The effects the early days of COVID-19 had on the Twin Cities, the country, and the world continue to be realized more than three years later. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations bore the brunt of the economic impact, with countless doors closed forever.
Many of the groups that remained in operation through the pandemic struggled to survive and relied on varying assistance from governments and other organizations.
The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was front-and-center in the pursuit to help small businesses and nonprofits survive. Sunrise Banks participated as a PPP lender through multiple rounds of funding, processing nearly 4,000 loans in 2020 and 2021.
Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute
Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute (Peacebuilding) was founded in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) to administer the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience ® Off Site Link (STAR) training. The training was originally developed at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in Virginia following the 9/11 tragedy. STAR is well-known nationally and internationally as a successful training for community leaders and care providers to become “trauma-informed, resilience-oriented, and restorative-focused within their spheres of influence.”
Since its inception, Peacebuilding – with its focus on turning psychological trauma into nonviolent power – has grown to be one of Minnesota’s premier professional development and community education resources.
Peacebuilding provides its learning opportunities on a pay-what-you-can basis. Programming covers a wide range of essential topics, including trauma awareness, restorative justice, self-care for resilience, and racial healing.
Peacebuilding Receives PPP Lifeline
Like most organizations at the start of the global pandemic, Peacebuilding was concerned about how it would continue serving the community during such uncertain times.
Peacebuilding worked with Sunrise Banks in July 2020 to apply for a PPP loan and was notified of acceptance in October. The loan, in the amount of $10,700, was forgiven in February of 2021. This support allowed Peacebuilding to endure unprecedented events, providing its critical, unparalleled work training and supporting individuals and organizations during a time when it was desperately needed.
We spoke with the Peacebuilding team about their experience operating during COVID, and other events the community faced during that challenging time.
How did the PPP loan help Peacebuilding remain operational during the global pandemic and thrive in the face of adversity?
The PPP loan played a crucial role in ensuring our nonprofit’s continuity, allowing us to cover essential expenses like rent and payroll for our four full-time employees and various contractors. This financial support not only allowed us to keep our team intact, but also granted us the flexibility to focus on fulfilling our mission in ways we never dreamed of before.
How did COVID-19 affect the work you do?
We were processing the trauma ourselves, and Peacebuilding work was a good outlet for that energy. Once the pandemic hit, we had to channel the energy that emerged from all the chaos, pain, and uncertainty. We asked ourselves, “What can we do to help?” and “What resources can we share?”
In order to ensure the safety of our participants and staff, we had to adapt quickly. We shifted our in-person training to virtual. While this transition posed various challenges, it also opened up new opportunities. It allowed us to reach a broader and more geographically diverse audience, making our training accessible to individuals who might not have been able to attend in-person sessions. Since making this shift, we’ve had people from nearly every continent attend our training!
Many people were processing their individual trauma, and we were all going through the collective trauma. In response, we added four new introductory training courses: Introduction to STAR, Introduction to Restorative Justice, Introduction to Talking Circles, and Introduction to Self Care for Resilience.
Resilience and Restoration Through Racial Unrest
In May 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic taking the lives of millions and shattering economies across the world, the Twin Cities were also experiencing turmoil of a different kind. George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed at the hands of officers from the Minneapolis Police Department while in their custody.
The video of the death of yet another unarmed Black person at the hands of police went viral. Protests erupted around the world. In Minneapolis, peaceful daytime protests gave way to violent unrest at night. By early June of 2020, the city experienced two deaths, over 600 arrests, and an estimated $550 million in property damage.
The trauma from these events is still being processed today. Peacebuilding’s efforts toward resilience and restorative justice continue to be necessary as the city works to overcome the lasting impact that Floyd’s murder and the racial unrest that followed had on the community.
How have the events of May 2020 in Minneapolis impacted the restorative justice and peacebuilding work you provide?
George Floyd’s murder interrupted the status quo and brought systemic racism to the forefront of people’s minds. There was a huge demand and interest in the topics that we’ve taught since 2010. People were seeking information and new ways to engage with themselves, those closest to them, and systems.
Our existing training programs really hit the mark in helping people deal with the trauma stemming from systemic injustices. But in direct response to this tragic event, we expanded our Coming to the Table Off Site Link program and introduced the MN Peacebuilding Racial Justice Book Club. We offered hands-on ways for people to remain committed to push for progress in the realm of racial healing.
Creating a Community of Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation
Peacebuilding’s critical work continues to expand and flourish thanks to the financial assistance it received in 2020, and to the dedicated group of individuals at the helm of the organization. While its successes are immeasurable as the community continues to heal and grow to overcome past experiences, the Peacebuilding team always strives for more.
What is your hope for the community you serve and how do you envision your organization helping them to get there?
Dr. Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard political scientist, suggests that it takes less than 5% of a cross section of the population working together to bring about significant structural change over time. Guided by this insight, we at the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute have set a goal to engage 5% of Minnesotans in our peacebuilding initiatives by 2030, which amounts to approximately 285,000 individuals.
Our vision is to create a community where peace, justice, and reconciliation are the norm. We aspire to create a society where every person, regardless of their background, can live without fear, discrimination, or violence.
Building Peace, Together
As a social engine for good, Sunrise Banks admires and supports Peacebuilding’s important mission to bridge Minnesota's gap in trauma awareness, restorative justice practices, and racial healing education.You can play a vital role in helping the organization achieve its 5% goal by: Participating in training sessions and events Off Site Link, spreading the word about educational opportunities within your network (find them on Facebook Off Site Link), contributing through donations to support initiatives Off Site Link, and exploring potential partnerships via email at firstname.lastname@example.org Off Site Link.