Skip to content Skip to navigation

Today's Peacemakers

Today's Peacemakers

We honor the bold-hearted men and women around the world who work diligently to help their communities and to support their more vulnerable neighbors. There are peacemakers in every nation and every community. The people featured here work with, but not for, the American Friends Service Committee. We are pleased to share their important work.

Sarah Rutherford

Student · Pittsburgh, PA

In a six-week internship with AFSC, Sarah Rutherford helped design a curriculum for human rights workshops for Washington, D.C. public high schools. She attended some of the classes AFSC staff teach so she could experience firsthand that focused learning environment. The project will continue in the coming months as eight graduate students use the materials Sarah worked on.

When asked about her time with the Service Committee, Sarah noted, “Don’t be afraid to ask. This summer I wanted to do a lot. I wanted to work in DC, to help AFSC, and then I wanted to live and study in Palestine. I wasn’t sure if I could do it all, but I just kept asking and it all worked out.”

Sarah loved being associated with AFSC and the “peaceful, caring and respectful community I found.” She’s continuing her studies but says that she hopes continue her relationship with AFSC and perhaps find a new role with the organization in the future.

Samantha Sanangurai

Conflict Transformation Program Officer · Harare, Zimbabwe

No photo available

AFSC Connections

Samantha Sanangurai lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. She notes that her mother, who is an activist working with orphaned and vulnerable children, “Gave me the first practical education on social injustice in our country. Her unwavering belief in the equality of everyone and their valued contribution to peace spurs me to work for peace and justice.”

In AFSC, Samantha found compatible values and practical ways to help the young people in her Hatcliffe community. It is overcrowded with marginal housing and constantly encounters problems getting basic services such as water and electricity. Many of the residents of Hatcliffe suffered from politically-inspired terrorism but, as Samantha says, “They would like to see their neighborhoods become safe again and they aspire to better life opportunities where their rights are recognized by the state.”

Towards those ends, she works in conflict transformation, as well as the livelihood project which provides training to enhance skills and economic stability. As she moves through her day-to-day activities, Samantha remembers that, “No one person is better than the other. It is our mission to strive for equality for all persons.”

Marco Antonio Castillo

Educator · Guatemala City, Guatemala

Photo of Marco Antonio Castillo
“We’re creating an urban platform to balance ideas of citizenship, respect for others, and serendipity.”

Marco Antonio Castillo lives in Guatemala where he leads an organization called Grupo Ceiba. It works with youth in low-income communities that are often marked by violence. He believes that, “Every child has a star. Our work is to help them reach it.”

With AFSC, Marco has developed “urban peace platforms” and uses a mobile unit called “The Peace Donkey” that travels to some seventeen neighborhoods. The goal is to break the cycles of hopelessness, frustration, alienation, and violence in those communities. Marco notes, “I get inspired by hope and the meaning of life. And I hope that every youth who comes to Ceiba finds a house of open doors and windows, a peace sanctuary. I have a deep trust in young people’s kindness and believe in their strength to change things.”

Ponchita Argieard

School Social Worker · St. Louis, MO

Photo of Ponchita Argieard
“My goal now is to become the most compassionate person I can be. If I can do that, I will create change.”

The “Committee” in American Friends Service Committee is real. Just ask Ponchita Argieard who is serving her sixth year on the St. Louis Area Program Committee. She found out about AFSC through word-of-mouth, attended an event, and found that the organization resonated with her own interests and values.

Ponchita has studied renowned civil rights and justice leaders such as Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer, and draws inspiration from them. She’s a school social worker which brings her into daily contact with society’s struggles. One particular concern is the death penalty which disproportionately affects the poor and people of color. Ponchita says, “All lives have meaning. Even if a person did a terrible crime, their life still has value.” Twice she has participated in the death penalty moratorium day at the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City. She encourages people to, “Raise your consciousness. It makes you more aware of others and your relationship to them and vice versa. That’s what I’m working on!”

Susan Hopkins

Early Childhood Educator · Nevada City, CA

Photo of Susan Hopkins

“Whether with a group of children in the classroom or at a peace camp, a group creating quilts for those in need of comfort, or hosting a teachers’ retreat, when the group bonds and that special dynamic is created, I feel that the Spirit is working among us.” So says Susan Hopkins, a long-time volunteer and AFSC donor. She recognizes that one way to live one’s values is to support the organizations you care about. “I see myself as a philanthropist. No group can do its work without funding and I see that role as one I can play at this stage of my life.”

Yotam Amit

Student · Chicago, IL

Student Yotam Amit has worked on Israel/Palestine issues for years, following in the footsteps of his father who was arrested at age 12 when he took part in an anti-war demonstration in Israel. He has a firm grasp on the complexity of the Middle East situation and takes the long view as he helps one side to see the viewpoint of the other. “When Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are exposed to the Palestinian narrative in some way they find compelling, it can force them to redefine the conflict, ultimately making peace and justice seem much more attainable.”

In his work, Yotam has learned to be patient, to be confident but soft-spoken, and to be informed. And, he says, “Use humor. Be prepared to feel like you’re banging your head against a wall. Avoid actually banging your head against a wall!”

Yotam has been associated with AFSC’s Chicago office for four years, appreciating a shared vision of peace and social justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike. “Every time even a single person ceases to view either side as the enemy and instead comes to see the conflict as the enemy of both sides, it’s a great victory.”

Ron Faust

Minister / Writer · Gladstone, MO

Photo of Ron Faust
“Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith.”

AFSC Connections

A minister, writer, and activist, Ron Faust probably doesn’t get much time on the water to enjoy his sailing hobby. In his Kansas City-area community, he found AFSC to be the “best organization for engaging in peace activities.”

