Friday, January 28, 2011

Bright Hope!

The biggest God's gift to us is hope and we must hold it tight no matter what. Yes, there are moments that seem to destroy our life, disappoint us in things and people we once believed in. Remember, God is beyond any damage or sadness that comes our way. Loosing is part of life but moving forward with hope is the way of life.

No matter how feeble the hope becomes, hold it, nurture it until it is bright enough to bring a smile on your face, confidence in your being, desire in your heart and enthusiasm in your life.

After a dark and cold night, the rising sun gives warmth to hope, in the midst of a hot day, a gush of wind refreshes it, the unfolding of a leaf strengthens it and on a gloomy day a smile from a friend brightens it. These are God's ways to tell us I have enough in store to keep you going, no matter how much you have lost.

Stay hopeful because hope is what nourishes peace!

Monday, January 24, 2011

VESPRA--Puerto Rican Peace Corps: Two visionaries moved a generations of youths on a peaceful venture of community organization

By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD[1]

As fate would have it, two visionaries meet in 1965 to share one idea—What are the strategies to develop Puerto Ricans communities so that they can achieve their well-being.
Los Cuerpos de Paz de Puerto Rico was Rev. Peter L. Pond’s conduit to programs for children that would assure inclusion, literacy, and foster well-being.   VESPRA was the brainchild of former Governor Don Luis Muñoz Marin, whose effort was to get the citizenry of Puerto Rico “civically occupied” through literacy, improved public health and community development.
The report from this meeting as reported in El Mundo (Rojas Daporta, M. Organizan en Cayey Cuerpo de Paz de Puerto Rico. El Mundo, 18 de enero de 1965) went like this: “the group meet with Governor Munoz Marin and his wife to discuss the possibilities of the program” According to Lcdo. Miguel Pico, one of the attendees to the meeting it was more like “marching orders”. Don Luis wanted a program that fostered voluntarism, involved youth, and engaged the citizenry in community level projects.
The “program” became “ VESPRA--Cuerpos de Paz de Puerto Rico”. It would operate initially from the grounds of old Henry Barracks, now the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey. Using “creative problem solving” community members, university students, teachers, and young professionals would engage in a volunteers movement that fostered literacy, public health projects at the “barrio level”, and would bring together youths into summer camps. The volunteers would serve on a part-time basis and earn up to $75 per months for their efforts.
Rev. Pond, Dr. Samuel Silva Gotay, and others developed the training process. It included techniques for assessment, community engagement, project development, monitoring and reporting of project successes.

Potential volunteers were recruited and an induction process would follow. In the early days there were early morning prayers and meditation, as well as a good order of physical exercise were the order of the day. A good dose of listening activities and group dynamics rounded up the training program. Rev Pond would run everybody to the hill in back of the barracks in Cayey, and from there we would recite the “Sermon of the Mount” before repelling down a shaft to the bottom and a run back to the barracks. As the training advanced, a potpurri of thinkers and doers were introduced: from Bentances and de Hostos to Martin Luther King and Ghandi. In between a little of Saul Alinski community development methods were introduced for good measure.

The results of this process yielded excellent results:

·      By the summer of 1966, approximately 6,000 people throughout communities in the Island had received services.

·      The Encampment for Citizenship was held in Henry Barracks. Eighty-four young people from 31 countries, under the direction of VESPRA worked on eleven community projects in the Cayey, Salinas and Cidra.

·      Two hundred community members had been certified as volunteers, eighty-five university students, and one hundred elementary teachers.

·      In 1967, under the skillful direction of Dr. Samuel Silva Gotay, VESPRA became a part of the “Fundación de Desarrollo Comunal de Puerto Rico”. This movement has become FUNDESCO today.

These visionaries, Pond and Muñoz Marin are no longer with us. Their ideas live in the hearts and minds of idealistic Puerto Ricans who learned during their tenure as VESPRA volunteers the values of: community development, unity, listening with humility—acting peacefully, the grace of reconciliation, creative problem solving, and justice.

[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz  is a community psychologist, recipient of the APA International Humanitarian Award. He served as a volunteer, Coordinator of Field Operations and Training Coordinator from 1965-1966 of VESPRA.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can you tell me, why?

Religion is a very complex yet very interesting topic and I am probably the least qualified person to talk or write about it. But the more I see and read about people humiliating, fighting and sometimes even killing others over religious issues, I can't help questioning these behaviors.

Many times, I wonder why people get so upset and angry in the name of religion. Is it because (a) somebody doesn't respect their religion? (b) because somebody doesn't follow their religion? (c) somebody hurts their ego by rejecting what they are preaching/teaching? (d) one becomes insecure about the existence of their religion when another starts preaching their religion? And/or (e) these people don't have anything better to do?

My faith in the almighty gives me hope, love and peace. Interactions with the creator of this universe inspire me to serve Him and His creation. Then why do some of us are motivated to insult and hurt others in the His name?

In the context of religion and God, shouldn't we be inspired by God for our reactions. All religions agree that God is merciful, forgiving and ever-loving but then we behave exactly in the opposite manner in the very name of God! Why do we do that?

I know my questions are not new and have been asked by many so then why these questions have not been properly answered and why don't we humans reach to a common understanding?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You are beautiful!

In today's age, so many of us, men and women alike, spend money and time on beauty products and beauty therapies. But does spending time in beauty salons and keeping thin really make us beautiful? Does that mean before doing all that we weren't beautiful?  Getting a facial might clean our skin, loosing extra weight can make us healthier. However, as far as beauty is concern, we were all born beautiful.

Beauty has nothing to do with our age, our socio-economic status, the brand or types of clothes we wear, color of our skin, our height or body weight.

