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As the daughter of a community ad­vocate, Vera Parra developed her social consciousness at a young age, but it wasn’t until she joined New Jer­sey’s community of immigrant-rights ad­vocates that she felt the power and strength to keep working for change.

While accompanying a man—father to three U.S.-citizen children—to his check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforce­ment (ICE), Vera witnessed ICE detain him on the spot and deport him the next day. “It was before I really had a national network that could push back,” she says. “I felt such loneliness in that moment—powerlessness, feeling like I was throwing my whole body up against this crazy system that destroys families and is driven by profits.”

Vera interned with AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program in Newark and then spent a year as an organizing fellow there, gath­ering stories about local police involve­ment with federal immigration enforce­ment while building a grassroots coalition to work for change. During that time, she says, she realized that “the power to coun­teract that [sense of powerlessness] comes from the relationships that we have with…those of us who are committed to working together, fighting together, loving together, taking care of one another.”

In late 2013, Vera took an organizing job with a national faith-based network through which she is continuing her work with the immigrant community in New Jersey. She took with her AFSC’s vision for a just world, based on Quaker principles.

“There aren’t a lot of organizations that think outside of the current debate. The current [immigration] bill is not going to stop detention and deportation. AFSC pro­foundly refuses to accept the terms of the [immigration policy reform] debate, and pushes for a vision that is worth fighting for,” she says.

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In this three-minute video, Katie Huerter introduces herself, her work with AFSC Iowa, and what motivates her to seek peace and justice in Palestine-Israel.

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Border security tactics are extremely problematic and costly. So why then are certain members of Congress so eager to send a blank check to militarize the southern border, especially during this time of deep budget cuts? 

Lia Lindsey and Aura Kanegis shed some light on the money trail by explaining how the top defense-contracting companies spent $74,250 per day on lobbying in spring 2013, when the Senate was debating S 744.

Watch the official selections for this year’s If I Had a Trillion Dollars national youth film festival.

Participants will be in Washington, D.C., from April 12-14 for a youth leadership conference, a free public screening of their videos, and a chance to meet with representatives in the federal government.

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AFSC's New Orleans Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Project held its Third Annual Transforming Oppression Fashion Show Saturday on November 26, 2013 at Christian Unity Church. The show included twelve models and performances by seven local youth artist acts. 

Participants attended a workshop where they got a crash course in the definition of oppression and the manifestations thereof. They also did visioning where they imagined translating their experiences w/violence, loss of young lives and lack of employment opportunities into rhetorical images to be displayed on white tees and hoodies for the show.

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The Galkacyo celebration was featured on the Kalsan TV evening news.

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Psychotherapist Geral Blanchard of Des Moines talks about his new book, "Transcending Trauma: Post-Traumatic Growth Following Physical, Sexual, and Emotional Abuse," with Fallon Forum guest host Jon Krieg, Communications Specialist with AFSC's Midwest Region.

Geral can be reached at

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Kathleen McQuillen of AFSC Iowa and Katie Huerter of Nebraskans For Peace discuss Middle East peace prospects on the Fallon Forum.

Kathleen and Katie talk about an upcoming Midwest speaking tour by author Josh Ruebner.

Katie's blog can be found here.

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What Would You Do If You Had $1 Trillion? A Group of Seniors at Northwest Academy of Law Say They Would Invest in Education.

ST. LOUIS [February 26, 2014] — A group of students at Northwest Academy of Law have been selected to participate in the fourth annual “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Film Festival in Washington, D.C. Students were introduced to the federal budget and asked what they would do if they could spend $1 trillion.

“Their answer was not what you might expect from 17 and 18-year-olds,” said Joshua Saleem, who directs AFSC’s Peace Education Project. “They wanted to spend it on their education.”

In their video, entitled “Education is the Key to Our Success,” the students identified physical improvements that could be made to their school building, including newer computers, high school level books in their library, and better gym facilities. They also said they would increase the Pell Grant amount (currently only $5500) so that more young people could afford college without going into debt.

The “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Youth Film Festival is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Young people are directly affected by conversations about state and federal budgets, yet their voices are often ignored. The film festival seeks to change that.

Now that their video has been selected for the Film Festival, students will be fundraising so they can travel to Washington, DC where they will visit Capitol Hill. They hope to make Congress aware of their priorities for the federal budget.

Krista Germann, Social Studies Teacher (618) 954-9979 ·
Joshua Saleem, Peace Education Program Director (314) 324-7442 ·

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AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more

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