My Summer Peacemaking Fellowship

Araceli Pantoja

After reading a survey about domestic violence rates, I was inspired to act. My fellowship consisted of supporting survivors of domestic violence on their journey to find peace within themselves and with their abusers.

This story first appeared in the Summer 2016 Edition of Prints of Peace, a publication of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking

Araceli has known about the Center for Peacemaking’s summer fellowships since she started working here her freshman year. After learning about some of the projects previous fellows created, she knew that she wanted to apply for one. She just wasn’t sure what her project would focus on yet.

That all changed when she was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. She read a survey indicating that 10.8 percent of women experience domestic violence. Feeling compelled to act on this, Araceli immediately started writing two applications.

The first application was for an unpaid internship with Mujeres Unidas Contra el Maltrato (MUM), a resource center for domestic violence victims in Spain. The second application was for a summer peacemaking fellowship — which is available because of donors like you — to cover the expenses she would incur during the internship with MUM.

A few weeks later, Araceli started her fellowship project as an intern at MUM. At MUM she was tasked with leading weekly prevention programs and women’s circles. Both of these programs provided the women with tools for building healthy, peaceful relationships.

The most impactful moment of the fellowship occurred during a women’s circle she was facilitating. For the activity, the women wrote their stories of abuse on a piece of paper, crumpled it up into a “snowball” and threw it into the middle of the circle. Then they each pulled someone else’s “snowball” from the center and proceeded one-by-one to read each story out loud. The stories were so different, yet many had similar aspects. As Araceli facilitated the conversation around this activity, several of the women explained how listening to the other women’s stories sparked an epiphany in which they realized they are not alone in their struggles.

Since returning from Spain, Araceli has been able to put the skills she gained during her fellowship at MUM to use in Milwaukee. For the second half of the summer and throughout this school year she has volunteered at the Sojourner Family Peace Center, a resource center similar to MUM. As a result Araceli continues to grow as an advocate for and ally to women who have been impacted by domestic violence.

Because of you, Araceli has been able to walk with these women as they work to transform their lives and relationships. She said, “Although many of the women who come to these shelters are faced with awful circumstances, I’ve seen first-hand that prevention programs and circle activities can help them transform their situations.”

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