SANTA CRUZ > Nonprofit aims to unleash potential from the inside out
Ami Chen Mills-Naim’s approach to individuals seems well suited to Santa Cruz. As co-founder and education director for the Center for Sustainable Change (CSC), Chen Mills-Naim drew on philosopher Sydney Banks’ studies to design a very “human,” yet rare, approach to access the universal “core of peace” found in all people, and to improve communities from the “inside-out.” The center’s mission was recently bolstered by a $100,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, which they have used to help open a new location, and to continue spreading their services nationally.
Chen Mills-Naim’s goal is to help individuals with psychosocial distress to realize their own inner strength and capabilities as a method of finding relief—a drive that began for her via personal experience. As a young journalist in the ’90s, Chen Mills-Naim was intrigued by new medical discoveries that claimed they had “found the answer” to psychological issues exhibited in individuals. The answers to these “problems,” according to big national magazines, were prescription pills.
The CSC offers more holistic, natural alternatives that that focus on healing the harmful views that people hold of their own selves, and how those translate into their daily lives. The center, as explained in detail on their website, offers a range of services including one-on-one intensive consulting, leadership retreats, research projects, and couples’ and family consulting. All of center’s actions employ Dr. Banks’ three principles, which boil down to the idea that through showing individuals how to view themselves from a better perspective, they are able to live a more peaceful and rewarding life.
“I think all of the external ways of trying to fix problems—although they’re valuable and worthwhile—kind of stop at the place of human states of mind and ways of thinking,” Chen Mills-Naim says. Through the center and their projects, like the National Community Resiliency Project (NCRP), she hopes to “unleash the pent up potential of the human spirit by seeing through the fears and illusions we create about ourselves, about our capacities.” By implementing the principles of Dr. Banks in their consultations, the center hopes to help them “gain the ability to live life with grace and creativity, because they see that the external world holds no power over their peace of mind.”
The NCRP takes Chen Mills-Naim’s ideals to a more national level, expanding the use of these principles in other locations. The project brings this way of understanding psycho-social issues together with partner centers in Iowa, Mississippi, and North Carolina. The $100,000 bump in funding helps the project in its work with communities dealing with issues in crime, assaults and homicides, increased civic engagement, school attendance and educational performance.
“What we’ve been really missing,” says Chen Mills-Naim, “is the dimension of the human spirit. We haven’t found a way to unlock the potential of [it], and I think that these principles that we teach really do that.”
For more information about the CSC, visit centerforsustainablechange.org and cscmediacenter.org.