New article: “Building Peace in the Heart of Darkness”

One thing I love about journalism is that stories are everywhere — you just have to know how to draw them out. That was the case this spring when I heard about a party in Washington, D.C. that was hosted by the development organization World Relief. I went on a whim, curious to learn more about their work.

At the party, between appetizers and cake, the World Relief staff began to tell me about a new grassroots program making small steps toward peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They spoke excitedly, full of hope and proud of their work. After a lot of research and many interviews, including a long international Skype call, I turned those initial conversations into an article for Christianity Today. Here’s the beginning:

Violence erupted again this week in the fractured Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when at least 20 people were killed in clashes between the government and the M23 rebel militia, breaking a truce that had held since last November.

The fighting paused Thursday (May 23) for the arrival of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the city of Goma in eastern Congo, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ new 3,000-person intervention brigade has also begun to arrive in Goma. The force will be allowed to offensively target and “neutralize” violent groups in the region, an unprecedented step for the UN.

Amid the clamor and negotiations, it would be easy to overlook one new movement, working to heal eastern Congo: Small groups of Congolese church leaders, including influential local women, are volunteering to solve and prevent conflicts one at a time, without fanfare.

It’s a simple idea. But in a nation where political solutions are often given more attention than community solutions, World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, believes these committees, which require the inclusion of female leaders, could be a key to peace. …

Read more in my latest article at Christianity Today, published May 24.

Two weeks’ worth of interesting locals

One of the fun things I do at Washington Examiner is a feature called the “3-Minute Interview.” These are short Q&A interviews with interesting people in the D.C. area– from a banjo player to a veterinarian to an elementary school teacher.  They’re great interviewing practice.

Check out my 3-Minute Interviews from the past two weeks:

  • Randy Barrett, banjo player and president of the DC Bluegrass Union
  • Lia Seremetis, founder of a monthly bike gathering that rides around D.C. with music blasting and ends up at a local bar
  • Libby Bryant, vintage valentine collector (published on Valentine’s Day)
  • Jacqueline Simms, third-grade teacher who received a national $25,000 teaching award

I’ve also written these news articles for the Examiner recently:

Transportation group gives tentative OK on narrower D.C. roads, widened Virginia roads

Increased access to Washington Dulles International Airport, narrowed roads in the District and widened roads near Tysons Corner were among the proposals given initial approval by regional transportation planning officials Wednesday. …

First responders train in mental health

Officer Joseph Kirby regularly encounters people with mental health issues while on duty with the Alexandria police, and he uses training he received two years ago to recognize the signs of mental illness and to keep those encounters from escalating…

Poll: Only 6 states less religious than D.C. 

The District has the second-lowest percentage of “very religious” residents in the nation outside New England, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. …

Clips from my first week at the Washington Examiner

examiner

I’ve spent three fun, busy days with the Washington Examiner as a local news intern. In those three days, I have become a better, faster writer. I have gotten more comfortable with calling and interviewing people over the phone. I have had the chance to get to know the city of Washington, D.C., just a little more.

If you want to keep up with my reporting and writing, you can follow my Examiner work here. I’ll also post a weekly roundup of my clips here. This is what I worked on last week:

D.C. Council wants FBI to keep its headquarters in District

(Feb. 5) – Two D.C. lawmakers want to make sure that the District is not forgotten in the tug-of-war over the location of the new FBI headquarters.

District looking to give startup companies, entrepreneurs a boost

(Feb. 6) – Mayor Vincent Gray announced a new private-public partnership Wednesday to support and develop D.C.’s startup companies and entrepreneurs.

Georgetown gourmet grocer Dean & Deluca closed for rats and roaches

(Feb. 7) – Live roaches and mice droppings around the cheese section were among eight critical code violations cited by the D.C. Department of Health when it shut down the upscale Dean & DeLuca food store and cafe in Georgetown.

Google to help D.C.-area businesses get online

(Feb. 10) – Google will bring its website expertise to the Washington for the first time next week with free workshops intended to set local businesses up with a free website, Web hosting and online marketing help.

3-Minute Interview: Dr. Lee Morgan, owner of Georgetown Veterinary Hospital

(Feb. 9) – Morgan owns Georgetown Veterinary Hospital, where he has been practicing veterinary medicine for 12 years.

New Forbes.com post: Redefining hospitality

Child psychologist David Anderson couldn’t sleep. He was haunted by stories—stories of child abuse and neglect that he’d heard from children at a Chicago hospital, and stories of parents who couldn’t find anyone to take care of their children when their families were going through crisis situations, including illness, unemployment, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, or incarceration.

Later, when Anderson was working as the director of a child welfare organization in Chicago, mothers came to him and asked him to take care of their kids. He couldn’t help them, except to refer them to government agencies in cases of abuse, and even then, he knew that families had a low chance of being reunited after children entered foster care.

The welfare system designed to intervene wasn’t doing enough, and families were falling through the cracks.

“I remember losing sleep and just thinking, there’s got to be a different way,” said Anderson. “The way the system is set up is that the state can’t intervene unless something bad has happened. … Why in the world don’t we figure out how do we support that parent so that nothing happens?”

Read more in my new Forbes.com post, “Can Churches Do What Government Can’t?”

I wrote this post for Ashoka, a social entrepreneurship organization that took me on as a communication intern last summer. It was fun to return to the Forbes blog with a new story to tell.

This post was originally a 2,500-word article that I wrote for a creative writing class, and there’s much more to the story that I wasn’t able to include in the blog. I intentionally sought out David Anderson — and his organization Safe Families for Children — because I wanted to see what it looked like when a social entrepreneur is motivated by his or her faith.

Anderson runs his program through churches around the country and the world, but the influence of his Christian faith runs deeper than the logistical level. He and I talked a lot about rediscovering biblical hospitality, which he says defines the church’s role in society. Instead of merely giving charitably, Anderson wants Christians to “make room” in their lives and homes for children.

Related:

You can find more of my work, including more Forbes.com blog posts like this, on my Work and Recognition page.

I’d also encourage you to read more from Ashoka’s blog, which always posts interesting content about social entrepreneurship.