Brisa De Angulo and Parker Palmer created A Breeze of Hope Foundation to provide other children with the support they never found. Survivors of sexual violence, torture, and kidnapping, their efforts transform cultures of violence into ones that elevate peace, collaboration, and love. Working as wounded healers, they use their own brokenness to help others overcome suffering.
During the last 15 years, Brisa, a psychologist and attorney, and Parker, an attorney, have led A Breeze of Hope’s stunning efforts to put sexual aggressors behind bars and open paths of healing for child survivors. A Breeze of Hope has served thousands of children and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of aggressors. In fact, A Breeze of Hope has a 95% conviction rate in the hundreds of trails it has managed under State authority. Brisa and Parker have co-authored several books on sexual violence, trauma recovery, human rights, and early childhood development.
A Breeze of Hope
One-line project summary:
Preventing childhood sexual violence through advocacy and providing legal, social, psychological, and medical services to survivors.
Present your project.
A Breeze of Hope is committed to solving the problem of sexual violence against children (SVAC) - a scourge that affects approximately 25% girls around the world (WHO, CDC), destroying lives and creating a web of suffering that snares entire families and communities.
Our project is focused on Prevention – transforming deeply ingrained cultures of dominance and submission, which normalize and excuse SVAC, into ones that elevate collaboration, partnership, and equality; and Restoration - transforming children’s experiences of profound suffering into vibrant paths of overcoming and healing.
We elevate humanity by empowering SVAC survivors, who are too often left marginalized and disenfranchised. Our 100% free legal, social, and psychological services provide survivors with the knowledge and skills they need to access justice, rebuild vibrant lives, continue their education, find meaningful jobs, and become advocates to influence key decision makers and break the vicious cycle of SVAC.
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What specific problem are you solving?
In Bolivia, 1 in 3 girls suffers sexual violence before age 18, and 7 in 10 women suffer sexual violence during their adult lives. The Pan American Health Organization stated in 2019 that Bolivia has the highest rates of SVAC in Latin America. Our mission is to end this violence and the suffering it causes.
The impact of SVAC is overwhelming in scale. The vast majority of victims suffer PTSD and other co-occurring trauma related disorders, as well as social ostracism, discrimination, intimidation, and reprisals from aggressors and those who support aggressors. Non-offending parents, siblings, and close friends of child survivors frequently suffer PTSD, too. Additionally, entire communities are set on edge as aggressors circulate with impunity. Terror strikes the hearts and minds of women and girls as they walk to the market, play in the park, go to work, sit in class, or ride public transportation.
Our project focuses on (1) the social norms and practices that contribute to SVAC and (2) the culture of silence and impunity that oppresses victims and severs their access to healing and justice. Since 2004, we have directly served nearly 8,000 trauma survivors and provided in-person prevention training to over 120,000 individuals.
What is your project?
Our project has two powerful initiatives, both of which focus on achieving Gender Equality, goal five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our first initiative is prevention. Here we engage in international human rights advocacy before the United Nations and Organization of American States. We organize and implement information campaigns and peaceful public walks with police, the military, and other government officials. We also provide participatory workshops on sexual violence and girls’ human rights to primary and secondary school students, university students, educators, parents, social service professionals, and government officials (i.e. police, prosecutors, judges, forensic doctors). In 2019 we provided these in-person workshops to more than 10,000 people! Lastly, we harness the data we collect at our center to produce powerful research on healing and reveal bottlenecks in the criminal justice process.
Our second initiative is restoration. We provide free legal, social, psychological, and medical services to SVAC survivors and their non-offending and supportive family members. This broad support includes trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems therapy, individual therapy, self-help groups, yoga, art, meditation, music lessons, and sports. We also provide job and economic independence training to help adolescent girls break the cycle of financial dependence on violent men.
Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?
Our project’s direct beneficiaries are child survivors of sexual violence ages 0 to 18 and their non-offending family members. Most of the children and families we serve are impoverished and of indigenous descent, which reflects Bolivia’s overall demographic. 95% of the child survivors we serve are girls.
To understand the children’s needs, we allow them to lead us. Our professionals follow the express wishes of the child, as opposed to adults’ perceptions of the child’s best interest. This holds true except in cases when the child is unable to articulate express wishes, verbally or otherwise. In 2016 we took things a step further by creating our Children’s Advisory board, which is comprised entirely of children. This board oversees our services and issues recommendations to our staff. In 2018 we took yet another step forward, welcoming three adolescent SVAC survivors from our center onto our Board of Directors as fully voting members.
