Faith and Community Based Approaches to Victim Services
On December 20, 1993, things abruptly changed for Clementina Chéry and her family. Her oldest son, then 15-year-old Louis David Brown, was shot and killed on his way to a Christmas party given by a group called Teens Against Gang Violence (a violence prevention, intervention, and peer leadership development program).
To transform her pain and anger into peace in action, Ms. Chéry began reaching out to other survivors of violence. She founded the Survivors Outreach Services program to assist families immediately after a murder, helping with personal matters, from coordinating the family's support network, providing guidance, assisting with funeral planning, and dealing with the media to navigating the criminal justice system. Ms. Chéry saw a gap in the service delivery system for survivors of homicide victims. She decided to forge a new path to healing and reconciliation through the creation of innovative programs which teach and apply the core seven principles of peace: love, unity, faith, hope, courage, justice, and forgiveness.
Ms. Chéry is the co-author of PEACEZONE, an elementary school-based program (k-5th grade), that is designed to increase students' ability to heal from trauma and loss, make positive decisions, and avoid risk-taking behavior. Ms. Chéry is also the co-author of "Homicide Survivors: Research and Practice Implications," an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Ms. Chéry has developed a crisis response manual titled "What To Do After Leaving The Hospital: A Step-by-Step Burial Guide and Workbook."
On December 20, 2010, the 17th anniversary of the shooting death of her son Louis, Ms. Chéry met in a facilitated victim-offender dialogue with the man convicted of the shooting. Conducted at the prison where he is incarcerated, this conversation was one that she had sought for more than a decade, and the achievements of the meeting marked an important milestone in her continuing journey toward healing and justice. It also showed her a new way to approach the issues of prisoner reentry and offender accountability within a framework of family, community support, and engagement. The offender's mother is now a weekly volunteer at the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
Ms. Chéry work, commitment, and dedication to individuals, families, and communities impacted by violence has been recognized nationally, and she has received numerous honors for her leadership and service, including the Lady in the Order of St. Gregory the Great, the highest honor bestowed by the Pope John Paul II. On May 18, 2008, Ms. Chéry received an honorary doctor of law degree during Regis College's 78th annual commencement. In 2011, she received an honorary doctor of law degree from Mount Ida College and the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers. In February 2012, Ms. Chéry was ordained a senior chaplain with the International Fellowship of Chaplains, Inc.