Peace Center Fund
Spring Update

Cultural Academy for Peace and Covid

Amidst the spread of Covid in India and the increase of cases in Cochin, Kerala, chairperson Beena Sebastian and Cultural Academy for Peace are doing everything possible to keep residents and staff safe and supported.   At this point, vaccines, test kits, and oxygen cylinders are not available for them.  Yet, they continue their advocacy for women and children who are already in their care as well as those who are still seeking safety from harm.
In a heartfelt conversation with Deanna, Beena shared that she continues to feel moved by the support of the Cultural Connection community and all who give to help them continue their work. 

We’re so close!

Some questioned whether this could be done, but you’re showing them!

At approximately $126,000 we are so close to the overall goal of raising $150,000 so that Cultural Academy for Peace can purchase a piece of land on which to build a permanent and stable home for all of the varied and essential work they do in support of marginalized women and children in Kerala, India. The monthly contributions have averaged about $4,000 over the course of this project, launched on Giving Tuesday, December 3, 2019. At that rate, we are targeted to hit $150,000 by Giving Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

The Peace Center Fund Committee has begun to think of ways to celebrate.  Are in-person events possible?  We can hope, but no matter how we celebrate this achievement, it will be lovely and teeming with gratitude. This is so exciting! Amidst such a devastating and difficult year for so many and the sadness and shock we’ve all felt, this accomplishment represents hope. The committee is so grateful to all who have contributed, large and small, and all who have supported in many meaningful ways. 

p.s. The committee won’t be devastated if we hit the goal ahead of time : ) It could happen!

Local Farmers’ Market

Laura Farkas, the Chair of the Peace Center Fund Committee, recently relocated to Maryland in northern Baltimore County. She was delighted to learn of a local farmers market (Hereford Farmers Market in Monkton, MD) and arranged to set up shop on Saturday mornings in order to sell the lovely photo cards created by Cultural Connections community members Lindsey Minchella and Vera Weiser.  Thanks to both of them for donating their creative skills and time in order to raise funds for Cultural Connections and The Peace Center Fund.  The cards help create a lovely display (see picture above) and offer and graceful opening to discuss the project. We had a successful day last week and are looking forward to another one tomorrow. It sure is nice to be out and about in the world again! 

Celebrate Success!!!

We Surpassed the Goal

In honor of International Women’s Day, and with the support of a very generous donor, the Peace Center Fund established a goal to raise $5,000 during the month of March. That $5,000 was to be matched dollar – for – dollar. 

WE DID IT and more. The total collected during the month of March was $6,845.00, with the $5,000 match, we raised $11,845 in just one month! 


As of April 9, 2021, we have raised $123,469 towards the ultimate goal of $150,000. And the Cultural Academy for Peace is well on its way to realizing its vision of a permanent and stable base of operations and precious facility where women can get the help and nurturing they need to gain safety and self sufficiency.

Thank you to all – simply wonderful.

Sincerely, with love and gratitude,


Laura Farkas, Chair, Peace Center Fund Committee

(photo art: Guille’ Alvarez)

Matching Challenge Update

Dear Peace Center Fund Supporters

We wanted to let you know that as of March 15, halfway through the month of March, we are  

 Halfway to the goal of $5,000!  

Please enjoy the attached video produced by Emily Carter in Lafayette, IN, taken during her trip to India and a visit to the Cultural Academy for Peace. This is why there is a Peace Center Fund : ) More of this, please!!! More capacity to do the work of connecting women survivors to what they need to secure their futures.

Thank you to those who have taken notice of this very generous matching challenge. I just know we’ll get there because of you.


Laura Farkas, Chair, Peace Center Fund Committee


A generous and thoughtful anonymous donor to the Peace Center Fund is challenging us all!

In recognition of International Women’s Day, all donations to the Peace Center Fund made during the month of March will be matched up to $5,000.00

That’s $10,000

towards the goal of raising funds to help Cultural Academy for Peace (a non-profit in Kerala, India) provide stable facilities and healing resources or vulnerable and marginalized women and children.



·       Very exciting news to report!

As of February 19, the Peace Center Fund has raised approximately $110,000, just over 2/3 of the goal of $150,000.  Beena Sebastian’s vision of a permanent and stable location for Cultural Academy for Peace’s shelters and programming is becoming reality.  It brings happy tears to the eyes and it’s because of the contributions and dedication of people like you!  Please watch your email for upcoming announcements and ideas for how we can get this project done!


