Witness for Peace
is a non-profit
organization based in the US and dedicated to preventing military violence
in Latin America
. It was founded in 1983
to combat the Reagan
administration's policy of "low intensity warfare
" in Nicaragua
. They have maintained a continuous presence in Nicaragua for fifteen years, and they also do work in Guatemala
(Mexico), and Haiti
"Witness"ing is the most important part of their tactics. The main way they try to accomplish their goals is to maintain an international presence in areas where low intensity warfare or other forms of systematic violence are being perpetrated. WFP volunteers are there as witnesses: they take photographs, conduct interviews, and report back to their own countries first-hand accounts of the events. This is especially important when the mainstream media are ignoring or skewing a story.
Witness for Peace volunteers also effectively act as human shields. The idea is that if some military hothead kills a starving peasant no one notices, but if he kills (or harms in any way) that nice American priest from Georgia, there is going to be an international incident.
There are two main types of volunteers: Short term and long term. Short term means you spend your vacation going on a "delegation." You pay your own way down to Nicaragua (for example), meet up with the other folks on your delegation, and you witness for however long the delegation lasts, usually a couple of weeks or so. Long term volunteers actually do get paid a stipend, and they live in a country full time and organize the delegations, in addition to doing community organizing, reporting, and witnessing of their own. The Witness for Peace house in Guatemala City is a great place to hang out and meet people.
Find out more about Witness for Peace at www.witnessforpeace.org