Mediation Project Assists Ethnic Communities

The School of Law’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program is partnering with the International Institute of St. Louis on an innovative mediation training project to foster positive relationships within and among St. Louis’ ethnic communities.

C. J. Larkin, administrative director of the School’s ADR Program, says the mediation program is helping community leaders to both keep peace within their own community and to establish a good rapport with other nearby ethnic communities.

 “Community disputes arise for various reasons, but many are simply the result of misunderstandings about religious or cultural behaviors,” Larkin says. “Mediation helps de-escalate a problem and make it more manageable.”

Pamela DeVoe, Community Connections manager at the International Institute of St. Louis, says the program has proved invaluable for the many local refugees who were forced to leave their homelands and adjust to their new life in St. Louis.

A group of Somali women participate in a mediation training session.
A group of Somali women participate in a
mediation training session.

Forty-one individuals representing 26 ethnic groups – including those from the Horn of Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, China, Tawain, and India – have received intensive community mediation training. The participants then established an ethnic mediation council that holds monthly mentoring sessions.

The ASC Foundation, Norman J. Stupp Foundation, and Employees Community Fund of Boeing Inc. helped fund the project, which was expanded to include training for non-English speaking participants through the use of translators. Students in the law school’s Civil Rights and Community Justice Clinic also have assisted with the project.

Gedlu Metaferia, director of the African Mutual Assistance Association, says: “The training helped me a great deal. My elder experience combined with this academic knowledge gives me new insights. I am learning to listen to both sides calmly and to be impartial.”