All of us are beautiful. We sometimes hide our beauty or become blind to others' beauty because of our inhibitions, doubts, anger, pride and disbelief but we all are beautiful.

We can enhance our beauty too, not so much with the beauty products but with our smile, humility, our good deeds, appreciation for nature and for people around us and by being thankful.

In addition, when we are at peace with ourselves and with our surrounding and we are able to bless others, God's grace reflects on our beauty and gives it a divine glow.

So, my beautiful friends, let's continue to work towards that divine glow!

Friday, January 14, 2011

We shall live in Peace

by Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD

On the eve of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, I had occasion to attend an event introducing a new book written by Rev. Dr. William Fred Santiago entitled "Venceremos" (We Shall Overcome). The book reflects  on the life of Dr. King in Spanish. This is a unique contribution in our cultural and linguistic milieu. The speakers reflected on several events of Dr. King’s life and supported their commentary with parts of his speeches, from his early days in Crozier Seminary in Cheste, Pa, to the “I have a dream” speech in Washington, to his last speech  entitled “I have seen the promised land”.
As Puerto Ricans, and citizens of the world, we live through difficult times: the war in Afghanistan, destabilization of the North and South Korea, the shooting in Tucson that filled our TV screens last Saturday and our own social and psychological problems in Puerto Rico that have lead to an environment of lawlessness and intolerance, where we speak of peace but practice violence.
From Dr. King, the peace maker, we learnt:

The grace of reflecting in the word and peaceful actions of Jesus and humbly accepts them with great faith.
The grace to serve the oppressed people and communities, and through peaceful actions achieve their well-being.
The grace of non-violent confrontation, and creative problem solving to bring injustices to the fore.
The grace of mirroring skills that allow us to assist others to recognize their anxieties, and promote calmness.
The grace of being instruments in providing interpersonal, emotional, and  support and access to knowledge and resources.
The grace of overcoming troubled times so that we can teach others how to help communities learn and become more resilient by acting in peaceful and non-violent ways.

The words of Dr. King Jr. last speech resound in the air this day:
“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.  I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


By Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz, PhD 
The Christian tradition introduces the Holy trinity: God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Ghost. This reflection focuses on Jesus the son. Jesus is presented to us on a constant trip, a wanderer, a constant traveler, nomadic or prodigal. He accepted food, shelter and acts of kindness from all those who would offer. He went from place to place teaching, reflecting on people’s needs and healing as needed. This travel occurred in the geographical desert and the figuratively desert that exist in the heart, mind, and soul of all of us.
We have little information about a static Jesus, but we have plenty of information about a dynamic Jesus who is constantly on the move trying to clear a path for us. We learn about ourselves when we too experience desolation in the barren lands of despair, pain, sorrow, and tribulation. Jesus teaches us to be footloose and fancy-free. Gain consolation through perpetual movement.  
Humans are not static; we move parallel to Jesus, wondering aimlessly in the desert of our thoughts, actions, and beliefs while wondering aimlessly in the dark nights of the spirit. Jesus brings peace to us by providing consolation to our souls, setting the agenda, providing guidance through pro-active actions, and yes, setting the path.
Jesus is God in motion.
He taught us to seek peace by depending of the kindness of strangers, to accept food and shelter wherever it is offered. He asks that we listen intently, and that we help those strangers that come to us in our travels to define their paths in life.
Jesus presents a simple formula for peace. He asks that we take peace to others through random acts of kindness. He asks us to bring peace through our teaching, actions. He suggests that we make peace by healing strangers and providing for the well-being.
Humanitarian workers of all segments, walks of life, and religious beliefs are the best representatives of the teachings of Jesus. Their sole intention is to bring peace to those that suffer hunger, thirst, illnesses and persecution for whom they are or what they represent. The Humanitarian Credo is best articulated in the Sermon of the Mount where Jesus expressed the beatitudes. The actions that lead to peace begin with this sermon: talking, listening, leading by example, coalition building, inclusion, and decision-making.
While there is great emphasis these days for achieving peace through dialogue, there is another more powerful way. We need to become vagabonds, rootless, and mendicants.  To achieve peace we need to help others set their paths in they find themselves in the desert. We need, through concrete and focused actions, facilitate the enhancement of self-esteem.  We need to feel the motion and to be in motion. We need to learn and to teach, and to undertake action that promotes healing. We achieve peace through forgiveness, accepting others for what and who they are. We are mirrors of Jesus the wanderer!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!

I am writing today after a little gap, actually the new year brought lots of activities in my life! Families, friends and work kept us busy and gave us many reasons to be thankful to the almighty.

The most impacting part was to volunteer with the Red Cross in a helicopter crash response.There were six government officials on board, all died in the fatal accident. By the time, we arrived at the scene, five bodies were found except  the remains of the pilot.

 Our task was to provide support to the grief stricken family of the pilot of the crashed helicopter. I had the honor of meeting and talking to the adolescent son of late Pilot Carlos Acevedo. A boy with a great smile, strong heart, and a desire to support his mother and sister.

During our conversation, not even a single time did he complain about the tragic event that had taken place in his life at a time when the rest of the world was celebrating Christmas and New Year. While others were receiving gifts, he, along with his mother, were waiting to see the remains of his father. Yet, he was smiling, not complaining and was trying very hard to stand tall in this tragedy like his father would have done.

Due to confidentiality issues, I will not be disclosing my conversation with him. However, I would like to use this platform to recognize and salute this little boy for being resilient in this crisis and trying to restore peace in his mother's and sister's lives.

Wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year!!!

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Peace Seeks Justice

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