·       The impact of the Cultural Academy for Peace is felt throughout their community via the breadth of meaningful activities. Here are some highlights…


        Continued success in supporting women in immediate distress via the Pankhi (helpline) and Sakhi (drop-in center)


        Ongoing partnership with local Legal Aid resources to provide education and assistance to women in need


        Shantibhavan, the Domestic Violence shelter continues to provide holistic care to women and children, successfully avoiding Covid infections


        Participation in India’s Ujjwala Project which advocates for the prevention of trafficking of women and children


“Our journey has placed us in a position to deliver scaled and lasting change in the lives of 1000s of women and children who are exposed to

various types of violence, discrimination, oppression and humiliation in the society. We are determined in our efforts to cultivate peace, justice and commitment to the values defining our vision.”


Beena Sebastian, Founder and Chair, Cultural Academy for Peace



As we settle into this new year with last year and its challenges receding further into our rearview mirrors, one thing that fills me with hope and gratitude is the generosity of the many individuals who have contributed to the Peace Center Fund and continue to do so in such lovely ways.  The commitment exhibited by so many to help Beena Sebastian and the Cultural Academy for Peace purchase a permanent, stable, and functional home for their shelters and related support activities is every bit as important as the dollar amount raised.


I did not know what to expect when Deanna Brown and I established the Peace Center Fund and am truly humbled by the heart of the Cultural Connections community and other friends and loved ones who have joined this effort.


Thank you most sincerely,

Laura Farkas, Chair, Peace Center Fund






Watch this space for an upcoming exciting announcement in honor of International Women’s Day


Thanks to all!

Hello Peace Center Fund friends and supporters,

I thought I’d take the opportunity of a holiday dedicated to giving thanks to update you on the Peace Center Fund Auction event. What a success!  And so fun!  We received many comments about how beautiful and meaningful the donated items are. ‘So happy they will be enjoyed by such thoughtful people.

The Fund added $4677.00 toward the ultimate goal of $150,000 which when added to what we’ve gathered to date,  brings us 1/3 of the way there. This is fantastic news! There is so much to be grateful for.

I’d also like to take a moment to send thoughts of peace and love across the oceans to Kerala, India and the women of the Cultural Academy for Peace.

May you all enjoy time with your loved ones (“zoomed” in or in person) in good health and happiness this holiday season.

‘So thankful for you all.



Laura Farkas, Chair, Peace Center Fund

Checking in With The Cultural Academy for Peace and The Peace Center Fund

Thank you for very much to all who have contributed to this great cause of helping The Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India, purchase a piece of land to call home and hub of their significant operations.  We are on a course for success! Please read below for news and updates. 

Laura Farkas, Chair Peace Center Fund Committee

A Note from Deanna about her Birthday Fundraiser

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”  Karl Barth

With gratitude for the ways both giving and receiving bring joy, I thank all who met my (Deanna’s) birthday challenge! We more than doubled the birthday challenge and received generous donations of fifteen thousand ($15,000.00) – all of which will go to the Peace Center for Cultural Academy, Kerala, India.

Keep alert for more information from chairperson Laura Farkas and the Peace Center Fund Virtual Auction committee!

Deanna Brown, Founder and Director of Cultural Connections

September 1 7, 2020

From Beena Sebastian in Kerala, India: Supporting Women Through the Covid-19 Pandemic

Here in India the numbers of Covid-19 cases are increasing day by day. In Kerala, 30451 were affected by Covid-19 in total. 11983 people are under treatment in Kerala.   And there is a hope that 18,333 were cured from the disease.The current situation is alarming and the state of Kerala is taking new measures like area  lockdowns. Since the lockdown restrictions are continuing for a longer time, many women are facing violence inside the families. Many are seeking our help and our Trauma Care Center is vigilant and is extending timely support through e-counseling. We are attending the most serious cases here at our center.The most vulnerable groups are the venders, small scale business persons, the fishermen community, and slum dwellers.  The rates of suicide by children and families is increasing drastically due to the exclusion and loneliness. 

Cultural Academy‘s Trauma Care Center is extending community awareness programs and Dr. Suzanna Mathew who is a specialist in Community Medicine is leading the same. Recently we have conducted a Webinar on the subject ‘Compacting gender based violence during the period of lockdown’  Government officials, college faculties, women and gender groups, senior lawyers, women survivors, activists and students participated in the webinar. The webinar was of three areas in focus with the first presented by Beena Sebastian. “Gender based violence” was headed by Beena Sebastian (Chairperson). She focused on the characteristics of Masculinity and how men and women are directly affected by the patriarchal norms of gender roles and violence – and also how it gives a negative impact on children while they grew up by seeing the patriarchy overpower women.   

