CeaseFire works to stop the cycle of violence in the city of Chicago through addressing the root causes of these outcomes. The CeaseFire team consists of individuals originally from the areas in which they work, and their task is to build relationships with “high risk” youth and adults. It is out of these relationships that CeaseFire can assist individuals with obtaining employment, remaining in school, locating emergency housing, and also directly preventing and interrupting violence. The staff typically possess similar life experiences to the clients with whom they work, which offers credibility to their messages of alternate choices and of caution. In the past six months, it has been my privilege to intern with this meaningful organization.
It is atypical to have a “typical” day of work with CeaseFire. A single day may involve visiting the hospital after a shooting, meeting with community organizations to leverage employment resources for the benefit of CeaseFire clients, meeting with police officers about recent issues, and doing professional development with the outreach workers themselves. It is truly a direct service in all senses of the phrase, and I’ve seen the ways in which CeaseFire truly changes lives. The workers enter unarmed into gun fights, and also work to prevent retaliations through peace treaties. As an intern at CeaseFire and an individual who is not a former gang member, most of my work is with community organizations and the staff instead of with clients. And yet it is extraordinarily inspiring to see the life-changing effects of my co-workers, and I am honored to play a very small part in the work they do. The more I learn from the people, the more clearly I see that violence emerges from a plethora of factors. It requires a holistic approach to target all of the root causes, and CeaseFire cannot do this work alone. But one thing I know for certain: Chicago would be a very different place without the presence of CeaseFire.
Molly Crane is a rising junior majoring in Sociology and Political Science and minoring in Global Health.