The fundamental needs the children express to us are to heal, rediscover themselves, learn to play again, and to make new paths forward into brighter futures. Our comprehensive model, as mentioned above, harnesses the therapeutic value of the activities the children choose in pursuit of their chosen goals.
Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind
Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.
Tragically, survivors of sexual violence against children (SVAC) are often met with incredulity and indifference. PTSD, emotional trauma, social ostracism, discrimination, intimidation, and reprisals can make it impossible for survivors to live happy, fulfilled lives. By helping victims heal and empowering them through economic independence, our restorative programs elevate survivors out of the margins of society and let them regain control of their futures. By teaching survivors to become advocates, we are creating a community that elevates opportunity for all marginalized SVAC victims by changing cultural attitudes and encouraging action from policy makers.
How did you come up with your project?
In 2004, Brisa (then age 18) founded Bolivia’s first and still most advanced center for child survivors of sexual violence in response to her being raped and then suffering horrific revictimization in Bolivia’s courts.
Yet we knew that the local center in Bolivia wouldn’t survive unless it became a healing model with international visibility. One mild winter morning in 2010, on the stoop of a Camden, NJ row home, we faced a critical decision point as soon-to-be attorneys. Either we practice law in the US or leverage the international community to reform Bolivia’s justice system, go after perpetrators, and heal child survivors of sexual violence.
We chose the latter, and over the last 10 years we’ve taken a small localized project in Cochabamba, Bolivia and transformed it into a powerhouse model for healing that has gained international recognition and improved thousands of lives. Our model has been recognized by Together For Girls as a prime example of how to implement the WHO’s Inspire Strategies for Ending Violence Against Children and has garnered extensive coverage by CNN and BBC, being honored in 2018 as a CNN Hero and BBC Outlook Inspirations Award winner.
Why are you passionate about your project?
The hardships we’ve faced have inspired our passion for A Breeze of Hope. Brisa grew up in the heart Bolivia’s Andean region; Parker in rural Alabama. But their common sufferings united their seemingly separate worlds. At 15, Brisa suffered 8 months of daily rape and torture. When she broke the silence, her home was stoned twice and set on fire. She endured innumerable attempts to silence her, including death threats, attempted vehicular assaults, and an attempted kidnapping. Brisa also suffered two-mistrials and countless appeals over 8 years, after which her aggressor fled Bolivia.
Meanwhile in Alabama, Parker was emerging from years of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual violence. As a young child, Parker was kidnapped and sexually abused by multiple aggressors. He later endured prolonged psychological violence while witnessing his mother suffer years of rape and domestic violence. At age 17, Parker put his mother in their old SUV and drove north to Pennsylvania, set on beginning a new life.
Brisa and Parker’s paths crossed at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Right away they developed a shared dream of providing to other children the support and protection they never received, and soon after A Breeze of Hope was born.
Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?
First, we’ve been excelling in our work for 15 years in Bolivia, an intensely hostile place for human rights defenders. Our expertise is second to none. We have 15 years of first-hand experience on the front-lines of healing and the pursuit of justice for child survivors. We’ve trod the path thousands of times and can thus faithfully guide vulnerable children and families on the arduous journey toward healing and justice.
Second, our impact improves each year because we’re open to change and growth. Our greatest commitment is to understanding the problems child survivors face and to skillfully solving those problems. We are not committed to any particular method, school of thought, or therapeutic process. Rather, ours is a highly specialized yet dynamic approach that responds to the unique needs of each child. Like the world’s greatest physicians, we use and develop wholesome means to sooth each child’s ailments.
Third, our dynamic approach and dogged persistence have led to unprecedented success, including (1) the highest conviction rate in the world – 95% conviction rate in child sexual assault trials; (2) 98% of our participants finish high school and many go on to college; and (3) 60% boost self-esteem and reduce PTSD symptoms within the first year.
Finally, we know that the model we have built in Bolivia could serve as a blueprint for other centers looking to heal the whole child and change the system around them. Given the resources, we could scale this to serve and protect countless other children.
Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.
We face many recurrent obstacles, including death threats, media harassment, and funding shortages. Yet one unexpected obstacle was internal. In August 2015, our psychologists and attorneys noticed that our social workers were reluctant to participate in team meetings. The strange thing, we noticed, was that all of the social workers were reluctant.
We conducted an in-depth inquiry into this rare occurrence. Through file reviews, systematic peer evaluations, and anonymous questionnaires, we identified two social workers who were eliminating essential client care activities and scheduling false home-visits (time that the entire social work unit used for shopping, trips to the park, housekeeping, and side jobs). These two social workers also deliberately escalated interpersonal conflict within our teams to deflect attention from their disruptive scheme.