Shantibhavan Update:  Five of our girls who appeared in the 12th standard passed and one of them named Sandra scored among the highest marks.  Her interest is to go for L.L.B i.e., Law graduation. She appeared for the entrance test to get admission at the Government Law College.  The other four have dreams and plans of going for further education.

A shared joy is a double joy: shared sorrow is half a sorrow.

Stay safe and stay in peace

Team Cultural Academy for Peace


Donations for Auction from your Art, Skill, or Heart Requested!

The Peace Center Fund, is hosting an exciting Auction Event and we are hoping you are able to participate with a donation that comes from your art, your skill, or your heart. The Peace Center Fund project is dedicated to raising funds for the purchase of a plot of land in Kerala, India for Cultural Academy for Peace, to build upon the important work they do empowering women. Perhaps you have an artistic gift, or a wealth of knowledge about a particular topic. You are valuable and we believe that others will agree and help us reach our goal!

We’re Virtual!       

Given the realities of the current situation, and the awesome technology that allows so much connection despite physical distance, the Peace Center Fund Auction will be an online affair, taking place Nov. 14 – 21. If you have a gift you are able to donate, please fill out the information below and submit it to us by Oct. 15, 2020.

With Gratitude

Thank you so much for considering a donation to the Peace Center Fund Auction Event. Your gifts will lead to success.

Submit the information below, via email with “PCF Auction” in the subject line, to…

Vera Weiser, by Oct. 15, 2020

  • Brief Description of the Item or Service, including value if applicable
  • Please provide a short bio of yourself, your connection to the donation and/or your connection to the Peace Center Fund’s efforts.
  • Attach a photo of item, if applicable. jpg file size limit, 640 x 480 pixels

Note: Donor assumes responsibility for shipping item to bid winner. PCF Auction committee will communicate shipping address and relevant information.


Laura Farkas, Vera Weiser, Lisa Pantea

Peace Center Fund Auction Team

Peace Center Fund Updates

Thoughts and Updates 
from Laura Farkas, Chair, Peace Center Fund Committee

Hello all. I hope this update finds you healthy and amongst loved ones. I imagine, knowing this audience, that many are immersed in deep thought and some pain, and maybe even some hope from seeing all the beautiful activism, confronting the reality of the racism embedded in police forces across the country. My inability to understand how some people deem others as lesser and therefore justify violence upon their bodies and dignity, led me to the study and teaching of History. Whether it is women, people of color, or differing classes in society on the receiving end, the phenomenon is so common that I think it’s easy for people to think, “that’s just the way it is,” “that’s just human nature,” or, “It’s always been that way.” I don’t believe that. I believe the realities of racism and gender violence are the result of choices made by those who have power and they can choose differently. Why they don’t is the question scholars and others attempt to explain – and my bookshelf and e-reader reveal my own attempts at understanding.  I’m still confused, angry, and saddened.  

But this I do know…it reveals limp weakness and incredible lack of imagination to believe that the empowerment of those in our households, our communities, and our nation, who are demanding respect, will somehow lead to our own diminishment.  The fact is that if all parts of the body – our communities –  are nurtured and treated as important, the whole self becomes strong and healthy and is prepared to live its best life. 

No One Has Contracted Covid at
Cultural Academy for Peace 

The Peace Center Fund is here to support the efforts of Beena Sebastian, the founder of Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India. We know about Beena’s work of empowering young women because of her friendship with Deanna Brown and her work to connect women across cultures via Cultural Connections sojourns to India. Look at those two beautiful faces! India has been on shelter-in-place orders since March 24. In a recent conversation, Deanna was able to learn how Beena and the Cultural Academy for Peace are doing during this challenging time.

To this date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 among the residents or staff, nor on Komkutta Island, a community of Kerala that Cultural Academy for Peace is much involved with. Because of the need for safety, Cultural Academy for Peace has made it clear that they are unable to take in any more residents until the immediate crisis has passed. Four team members stay with the residents in the ShantiBhavan (shelter) and do not go their own homes. Beena and one other staff member have just recently begun going back into the office.

While the Peace Center Fund is raising money specifically for the purchase of land on which to build a permanent presence, many people receiving this update have donated funds to Cultural Academy for Peace for other purposes. Beena would like to report that recently those donations have helped get food to migrant workers left stranded due to the lock down of the country, provided gaps for ShantiBhavan residents with financial need, and helped a woman in the local community with payment to get her mother discharged from the hospital.

The best note! Each of Beena’s 3 grandchildren were able to spend a week with her and her husband, Sebastian. I am not a grandmother, but I hear from some trustworthy folks that “it’s the best.”


