Catalyst for Peace is a small foundation based in Portland, Maine. Catalyst believes that in war-torn countries the answers and resources are already there to create lasting peace, they just need to be mobilized.
Catalyst works in Sierra Leone – a country in West Africa that experienced civil war from 1991-2002. The grantmaking strategy they use is to focus on fewer programs, but to go deeper and longer term, in order to build structures that support the capacity of local individuals and organizations to create a new community “from the inside out,” for and by themselves.
Working with a local partner, Fambul Tok, Catalyst empowers ordinary Sierra Leoneans to create change. One tactic employed is to help communities host village reconciliation bonfires. Since the civil war impacted nearly everyone, villages contain both the perpetrators of violence and those impacted by it. These bonfires draw on Sierra Leonean culture to create powerful spaces for all to engage in dialogue, apology, forgiveness, and renewal. In Kono District, for example, bonfires have been successfully used to have people discuss the rape and torture that took place during the war. Without Fambul Tok and Catalyst for Peace, these conversations – and subsequent healing – would not have happened.
Sara Terry for Catalyst for Peace