As with other Today’s Peacemakers, Ron calls on his own family for inspiration. “My grandfather was a model of gentleness.” And he credits the actions, speeches, and writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. as further sources of inspiration. Ron serves on many task forces and brings energy and commitment to all of them. He is guided in his life by a favorite Bible passage, Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an overflowing stream.”

An-Nissa' & Pak Safwani

Lecturer / Trauma Healing Facilitator / Islamic Scholar · Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Photo of Pak Safwani
“I feel that in the worst situations, women always become marginalized and vulnerable. And I believe the best way to eradicate poverty is by empowering women.”

AFSC Connections

“I feel that in the worst situations, women always become marginalized and vulnerable. And I believe the best way to eradicate poverty is by empowering women.”

Pak Safwani is a lecturer, a trauma healing facilitator, and an Islamic scholar with the An-Nisaa’ Center in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. An-Nisaa’ works with communities that have suffered from conflict and the tsunami, providing training for community organizers, and helping entrepreneurs to build local businesses.

AFSC has partnered with An-Nisaa’ since 2006 on a project known as “Village Harmony,” designed to empower women and build peace through trauma healing. Pak Safwani helps women establish cottage industries and works with local leaders and youth groups, helping them to define and reach their goals.

Maria Sol Varisco-Santini

Poverty Reduction Program Director · Des Moines, IA

Photo of Maria Sol Varisco-Santini
“I hope to provide a voice for others without a voice yet.”

Sol Varisco remembers what it was like to be a new immigrant in the United States. Born in Argentina, she now works alongside AFSC in Des Moines to empower and support the large immigrant community. She played a key role in securing the rights of workers at a plant in Postville, Iowa, when they were arrested en masse.

“After going through the immigration process myself,” she says, “I learned how difficult it could be, and how many misconceptions there are among those who have never been affected by immigration. I wanted to help others have an easier time and educate our communities about the barriers and challenges we all face.”

Adrien Niyongabo

HROC Coordinator · Bujumbura, Burundi

Photo of Adrien Niyongabo
“May I serve peace wherever I might be and many thanks to all who contribute to supporting grassroots initiatives.”

AFSC Connections

Through Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) and the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Adrien Niyongabo’s days are full of listening, discussion and planning. The grassroots communities where he works have many stresses, including recovering from what Adrien calls “massive killings and destruction.”

Finding paths to reconciliation and ameliorating conflict isn’t easy. But Adrien and his colleagues steadily persist to bring together divided groups and to reconnect them in trusting, peaceful ways. For some eight years, Adrien has worked in various ways with AFSC. He’s truly committed to making a difference in Burundi which is evident as he says, “May I serve peace wherever I might be and many thanks to all who contribute to supporting grassroots initiatives.”

Hans Anggraito

Assisted Living Care Giver · Denver, CO

Photo of Hans Anggraito
“The vigil can send the message that the detainees are human beings and not criminals.”

Hans Anggraito calls himself “a student of life.” His involvement with AFSC’s Coloradans for Immigrant Rights has provided many opportunities to learn about the immigrant experience and to compare with his own as someone whose family came from Indonesia. He especially resonates with the vigil held every month at a federal detention center for immigrants, noting that his own parents once were similarly detained. “Seeing the physical structure that perpetuates this crime is both healing and agitating. Mostly agitating. But the vigil can send the message that the detainees are human beings and not criminals. And that they are not forgotten despite the inevitable separations many will suffer from.”

Although Denver is very different from his childhood experience, Hans now calls it home. And while the city “isn’t a perfect place” that fact encourages him to work for peace and justice and to relish the connections he has with others who share his concerns and values.

Molly McQueen

Intern at AFSC’s Chicago Office · Harvard, IL

Photo of Molly McQueen

AFSC Connections

An avid bike rider and reader, Molly McQueen recently interned in AFSC’s Chicago office. Her first connection to the Service Committee came when she viewed the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit of combat boots that represent the U.S. military who died in the Iraq War. Molly arranged for the display of the moving memorial on her college campus.

Molly comes by her activism naturally and credits her mother with motivating her to take on the causes she believes in. By working at AFSC and honing her skills, Molly is a good example of one of the peacemakers of the younger generation.

Arnie Carter

Outreach Worker / Counselor · Denver, CO

Photo of Arnie Carter
“Injustice to one is injustice to all.”

“Injustice to one is injustice to all,” says Arnie Carter who’s been associated with AFSC for six years. He’s currently on the Program Committee for AFSC/Colorado, participates in monthly detention center vigils, and has helped plan and execute rallies and vigils. In his day-to-day work, he reaches out to the homeless and people with substance addictions, and knows that they inform his passion for justice.

Arnie notes, “Colorado is a very military state with many bases and companies that profit from war. But I am grateful for the small, but growing, number of folks who are working for peace and justice. After all, love is knowing that we all are one and we want the one to flourish.”

Hanningtone Mucherah

Peace Organizer · Nairobi, Kenya

As a young Quaker leader, Hanningtone Mucherah of Nairobi, Kenya, has been active with the Alternative to Violence Program (AVP) there. When asked by AFSC to help organize workshops for Somalis living in northern Kenya, he readily agreed. Although aware of the significant trauma many of the refugees suffered, he still wanted to share his skills, and has found the Somalis open to his peace message. Hanningtone notes that the Service Committee is one of the few agencies interested in the Somali refugee community and he’s glad for the opportunity to support its efforts.

Hanningtone has seen some success through his AVP trainings. Many of the Somali refugees eventually want to return to their home country and pass on their new-found knowledge to others. At the same time, he knows that peacemaking is a long term proposition. He says, “I believe that a good leader plants a tree under whose shade he will never sit. But we have to keep walking. There is no time to sleep!”