^ City News
^ Events
^ Profile
^  Debate
^ Perspective
^ Monthly Calendar
^ Youth
^ Business
^ Immigration
^ Healthwise
^ InVogue
^ Fiction
^ Classifieds
^ Matrimonials
^ What's Cooking?
^ Melting Pot
^ Snapshots
^ A Day In The Life Of...
^ Family Portrait
^ Birthday Greetings
^ Baby Of The Fortnight
^ Model Mania
^ Kids Corner
<<Profile Main
NRIS! Do you know?
Rebecca Valencia: Marching for Peace
The founder of Veg-Ed has a new passion. Promoting local Global Marches to coincide with the Salt March in India.


Rebecca Valencia at the Local March in Springfield, MO. Photos by K. Werner. 

“Peace, nonviolence, and love are pure concepts. It’s who we are; it’s how we are supposed to be,” she says with passion. It is these concepts that drove Rebecca Valencia to conceptualize local Marches to coincide with the ongoing Salt March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi.

“My heart longed to go to India and participate in the Salt March. My feelings were so strong that I felt frustrated! Even if I could afford to travel to India, it would not be practical to be away from my children for an entire month. Taking them with me was not practical either,” she says. That is when, the mantra she had adopted for a long while- of internationalizing education at home- came chiming in, and the idea for local marches was born. She immediately contacted Len Piechowski, Administrator of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis. 

A few weeks later, she had an e-mail from Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Gandhi, and Trustee for the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in India. “He said they liked the idea and gave me a press release drafted by his father and President/Founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Mr. Arun Gandhi,” she says. Arun Gandhi coined the local march concept as a “Global March”. Tushar Gandhi expressed a hope for supporting marches in silence and candle light. “So, I birthed a concept, and they refined it.”

Now, Rebecca is a full-time volunteer on the national grassroots campaign to promote local Global Marches. The Gandhi Foundation has given her an official Salt March e-mail address to support publicity efforts. (

Global Marches support the history of the Salt March based on Gandhi’s request, “I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might.” The issue of “salt” prompted a Gandhi’s quest for justice. Today, there are still many other battles of “right against might”. The Global March concept creates a bridge between history and current events.

““Peace”, “Love”, “Unity”. These are important words to many of us, but how will we ever achieve them?” she says. “If we can come together with a common thought and common action for nonviolence and peace, that’s significant, especially in America where we may live next door to someone for years, but never know who they are. The Global March is about bringing the community together striving for higher ideals. It is about a silent inner journey to find the pathways to nonviolence and peace in every aspect of our lives. 

Rebecca was 25 years old when Gandhi’s life caught her attention. She had just moved to Chicago and enrolled in a yearlong social justice program. “The community advisor for our program, Irene, was a true Gandhian,” she says. “She showed us the “Gandhi” movie (starring Ben Kingsley), but let us come to her with questions. My favorite part of the movie was near the end where an Indian servant, dressed in formal attire, held a tray with tea and treats, but Gandhi gently took it out of the servant’s hands and begins offering hospitality to all the dignitaries. At that time I was drawn by his intelligence, strength, and empowering vocabulary.” Now, she is drawn to his simplicity. “His life exemplifies that there is freedom with simplicity.” 

Moving to Chicago when she was 25 was the turning point for everything. She learned about Gandhi, living in community, consensus-based-decision making, effective activism for worthy causes, and being a vegetarian.

Rebecca initially became a vegetarian for economic reasons. “There were seven women living in my community with only $400 a month for groceries,” she explains. “We made a consensus-based decision to buy only vegetables, not even milk and cheese, because we couldn’t afford it. We ate very well and everything tasted so good. I knew Gandhi was a vegetarian, but I didn’t give it much thought. However, I did begin focusing on environmental issues and world hunger. Learning that all the grains fed to cattle for meat production could end world hunger, I couldn’t eat beef ever again. Occasionally I ate fish and eggs, but still found it more economical, with less mess in the kitchen and cooking preparation time, which helps when raising a family.” Then in August, 2003, she met an Indian spiritual teacher, Sant Thakar Singh, in Umpqua, Oregon. From him, she learned of the many spiritual reasons for being a vegetarian, which further led her to reflect on Gandhi the vegetarian. She also started learning about the Jain religion. 