The intentional obstructiveness of these social workers took us by surprise because of the sheer volume of external obstacles to our work. After consulting with Bolivia’s department of labor, we dismantled our social work unit and rebuilt it from the ground up, hiring new staff with extensive training in trauma-informed modalities. Though rebuilding our social work department temporarily reduced our social work services, our decision resulted in a social work unit that remains strong to this day.
Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.
At 17, Brisa dreamed of creating a National Day Against Childhood Sexual Violence. In 2004, she began sharing her story publicly -- at schools, on radio and TV -- inviting people to join a city-wide march and spread the message that survivors are not alone and that it’s never their fault. She mobilized volunteers, invited the Governor and city Mayor, and also collaborated with police and city officials to close roads and involve the entire community.
After months of campaigning, on August 9th (Brisa’s first trial date), Brisa led over 10,000 supporters in the city’s first march against childhood sexual violence. National police and military officers barricaded streets and protected participants. Cochabamba’s Governor and Mayor walked with the children and endorsed Brisa’s courageous leadership, vowing to support her. Even the Chief Judge of Cochabamba’s highest regional court joined the march and publicly promised to hold aggressors accountable and prioritize cases of sexual violence against children. The following year, Bolivia’s President signed August 9th into law as The National Day Against Sexual Violence.
Brisa and Parker continue tackling Bolivia’s toughest problems and legal reform issues – and they continue to march with survivors each August 9th in cities across Bolivia.
How long have you been working on your project?
Where are you headquartered?Cochabamba, Bolivia
What type of organization is your project?Nonprofit
Describe what makes your project innovative.
Our child-directed governance structure makes our organization unique and disruptive. Three teenage survivors of sexual violence sit on our board as fully voting members. Additionally, our advisory board is comprised entirely of child and adolescent survivors of sexual violence from our center. These governance changes—started in 2015—have created a new performance dimension by fostering a renewed sense of safety, choice, and control among the children we serve.
Data from our center supports our claim to this new performance dimension. In 2015, 42% of the children in our therapeutic programs increased their self-esteem within their first year at our center. Since then we’ve watched that number climb to 52% in 2016, 71% in 2017, and 75% in 2018 and 2019.
The presence of our direct beneficiaries on our board caused this qualitative leap. No other innovation in our organizational history so quickly and radically improved our performance. As soon as we renovated our governance structure, the children knew they were represented at our highest management level, and knowing that made all the difference in the world. The children experienced a gut-level sense of “Here, I matter and my voice matters.”
These teenagers improved our performance in ways that all of our adult-driven innovations couldn’t. The missing piece was the unmediated decision-making power of our direct beneficiaries in management. Straightaway our slogan become, “Nothing about us without us.”
The youth we serve control our new performance dimension. Without them, we simply cannot perform at this level.
What is your theory of change?
Our desired impact on humanity is to improve respect for children’s human rights by dramatically reducing rates of sexual violence against children (SVAC). Our prevention model’s efficacy has been classified as “Prudent” in an impact evaluation conducted by Oak Foundation, The Equality Institute, and Together For Girls (available at https://www.togetherforgirls.org/wp-content/uploads/2019-11-15-What-Works-to-Prevent-Sexual-Violence-Against-Children-Evidence-Review.pdf). “Prudent efficacy” means that clinical experience, descriptive studies, reports of expert committees, respected authorities, and global resolutions have determined the intervention is critical for preventing SVAC.
To achieve our desired impact on humanity, we pursue two broad outcomes: (1) improving survivors’ quality of life, and (2) increasing acceptance of social norms that value empathy, gender equality, partnership, respect for human rights, and mutual aid.
To assess our progress toward these outcomes, we assess these RESTORATION outputs: (1) Rates of SVAC disclosure, (2) Number of SVAC survivors who use our services on an annual basis, (3) Number of program participants who experience reductions in PTSD and other trauma related symptoms, (4) Number of SVAC cases in criminal justice system, (4) Percentage of prosecuted cases that result in convictions and sentencing for aggressors.
Our PREVENTION outputs are: (1) Number of school children, government officials, and other professionals who participate in our workshops on the dynamics of sexual violence, neuroscientific approaches to trauma recovery, advances in forensic medicine, etc., (2) Percentage of participants who express disapproval for attitudes and behaviors consistent with toxic gender stereotypes, (3) Percentage of participants who can recognize instances of sexual violence as such, (4) Percentage of participants who express approval for egalitarian gender norms, and (5) Number of public and private professionals who affirm the importance of sexual violence disclose and the restoration of victims’ rights.
