This past December, eight women from South & Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, & Pakistan, visited San Antonio for a program on “Women Leaders: Promoting Peace & Security”. They covered themes such as state & local partnerships to combat trafficking, support for immigrants & victims of gender-based violence, and education for nonviolence. Specifically, they examined how local entities are addressing challenges related to immigration, trafficking, and gender-based violence, as well as services provided by nonprofit organizations to victims & vulnerable populations. The program also included a meeting on mediation programs that addressed some of the alternative ways that local partners respond to conflict.
They began their program with a day free to explore San Antonio and an invitation to attend SACIV’s “Holiday Open House” at the home of Ralph & Diana Carroll-Wirth. As honored guests, they joined SACIV members and their friends & families as they ushered in the holiday season and helped welcome our visitors to San Antonio. They had a chance to mingle with SACIV members and sample traditional American dishes. The event also provided an opportunity to thank our home hospitality hosts for their role in welcoming international visitors to San Antonio throughout the year. As home hospitality hosts, they opened their homes to strangers and took the time to ensure that the guests left as friends. They navigated the ofter confusing waters of cross-cultural communication in doing so, graciously welcomed SACIV visitors to our city. The generosity they showed greatly touched our visitors and will be a memory they will carry with them for a lifetime. In doing so, they all acted as citizen diplomats that are the backbone of SACIV. Honorees included Kay Grosinske, Betty Berchelmann, Arlis Olsen, Tamara Dennis, Irma Reyes, Sabina Chowdhury, Rita Heck, Betsy Cameron, Rita Burnside, Nancy Price, Mary Lou Wilson, Cindy Vondrak, Angelika Jansen, and Gloria Almaraz.
Their professional program began with a meeting with Ms. Marta Pelaez of Family Violence Prevention Services and a tour of the Battered Women’s Shelter, which highlighted the services they provide to survivors of domestic violence and sex crimes. They then toured the Bexar County Jail, where they meet with staff to discuss the educational, treatment, and rehabilitative programs available to inmates. They completed their day with a home hospitality dinner with SACIV members.
The next day began with a roundtable discussion with members of the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking (AACAT) where the group of professionals representing local NGOs and agencies that aim to defect & protect victims of human trafficking and raise awareness to prevent trafficking, discussed their collaborative efforts and shared training techniques with the visitors. The delegation then visited with clinical fellows of St. Mary’s University’s School of Law, where they learned about how their Center for Legal and Social Justice helps disadvantaged, underrepresented, and low income communities in Texas. They were particularly interested in their Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, which introduces students to the practice of law through the supervised representation of immigrants and refugees in proceedings before a variety of courts. They completed the day with a meeting with the co-founders of the peaceCENTER, who shared how their all-volunteer, interfaith organization works to nurture the ever-growing circles of peacemakers and resources in a unifying approach to end violence in the city, deal with the root causes of conflict, and act as an important community catalyst for peace in San Antonio.