“When I commenced my work in Sri Lanka, with Quaker Peace & Service, the situation was so fraught that the word “peace” had a theoretical sense only.”
Jennifer Carnelly Ingrams life has been fostered by Quaker values, such as respect for all, unmitigated experience of God, simplicity of living, honesty, pacifism and struggle against injustice. Her father, Eric Baker, was a cofounder of Amnesty International. She has a BA in Education and Community Relations and has been working on peace-building, dialogue and inter-ethnic harmony in the eastern part of Sri Lanka since 1994. Jennifer is the founder and national director of Sri Lankan NGO Peace and Community Action (PCA).
During the course of over a decade of peace-building work in Sri Lanka, Jenny encountered a number of challenges. When she commenced work there the situation was so fraught that even the word “Peace” had a theoretical sense only. Communities were not actively involved in the process of peace-building, a mechanism that they generally conceived to be implemented only at top political levels. Through Quaker Peace & Service (QPS) – though people very often did not know what the abbreviation stood for – Jenny and her energetic team worked to develop capacity at grassroots level to contribute to the national peace process. When the QPS organization changed from being an international NGO to a local NGO there were new challenges awaiting. Local NGOs do not have the same power and as such she came to realize that the organization’s former competency, knowledge and value were lingering – even though the same work was still being undertaken and, to some extent, developed. However, the organization was able to surmount these challenges through incessant cooperation with local communities, ensuring that all disputing parties are taken on board. Jenny grew up in a cultural setting where men and women are treated equally. She had to come to terms with the fact that this was not the norm in Sri Lanka. Despite working in a joint capacity with her husband, she had to accept that it was her husband to whom most of the comments and queries were addressed. Furthermore, because of the peculiar Sri Lankan ethos, expatriates from the north are often given a privileged position and their ideas and suggestions are unquestionable. She therefore became aware of the need to avoid falling into the trap of assuming a “big boss” identity. However, she dealt with these peculiarities and has managed to bring harmony to the disputing ethnic communities in the region.
Peace and Community Action (PCA)
Europe | United Kingdom