RICHMOND (CBS SF) — A Richmond program is sending former criminals on all-expense paid trips — but there’s a catch. You have to go arm-and-arm with your enemy.
It’s part of the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship in Richmond. It aims to bring together Richmond residents separated by hate in a step-by-step program.
The most popular part is traveling. The fellowship pays for the guys to get out of Richmond, see California and the world.
“When we leave the country, you have to be willing to get on the plane with a young man who’s trying to kill you or someone you’re trying to kill,” said director and founder of Operation Peacemaker Fellowship Devone Boggan.
They’ve gone to Washington D.C. and Mexico City, meeting with public leaders, visiting colleges and doing community service projects. Working together can sometimes be more foreign to these guys than the countries they visit.
Before the program, fellow member Demylo Nash had only been as far as San Jose.
“They be like people trying to take you somewhere and take you out. That’s love right there,” Nash said. “People don’t give love like that nowadays.”
Sam Vaughn is a program mentor, hired because he had served 10 years in prison for attempted murder.
“You can’t change anyone’s history so if we start changing the values system of these young people the culture will shift,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t really understand as a man who I needed to be because I didn’t have another man showing me this is what a real man does.”
Now he’s doing what his dad couldn’t — trying to shift these men’s mind to build trust between mentor and fellow. That means not talking to police and looking away at non-violent illegal activity.
“Can’t do that,” Boggan said. “That would compromise everything we do. It would compromise our relationship, our word, our bond. The alternative in this city has been reflective of more and more gun violence.”
So far the alternative is working. These fellows are surpassing all expectations simply by staying alive and by giving rise to hope in a city that desperately needs it.
“This office and these fellows and this fellowship opportunity is a mother’s best hope that her son or daughter won’t be shot by a firearm in this city.”
The stats are impressive. Of the 68 fellows who have joined since 2010 — 57 of them haven’t been involved in any gun activity.
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