When she returned back to her hometown in Springfield, Missouri, she founded a Vegetarian Club. “The club was more social, and I wanted to offer education on the vegetarian diet. I wanted to support vegetarians, but mostly educate non-vegetarians about this lifestyle,” she says. Thus Veg-Ed was born. With some education and direction from Sant Thakar Singh, Rebecca began offering vegetarian demonstrations in Memphis. Then Whole Health Natural Foods in Springfield, asked her to offer a one-time demonstration for there customers at their monthly discount day “Super Tuesday”. The customer response was extremely positive. Then Whole Health invited her to offer cooking demonstrations once a month. Whole Health sponsors the ingredients and paper products, and Rebecca volunteers her time. There are approximately 75 people (mostly non-vegetarians) who attend these demonstrations. Each month she focuses on a different “ethnic” cuisine, in keeping with the spirit of “internationalizing” her education. Some of these recipes are featured on and The local NBC station has allowed Veg Ed to offer vegetarian tips for the past two months on their ‘Good Morning Ozarks’ program.

It is her hope to offer a seminar at the 2nd Gandhian Conference for Nonviolence in Memphis next October. She says, she would like to speak on “Compassionate Diet and Compassionate Economy” using Gandhi’s quotes and example to support this topic.

Since her university days at the Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU) Rebecca has committed herself to befriending and learning from many internationals from countries all over the world.

She relates her experiences with international students at the SMSU. “I lived with two young women, one from Denmark and the other from Hong Kong,” she says. “While working in the Meyer Library, I befriended every international, and they appreciated me because I helped them with their English papers! I watched a National Geographic documentary as a child about China. My Chinese roommate kept giving me items every time I gave her a compliment, and I would place it in a box in my room. After weeks of her ceaseless giving, I sat down with her and explained in America, we give compliments as a sign of recognition and appreciation, and it’s not necessary to give everything away as per Chinese tradition. She was so grateful to hear these words.” 

The real lesson, Rebecca says, was when she started working for Uptown Habitat for Humanity International in Chicago, Illinois with 12 multi-cultural families. “These families boycotted me on my first day of work.”

“I was naďve, sad, and mystified about this “boycott”. What did I do? Why is this happening? There protest was, “How can a single, white, young female know what it’s like to live in an ethnic, poor, gang-infested, inner city community?” They were right! Fortunately, I had some home repair skills, so I focused on helping them with home improvements: stripping and sealing hard wood floors, painting, etc. Once they saw I was a hard worker, they began to open up. One of my favorite moments was when the family from Nigeria called me saying “Come quick. Come quick. Something has happened to our mosquito netting.” Upon arrival, I saw that their screen was torn from the door frame. Comical as it was, the lesson is that each of us may use different words to describe our situation, so we have to listen and observe to understand what they are trying to say.”

Her experiences in “internationalizing” her education, taught her a very basic lesson, that it doesn’t matter what our culture, background, education, economic status, or skin color is. All of us have struggles, and all of us are longing for some type of connection and sense of peace.

Born in Springfield, Missouri, Rebecca lived there until she was 25, when she left her position at a local CPA firm to work full-time with Habitat for Humanity in inner city Chicago. Then she returned full-time to accounting to raise her children. Feeling unsatisfied in the accounting realm, and feeling there was some higher purpose for her to fulfill, she returned home to Springfield to visit her family and try to figure out “what’s next?” Even in Springfield, she was working full-time as an accountant, feeling unfulfilled and traveling once a month to Memphis to offer vegetarian food preparation demonstrations. “In Memphis, I just happened to be there the weekend of the India Association of Memphis’ annual India Fest. Then my vegetarian demonstration just happened to be on the same weekend as the 1st Annual Gandhian Conference for Nonviolence. Little-by-little, all these moments started connecting themselves together piece-by-piece, preparing me for this opportunity: to concept a Global March for nonviolence campaign and have the opportunity to work full-time to support the promotions and publicity of this effort.”

What kind of response does she anticipate to the Global March? “Honestly, I’m an idealist, so I expect there will be a Global March in every state, and every city in the United States,” she says. “Keeping positive, despite what any skeptics might say, is a key to success. However, the best ingredient for success is knowing how to “ground” dreams and ideals into reality. So, I’ve been contacting national and local organizations who support Gandhian principals, and contacting several media sources.”

Rebecca also personally met Martin Luther King III and hand delivered him a letter asking for The King Center’s and the King family’s support for the Global March by sending words of encouragement to Tushar Gandhi. “Can you even imagine what it would be like to plan a 27 day march for over 500 people from all over the world, with many dignitaries attending, and programs to arrange for the guests, and the multitude of details arranging for every hospitality? It seemed the best support for Tushar Gandhi could be from someone who truly understands the message of nonviolence and knows the reality of continuing a legacy.”

One of Rebecca’s favorite Gandhi quotes is, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. For this Gandhian, the quote exemplifies all her endeavors, be it in promoting a vegetarian lifestyle, or peace and compassion through the Global March.

India's Rates are as low as 12 cents per minute!
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved.