Funds to go to improved training materials to expand reach, impact of community development program.

Shalom Director Michael Christensen in a 2011 video interview.

Communities of Shalom, a Drew University-based community development organization, has received an $85,000 grant from the Jesse Ball duPont Foundation.  According to Michael Christensen, national director of the Shalom initiative, the new funding will be used to modernize the organization’s training materials and make them available to a wider audience, two moves that will extend the impact and reach of the Shalom message.

Shalom is a global interfaith initiative that trains community developers to enact positive change in their own communities.  It identifies areas in need of support, designates them Shalom Zones and equips local developers to draw upon available assets to improve housing, public safety, and access to education and health care.

“The faith-based and love-inspired Shalom Zone training product has been evolving for 20 years,” Christensen said.  “This grant allows us to update it by incorporating new pedagogy and technology that will prepare volunteers to transform their communities.”

According to Christensen, training involves a 42-hour program comprising seven workshops, each of which focuses on a different aspect of community development.  He says the duPont grant will allow Shalom to “deliver the product in a multimedia, multisensory way…and also make distance learning possible.”

In addition to Christensen’s planned enhancements to the Shalom training program, he also has plans to use the grant to publish a workbook for volunteers that will allow trainees to keep the lessons of the program close at hand.

In thinking broadly about the work of the Shalom program, Christensen has a pretty clear vision of what success should look like—and, according to him, it’s not as easy as placing volunteers in soup kitchens.

“If we can see safer streets, more accessible schools and healthcare, economic development and other measurable changes in the community, then that would indicate the success of Shalom.”—Michael Bressman