Local activist takes Peace & Justice Center reins
Tammy Wichman brings years of experience to new post
Tammy Wichman stresses that peace is much more than just an idea, but rather something people can incorporate into their daily lives.
“My definition of peace is being conscious of the world around you, and embodying that,” said the Chico native, who’s the new director of the Chico Peace & Justice Center. “It’s how you interact with people, how you resolve conflicts, what you buy, what you support, where your money goes.”
Wichman started her new position this month and has always had a desire to be an advocate for oppressed and disadvantaged individuals who may not have a strong voice in the community. She also has a passion to link those in need with resources in the community.
Her desire to work as an advocate in the helping profession is a result of learning what it is like to struggle in life; she grew up with a father who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and a mother from Costa Rica who was not aware of all available resources that could have helped the family financially to manage the illness. Wichman’s childhood experiences instilled values that have sparked a passion to never “sit back.”
The young and upbeat activist succeeds Sue Hilderbrand, who retired as director after holding the position for four years. At 26, Wichman has already made a name for herself working as an advocate in the community. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Chico State in May 2010 but had already spent seven years working in the field.
“I’ve always wanted to advocate for people on a level where people value your opinion,” she said.
A month prior to graduation, Wichman coordinated the first annual Butte County National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walk in Chico, which, with nearly 400 participants, netted some $17,000 to support people with mental illness.
She has also worked with a laundry list of other organizations, including Club Stairways, the Torres Community Shelter, the Chico Community Children’s Center, the Esplanade House, the Boys & Girls Club and Starting Over Strong. She also has done work with the Butte Countywide Homeless Continuum of Care on its annual homeless census. Most recently, Wichman worked at the Jesus Center, where she piloted a vocational rehabilitation program for mental-health consumers.
In the May Chico Peace & Justice Center newsletter, Board Chair Susan Tchudi wrote that Wichman was selected out of 12 strong applicants and she was among the top five who were interviewed. Tchudi said the new director has strong communication and organizational skills, and stood out with her “quiet passion and her work with the poor, the homeless and the disenfranchised in our community.”
Steve Tchudi, editor of the CPJC newsletter, echoed his wife’s sentiments in a recent phone interview.
“She comes in with a great amount of experience working in the Chico area for social justice, and a real sense of how to organize, how to educate, how to mobilize,” he said of Wichman. “She’s easy to work with. She respects the traditions [of the center], but has new ideas and possibilities for the direction of the center.”
The Chico Peace & Justice Center is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to working for peace, and social and economic justice through the power of nonviolence. The organization, which opened in Chico in 1982, is known for its conflict-resolution and violence-prevention programs, educational opportunities and direct-action initiatives. Wichman’s personal philosophy of peace matches the organization’s mission: “Building justice through peace and peace through justice.” The center provides the community with information pertaining to global news and issues as well.
As director, Wichman is in charge of overseeing, coordinating and planning events, as well as being the public voice for the center. Currently, among other projects, the organization is working on cosponsoring an event Aug. 6 and 9 for the 66th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Other ongoing projects include educating people about the state and federal budgets, as well as the negative effects of war. The center also educates high school students about the realities of joining the military in response to the military’s high recruitment in high schools.
Overall, Wichman hopes to help the center make peace and justice more tangible concepts for the community. She encourages instilling peace by taking one step at a time, whether listening to people with open, non-judgmental minds and encouraging others to shop locally and participate in community events. Other ideas include donating time to worthy causes, using peace and justice in everyday vocabulary, and using alternative news sources.
“[The] Peace & Justice Center is a place for everyone to come and feel welcome, share their ideas and find resolve in others that are here to build a world that is more peaceful,” she said.