Volunteers Teach Healing Arts

Radical Acts of Education script


Volunteers learn practices through Capacitar International.

Photo by Aiveen Mullally

Gang warfare in Juarez, AIDS in South Africa, homelessness in Cincinnati—survivors of these and other traumas are often left to cope and seek healing on their own. One group, Capacitar International, is offering help.

It began in the 1980s, when Pat Cane was helping paint murals in revolutionary Nicaragua. She took breaks behind a ­schoolhouse to practice tai chi. One day, locals followed her and posed the question that led to Capacitar. “We like your art,” they said, “but could you teach us this?”

Inspired by Paulo Freire’s work in the 1960s, Capacitar International (from the Spanish “to empower”) has spread to 30 countries. Volunteers (like those above) learn practices such as tai chi, acupressure and mindfulness, which they teach in traumatized communities in places like Guatemala, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, and Ireland. The simple work nourishes people’s own power to heal and creates so much relief and joy that it spreads, person to person, through families and communities. Check out capacitar.org.


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