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The Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival offers young people around the world an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas about creating peace—by making films.

Carole Krechman, a 12-year resident of Rancho Mirage, is the driving force behind this transforming project, which is sponsored by her group, The Peacemaker Corps, a non-governmental organization established as a result of Carole’s experience as chairman of the board of the Friends of the United Nations.

Carole took a rather circuitous path to this endeavor. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School and went on to study architecture at UCLA. She spent many years redoing homes for famous people in the entertainment industry (she can drop names with the best of them!) before moving her specialty to roller-skating rinks, and then in the 1990s, to “family entertainment centers” including ice rinks, bowling alleys and so on.

“I’m especially proud of working in the late 1970s to establish the World on Wheels in South Central Los Angeles,” she recalls. “After the Watts riots, there was a need to rebuild the community. We convinced local politicians and the police that we could provide a safe environment for kids to come. We installed metal detectors, and ended up with a place that was safe and self-integrated, where young people could find companionship and community.”

Carole spent nine years working on projects in China, and as a result was asked to join the board of the Friends of the United Nations, a nongovernmental organization. In 1995, she was made chairman of the board.

“That was the year of the 50th anniversary of the UN,” she says, “and our role was to tell the world what was going on at the UN, to disseminate information that would help to build civil society around the world.”

Carole remembers the impact of listening to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. “He called for a decade of peace and tolerance,” she says, “and the Friends of the UN thought about creating a tolerance award. I left Friends in 1997 and spun off the Peacemaker Corps as a stand-alone NGO specifically focused on young people and those goals.”

Carole was able to secure a grant from Department of Housing and Urban Development and worked in partnership with malls around the country to offer restorative justice programs for youth.

“Our goal has always been to bring people together as colleagues instead of enemies,” she says. “We use education to empower youth to be actively involved in peacemaking in their own communities. When they attend mall events, they can download a free app to participate in global networks and activities.”

The Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival allows young filmmakers to use any technology available to share their own stories. Entries must be no more than five minutes long, and are judged in three categories: age 8 and under, 9-13, and 14-18.

“It hits my heart,” says Carole, “to get a film done on a cell phone from a young boy in a refugee camp, talking about the conditions and expressing his hope for a better life.”

Among the 2015 award winners are two local films made by participants in the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs. Ashelly Alvarez, of the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, took second place in the 8 and under category with her film, “Coachella Valley Peace in the Streets.”

Tiwahna Whyte, Vanessa Ledezma and Hayden Poulain of the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs won third place in 2015 in the 14-18 category. Their film, “Finding My Strength,” is a powerful personal statement by Tiwahna, who was bullied; she shares the way she handled her reactions. She first talks of confronting a bully and opening a dialogue that led to them becoming friends.

“All I did was stand up for myself. It was the first time I felt powerful. I said, ‘This is how I feel, and you can’t do anything about it, because I’m still going to do what I’m put on earth to do,’” she says in the film. Later, when she was again subject to bullying, she developed coping skills that included writing and sharing her feelings. Her film is a compelling testament to the difference it can make for youngsters to learn from others facing similar situations.

I urge you to go to the film festival website or scroll down to the end of this article to watch the amazing award-winning films submitted by young people from all around the world. The messages include one young man’s response to bullying: “Turn around and look at yourself.” A young girl walked around the streets of New York asking, “If you could change the world in one sentence, what would it be and why?” and submitted responses that vary from eating healthy to making peace. Another boy’s film, depicting physical confrontations, concludes, “You always have a choice, and it can change your own and everyone else’s lives.”

Carole Krechman has created and nurtured a wonderful organization dedicated to educating young people about their ability to influence each other to make a better world.

“I want kids to know they can walk anywhere in the world and know they’re not going to die, that violence won’t end their life,” she said.  

What have you done lately to make a difference? Supporting the Peacemaker Corps might be a good way to start.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

I’m always fascinated by people who find ways to change their lives and pursue their dreams.