Finally, to generate positive change for the outputs listed above, we (1) provides children and families with safe spaces to disclose actual or suspected SVAC; (2) afford comprehensive trauma recovery support, including free legal, social, and psychological services; (3) engage in international advocacy to challenge harmful legislation; and (4) educate, train, and mobilize civil society and governments to acknowledge the high prevalence SVAC and disrupt social norms that drive SVAC.
Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Our project’s restoration initiative currently services approximately 270 children. In one year, we provide free legal, social, and psychological support to approximately 500 children, and 2,500 non-offending family members. Assuming our current growth rate, we will serve approximately 2,500 children and 7,500 non-offending family members over the next five years.
Our project’s prevention initiative has served 3,000 individuals this year. This initiative services approximately 7,000 people in one year. Over the next five years we expect to serve close to 40,000 individuals with in-person, participator workshops on sexual violence awareness.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
One of our primary goal for the coming year is to accommodate our service delivery to Covid-19 social dynamics. Since Bolivia began its stay-at-home orders, we’ve already established the country’s first SVAC hotlines, as well as virtual trainings for professionals and government officials and web-based therapy sessions.
Over the next five years, we plan to:
1—Data Tracking Capability. Expanding our current data capability will enable us to conduct high-impact studies of our interventions using quasi-experimental designs. This critical research will improve our interventions and support advocates around the world.
2—Training Center. We also seek to become a full-fledged training center. The impulse that drives our quest to scale is to share our knowledge and practice with others. We envision an entire movement of autonomous civil society and government institutions working to end SVAC. The knowledge of healing belongs to the great commons of humanity, and we dream to spread that knowledge freely and as far as possible.
3—Working Materials. The better our data collection process, the more insight we have into trauma recovery. Thus, we also plan to publish annually revised working materials and protocols. We will engage our staff in a participatory style research that embraces the deep experience and insight our staff.
4—Inter-American Case. We are litigating a is pending before the Inter-American court of Human rights. We will continue to push the case through the Inter-American system with the goal of establish a regional precedent that will directly impact laws in 31 countries.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
The first barrier is lack of funding. Covid-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supports to scale back or altogether withdrawal their support.
The second barrier is potential ungovernability in Bolivia. Covid-19 coupled with Bolivia’s upcoming transition to a democratically elected regime (as opposed to the interim regime) present an ominous picture of Bolivia’s future. The country’s justice system is already near collapse, and Covid-19 worsening of pre-existing societal problems may hasten this collapse. That said, Bolivia is an incredibly resilient country and has tenaciously recovered many times from coup de stats, economic chaos, and widespread insurrection.
The third barrier is our need for more in-depth research. Research is vital as we continue our efforts to scale and partner with governments. Ethical quasi-experimental research models require dedicated personnel to manage the studies. Our current data tracking system is strong, but we need additional personnel to conducted in-depth research and share our findings with other passionate advocates.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
To address our first barrier, we are diversifying our funding streams to offset downfalls in some of our donor segments. To put it simply, we’ve upped our prospecting efforts to maintain a steady influx of new donors. We’ve worked closely with our board to create a comprehensive operational plan that catalogues a specific and actionable path forward in these unprecedented times.
To address our second barrier—the potential ungovernability of Bolivia—we will do what we’ve always done, which is remain apolitical in our approach. Our apolitical stance has earned us the reputation of being a safe haven to all. We’re here to serve everyone one, because child sexual abuse cuts across all demographic categories, affecting people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or economic status. During Bolivia’s recent political unrest in late 2019, we served families from both sides of the conflict. Our publicly known neutrality insulates us from much of the conflict.
To address our third barrier—increased ability for research—we will continue our efforts to raise additional funds to support this aspect of our work. We will write research specific grants to cover the costs of these activities, which are beyond the scope of our core operational grants. Here, just as with our general fundraising, there’s no substitute for constant prospecting and the footwork of networking. To weather these storms, we’re going back to the basics of strong business practice.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We have an amazing group of partners who provide us with incredible financial, networking, and advocacy support. Our current partners include Novo Foundation, Oak Foundation, Global Fund for Women, Equality Now, Hearts on Fire, Light My Fire, Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation, AllPeopleBeHappy Foundation, Together for Girls, The Global Women’s Institute, and the Otto Bremer Trust for Safe and Healthy Children at the University of Minnesota.
We also partner with amazing local organizations (civil society and government) in Bolivia to increase the impact of our direct services and prevention advocacy. These include Fundacion Familias Saludables, Wiñay Pacha, Red Contra la Violencia Sexual, Red Contra la Violencia Contra la Mujer, UNICEF Bolivia, and SEDEGES.
