Change Agents 7/2/20: The IPM Immersion Program in El Salvador and other places

Producer/Host: Steve Wessler

Key Discussion Points:
a) Does the Immersion program provide a benefit to the people from the host country (such as El Salvador)?
b) How does the Immersion program benefit the North Americans who travel to host countries?
c) Why each of the guests have dedicated their work lives to human rights work?
d) What is hard for the two guests about their work on human rights issues?

Joe Cistone, Executive Director of IPM lives on Mount Desert Island.
Adela Zayaz Hernandez, Regional Director for the Latin America and the Caribbean and Director of Programs and Partnerships. She lives and El Salvador.

Joe Cistone and Adela Zayas Hernandez direct IPM’s Immersion program, along with other colleagues. The Immersion program brings North Americans to spend 7 to 10 days time with social justice and human rights programs in countries across the globe. 2500 people from North America have participated in this program.

Joseph F. Cistone, Chief Executive Officer
As Chief Executive Officer of IPM, Joe provides the strategic vision, leadership, and supervision of all activities, programs and staff of this interfaith, international, non-governmental organization with offices in El Salvador, India, Kenya, and the USA. Joe began his work with IPM in June of 2001 and IPM has quintupled in size during his tenure.

Joe has worked, lived, and studied internationally for over 30 years, including extended time in El Salvador, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, and Italy—where Joe pursued a Ph.D. in the Social Sciences at the Gregorian University and worked with a variety of international organizations. Joe was a Research Assistant in the Department of Programmes at Caritas Internationalis (1990-1992); the Director of the Joined Hands Refugee Center (1991-1995), where he served as an IPM Project Coordinator; and, as Associate Director of the International Office for Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation of the Franciscan Friars Minor (1995-1997). Immediately prior to joining IPM, Joe served as the founding Vice President of Capital, Endowment, & Philanthropic Programs at the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Foundation.

Adela Zayas, Director of International Programs & Partnerships; and Programs & Regional Director for Latin America and The Caribbean
Adela studied her Psychology Major at Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA). She was evolved in different social movements during her educational process, including projects related to environmental consciousness and conservation, community development, gender equality and women empowerment. She has post-graduate diplomas in Gender Equality and National Reality provided by the National University and the Lutheran University from El Salvador.

She also helped creating a non-profit organization in El Salvador, “Fundación Artesanas”, which promotes healthy environments, using art, social entrepreneurship and psychology as the main tools to achieve women’s empowerment. It mainly seeks to offer solutions for the unequal opportunities, in terms of education, health, employment and political participation, that many women experience in the country.

About the host:
Steve Wessler will soon will be starting his 28th year of working on human right issues. He founded the Civil Rights Unit in the Maine Attorney’s Office in 1992 and led the Unit for 7 years. In 1999 he left the formal practice of law and founded the Center for the Prevention of Hate. The Center worked in Maine and across the USA. He and his colleagues worked to reduce bias and harassment in schools, in communities, in health care organization through workshops and conflict resolution. The Center closed in 2011 and Steve began a consulting on human rights issues. For the next 5 years much of his work was in Europe, developing and implementing training curricular for police, working in communities to reduce the risk of hate crimes, conflict resolution between police and youth. He has worked in over 20 countries. In late 2016 he began to work more in Maine, with a focus on reducing anti-immigrant bias. He continues to work in schools to reduce bias and harassment. Wessler teaches courses on human rights issues at the College of the Atlantic, the University of Maine at Augusta and at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in northern Virginia.