Leanna Bonamici, 58, of Palm Springs, is a great example of such a person.

After a career in insurance and real estate, Leanna became a wine consultant, buyer and educator, teaching classes on how to have “wine-pairing dinners.”

“It was a very engaging subject,” she says. “I loved it. People would say, ‘I have to impress my boss.’ I always told them that the best bottle of wine in the world is the one that’s your favorite!

“But after 10 years, I wanted to do more. I was interested in how to reach the masses of people who aren’t really into wine.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, Leanna had wanted to be a producer—organizing projects and seeing them come to fruition. “I wanted to be behind the scenes. For years, I carried around the UCLA extension catalog, and I finally took classes in production. I’ve always loved that side of things. Anybody can have a great idea, but how do you monetize it?”

Leanna wrote to various show business experts, asking them questions about getting into the production side. “I especially contacted women in the industry. They were very congenial and helpful,” she says.

While working for an independent producer, Leanna attended a production-related event in San Diego, put on by the San Diego Film Commission and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. “There were world leaders in the industry, and I knew after that what I wanted to do. I got a day job with a fundraising organization, putting on events to raise money from people in the entertainment industry. Putting on events is production—you have to know where every fire is and how to put it out.”

Leanna came to the Coachella Valley in 1998 when her mom died, and her dad got sick. She committed to being his full-time caretaker. Her first “job” here was volunteering for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

“While my dad was healing,” says Leanna, “he came up with a plan to pay off the national debt! So when he read about possible bankruptcy in Desert Hot Springs, he devised a plan to help the city. In the process of speaking about it at a council meeting, someone stood up and said, ‘I’ve got a local TV show, and I’ll put you on the air.’ So I thought, ‘I can work with them and produce a wine show.’”

When Leanna learned that a post-office building in DHS was becoming available, “I was asked if I could turn the building into a studio for local producers to use.” She made a deal to buy the building. “For the next 10 months, our entire family transformed the building into a production facility for rent by others, including post-production capability. Then I began developing projects of my own.”

Leanna produced a documentary about the mineral waters of DHS, and a television series about restaurants, Two Forks Up, both of which aired locally. She also produced a feature film which, she says smiling, “is still awaiting distribution.”

Leanna’s most visible current project is Shorts Showcase, featuring short films from around the world, which runs on PBS stations throughout Southern California. “I was thinking about this project for a long time,” she says. “I especially love the documentaries. They’re real stories and history.”

Leanna is now partnering with Palm Desert resident Carole Krechman on the CV Studios Entertainment Network. “We’re building a network for premium content—no gore, violence, or porn. We just want good product,” Leanna says.

One new show is Cooking It Up With Karly, featuring 11-year-old Karly Smith, a talented youngster who demonstrates healthy food alternatives for young people and their families. Another is the 30-minute weekly series The Real Desert, featuring desert resident/historian Steve Brown.

Leanna was a founder of the Palm Springs Women in Film and Television chapter in 2001. “We bring together women and men connected to the entertainment industry, as well as raise money for scholarships that support interested young people.”

Leanna’s hope for the CV Studios Entertainment Network includes support for the development initiative articulated by the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership that focuses on creative arts and design as one of its core sectors for economic development.

Leanna is also supportive of the performing arts pathway being offered by Rancho Mirage High School. “I love the idea of having that here,” she says, “but there are not enough jobs. We need to back up those students by building good production facilities locally.”

If money were no object, what would Leanna be doing? “I love what we’re building with network and production capabilities. However, if I had total freedom, I would still be producing, but I’d do the wine documentaries I’ve always wanted to do. I want to tell those stories, reaching the broadest audience possible—and I’d be doing it for the fun of it as well!”

As for pursuing one’s dreams, I finally graduated college at 59, then got a law degree, and just completed a master’s degree in Education. Like Leanna, I believe it’s never too late to change your life.

What are you waiting for?

Published in Know Your Neighbors