What is your business model?
We would very much like to expand our current business model to include an external enterprise that functions as a funding source for our social services. Our current non-profit operates with a low-income client model. We raise funds to provide completely free services to children and families who are among the most impoverished, traumatized, and marginalized in Bolivia. We believe it would be deeply unethical for us to use a fee-for-service model (even on a sliding scale), especially considering the plight of clients. In our view, justice and healing are fundamental rights enshrined in international human rights law. Respect for our fundamental rights ought not be linked to our purchasing power as consumers.
Our business model can also be viewed as a species of market linkage. We provide the essential link that facilitates a support services structure for marginalized survivors of childhood sexual violence. We forge linkages with like-minded and courageous intuitions and individuals to redistribute resources to a population that severely lacks resources and access to the necessary financial networks.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Our operations are sustained through donations and grants, and by raising investment capital. Our largest source of revenue is grants from public and private foundations. Our second major source of revenue is individual donations. Our smallest sources of revenue are our income generating activities (i.e. international service-learning trips for volunteers/students) and endowment earnings (in the future).
With regard to our endowment, we don’t currently support our project with earnings from the investments. We are in the process of building it so that in time we will have a sustainable stream of income.
To ensure that revenue streams cover our expected expenses, we work hard to diversify our donor base. For us this means reaching into new networks and prospecting new institutional donors. During the last 15 years, we’ve experienced the protective nature of diverse funding streams. We’ve had streams run dry without collapsing our operation. Our goal is to strengthen this practice that has served us so well to date.
If you have raised funds for your project or are generating revenue, please provide details.
NoVo Foundation = $200,000 yearly (grant renewed every 3 years since 2014)
Oak foundation = $50,000 to $100,000 (grant renewed on uneven schedule based on specific needs and objectives)
Equality Now =$25,000 yearly (grant renewed every year since 2016)
Global Fund for Women = $20,000 yearly (renew every 2 years since 2019)
Dorothea Haus Ross = 40,000 (one-year grant contract)
All People Be Happy Foundation = $10,000 (grant renewed yearly since 2016)
Light My Fire = $5,000 yearly (granted renewed yearly since 2014)
World of Children Award = $25,000 per year for 4 years (2019- 2022)
If you seek to raise funds for your project, please provide details.
During the next three years, we seek to raise approximately $1,500,000 for direct service operations. We expect the bulk of these funds to come from grants. The remainder will come from individual donations. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by October 2021, $1,000,000 by October 2022, and $1,500,000 by October 2023. Raising approximately $500,000 USD per year over the next three years will permit us to strengthen our support model as we expand our service capacity in Bolivia.
In addition to these operational funds, we plan to raise $1,000,000 of investment capital for our endowment.
What are your estimated expenses for 2020?
Our estimated expenses for 2020 are $450,000.
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
The Elevate prize can help us overcome our funding difficulties. The mentorship, media campaigns, and development assistance features of the Elevate Prize would be invaluable contributions to A Breeze of Hope’s work. Elevate prize can help us overcome our financial difficulties in the following ways:
· Enhance our marketing capacity
· Help us expand our networks
· Identify potential financial partners (private businesses and foundations)
· Increase our visibility before global groups of social entrepreneurs
Elevate can also help us overcome the barrier we face to more sophisticated research with the data we collect. We are already collecting and using extremely valuable data. The Elevate Prize could help us take our use of data to the next level by helping us connect with funding opportunities for research and form partnerships with expert data management specialists. The ethical use of quality data has incredible potential to elevate the lives of the marginalized populations we serve.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Our primary partnership goal with Elevate is to learn as much as we possibly can from the tremendous business expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that pervades everything at Elevate.
Another partnership goal we have is to collaborate with and learn from other Elevate Prize partners. The community of non-profit leaders and social entrepreneurs curated by Elevate will be incredibly rich in knowledge and experience, and we would love to learn from this amazing community. One of our constant missions is to learn from others and also share our experience. Our programs in Bolivia are the fruit of vibrant exchanges among advocates over the last 15 years, and we would be honored to cross a new frontier of learning with Elevate!
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to partner with Ford Foundation, Kering Foundation, The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, The Joyful Heart Foundation, and The Hand Foundation.
Forming partnerships with these institutions would help diversify our grant portfolio and increase the financial stability of our center for child survivors of sexual violence.
- Brisa De Angulo & Parker Palmer CEO & CFO and founders, A Breeze of Hope