August 2013

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Nine months ago, Breakthrough’s partner Michael McGill, PhD moved his family to Kampala, Uganda. Their goal? Be near the center of the youngest and most conflicted region of the world in order to further the work of the Young Peacebuilders Initiative.

YPI Burundi Conference

2013 YPI Burundi Conference

Armed with the knowledge that impoverished countries with young populations are more prone to conflict, Dr. McGill and YPI work to prevent or stop cycles of violence. By viewing children and youth as an asset, YPI works to equip, nurture and give skills to young people so that they may become peacebuilding participants in their society. The YPI peacebuilding skills and passion offers children and youth an alternative to the decades of corruption, destruction and exploitation they have viewed in their countries.

Take “Billy” for example. Billy lives in Burundi in a community well known to military fascists active in his border region. Billy’s community has been a part of YPI training, so both at school and at church, he has received peacebuilding training. He has learned to be a civic participant in his community and has even served on a local child peacebuilding board. When Billy was 14, the rebel soldiers first knocked on his door to recruit him. However, Billy knew he had other options. He was set on a different path than the military groups and so were the other youth in his community. Through peacebuilding training, YPI strives to teach and provide alternatives to cycles of violence in countries worldwide. Young people play a vital role in a country’s future of violence or peace, and because children younger than 14 are still developing their moral framework, YPI focuses toward children under 14.

As a researcher who recently completed his PhD in intercultural studies with a child peacebuilding focus, McGill is driven by a desire to measure the impact of investing in child peacemakers instead of focusing on armed intervention as the primary answer to conflict. For this reason, each YPI partnership is paired with a local university so that peacebuilding indicators may be closely tracked to show the peacebuilding impact of YPI education and training on the community. By gaining evidence of the impact of mobilizing young peacebuilders, Breakthrough and YPI hope to catalyze replication of the YPI process worldwide.

Stay tuned as we explore what the YPI process looks like on the ground in Burundi!

Learn more about YPI here, or listen to Michael discuss his vision here. Then follow them on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates!


Julius Muwanguzi of Uganda

When people think of a coach, sporting games with red-faced men frantically waving arms and shouting instructions is usually what comes to mind.

Mark Mielbrecht’s coaching couldn’t be more different.

Two years ago, Mark and three others at Breakthrough Partners signed up to become certified coaches through Creative Results Management. The coaching method they learned is unique. “It’s a client-led agenda,” Mark said. “They say what they want to work on; I’m helping them achieve the goals they set for themselves.” Mark explained that it is future-focused, while counseling is often focused on the past. “We like to recognize the effects of the past, but ultimately believe that God created us as unique and gifted individuals. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to fulfill our God-given purpose.” In order to do so, Mark’s coaching focuses on a person’s desire to set goals, overcome barriers and willingness to choose to move in a positive direction in order to meet one’s potential.

Mark recently coached Breakthrough’s friend Pastor Julius of Uganda. His church had planted corn to feed the village and provide for schoolchildren, but the crop was destroyed when a neighbor allowed his cows to graze on the plot. Julius was faced with a dilemma. He wanted to show love to his neighbor but had the reality of a destroyed crop that could no longer feed the village. He struggled with whether to turn the other cheek or seek restitution to meet the needs of the village. Through Mark’s coaching, Julius decided that he should meet with the elected village council to ask for their input regarding a solution and support. They in turn spoke with the neighbor about his negligence. “I never told Julius what to do. All I did as a coach was help him discover his solution to the present problem. That’s the beautiful thing.” Mark’s coaching with Julius helped prevent a conflict between a pastor and his community and helped give recognized authority to the recently elected governing body of the village.

Mark and the other Breakthrough coaches are well on their way to logging the necessary hours for their coaching certification. As they do so, they will continue to play an important role in helping clients decide the best action-steps to self-created solutions and effective change.