceasefire, who did an excellent job giving five presentations to a few hundred of my students! Thanks Mr. Moore!

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