We are a 501-3c non-profit organization originally founded as Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP). We are based in Celo Community in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Herb Walters founded the organization in 1981 with support from the Arthur Morgan School, Celo Friends (Quaker) Meeting, and theresidents of Celo Community and Yancey County. Our mountain home and community continually inspires our work and we have been blessed with boards of directors that come from far and near. Our focus has always been on empowering local communities to listen, organize and act for social change. We do this from a foundation of empathy and respect for differing beliefs, and a commitment to finding or developing common ground that unites rather than divides communities.
Dixie Pomerat, Annalisa Littleton and Eric Daine are our technology wizards, and our board of directors keep the organization in good health. During the past 30 years we have also developed a national and international network of certified Listening Project trainers who were first participants in a Listening Project and then they attended an in-depth training session for trainers. Numerous successful Listening Projects have been led by members of these trainers who usually serve communities in their own state or region.
As the founder of our organization, Herb Walters has provided training for many successful projects. He inspires by speaking from the heart and often shares very powerful stories of individuals and organizations that are the un-sung heroes of our time. Most are not professional activists yet they rise to call to give deeply of themselves for the benefit of their communities.
We cannot overlook the importance of all the many other individuals and organizations that have supported us over the past thirty years. Together, we are a community that believes in social change rooted in empathy and mutual respect. We believe in the importance of empowering ourselves and local communities to build bridges of trust and understanding as we find new and creative ways to make a difference.
"Since 1986 RSVP has offered Listening Projects in dozens of tension-torn communities as an alternative to conventional activist approaches - debates, protests, vigils, litigation, civil disobedience. Coming into volatile situations and confronting issues that might send seasoned mediators running for cover, they use compassionate listening - as a way to understand underlying problems, introduce new ideas, and to help communities develop their own positive solutions for change. This process not only uncovers and empowers many "bystanders" who have feared to speak out or have never been involved - it often brings opponents, even bitter adversaries, face to face in a nonviolent way, helping to build durable community bridges to reconciliation and peace."
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