Peace Center Fund nears $30,000

Variety of Designs
As of May 31,  the Peace Center Fund has raised nearly $30,000! This is remarkable given the project is only 6 months old. Thanks to all of you who “get” the message of the importance and effectiveness of the work of Beena Sebastian and Cultural Academy for Peace in nurturing survivors of gender violence to a place of health and self assurance. We have a way to go to hit the target of $150,000 and we live in a world with many needs. If you are like me, you do what you can in a number of areas, and unfortunately, those needs are growing intensely in our own backyards. Recently, someone in my own family was laid off, and another is barely making it in his current job. The needs can be overwhelming, but I firmly believe that every little bit helps. 

Thank you to those who have chosen a small monthly online contribution. This keeps the momentum going forward. Never under estimate the power of many small gifts! Speaking of small gifts, please consider honoring a person who is going above and beyond during these challenging times with the gift of photo art from India. With a donation of any amount, we will hand write a message and mail a beautiful note card, created by Lindsay Minchella.  Please give online by clicking on the DONATE button below, or mail a check directly to our fiscal sponsor, On Earth Peace,  PO Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776-0188. Write “Peace Center Fund” in the memo line. Then email the address of the recipient and reason for honor to

Thank You

I just want to take this opportunity to thank Deanna Brown for exposing me to Beena Sebastian and the Cultural Academy for Peace. I also want to thank all of you who have supported and contributed to the efforts to help Beena realize the vision of a permanent and stable space for the Cultural Academy for Peace. This has been an incredible learning and loving experience.

Stay safe and healthy.


“Watch for the helpers” and
Honor them with a gift of Beauty

Variety of Designs

Do you know a frontline worker, or someone who is leaning into our current health and economic crisis with care, creativity, competence, and love?

With a donation in any amount to the Peace Center Fund, we will hand write a note of gratitude or honor from you into a photo note card that brims with the beauty and colors of India. 

 How Can I Express my gratitude in two easy steps?

 1) Please make a donation, in any amount, online at our Go Fund Me page or by sending a check made out to our Fiscal Sponsor, On Earth Peace, PO Box 188, New Windsor, MD, 21776-0188 – Peace Center Fund in the memo line

2) Then, email your message or reason for note and the honoree’s address to

We will ensure an artistic photo card is mailed to the recipient in a timely manner.

The wisdom of Fred Rogers’ mother has never been more relevant. Thank you, helpers.


The lift of coming together
is powerful.

The power of connection. 

During this difficult time of COVID-19, people in our communities our struggling financially, and some with their health. It’s frightening and our attention is understandably focused close to home. But there is nothing like a pandemic to remind us of the truth: humans are a deeply connected family. A donation to the Peace Center Fund, perhaps even a small monthly contribution, will help keep this fundraising effort active for when the world opens back up and we can share our gifts  and support for the Cultural Academy for Peace. Please check out the new pics and enjoy the inspiring video below and be encouraged by the healing power of music and dance, an integral tool used by Cultural Academy for Peace in Kerala, India.

Click here to make your tax-deductible donation

The lift of coming together.

It seems so long ago, but it was on March 7 that Shari Gass, Hana Razzaq, and Deanna Brown hosted a beautiful day dedicated to the creative arts and wellbeing, and also an incredible lunch, organized by Vera Weiser and Sue Aufderheide. 73 people were warmed by the light pouring in through the windows of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation and, with the generous donations of those who couldn’t attend AND a highly successful marketplace, $6,600.00 was raised for the Peace Center Fund! The successful weekend didn’t end there. People’s Brewing in Lafayette hosted its annual International Women’s Day event on Sunday, March 8, with local artists and non- profits dedicated to empowering women given the opportunity to share their work. More people were introduced to the Cultural Academy for Peace and its need for a Peace Center and contributed to this very worthy project.

The  ‘lift’ of coming together as a community is powerful and I look forward to the time when we can plan more events.

Welcome Auspicious Sisters.

In January of 2020, a group of 8 women traveled with Cultural Connections to South India. They came from Oregon, Maine, Connecticut, Michigan, and Indiana and spanned more than 3 decades in age. They named themselves the “Auspicious sisters” as a testament to the rich variety fo celebratory experiences they had. The voices of these women clamor to affirm that days spend with Beena Sebastian, the staff, and residents of Cultural Academy make the sojourn one that their hearts will never forget. 

News and Stories

Please visit the Peace Center Fund web site for more pictures and videos in the gallery and the new page labeled  “NEWS” where we will archive updates, video, and incredible stories of healing from the Cultural Academy for Peace.