Creating a Department of Peacebuilding. Member Spotlight: Fernando I. Andrade
Fernando Andrade is originally from Chile and immigrated to the United States over thirty years ago. He has a wide range of professional experiences, beginning his American career in labor work, as he did not speak English when he first immigrated. He eventually became interested in mediation and earned his master’s in December 2020. He now works on a local and international level in mediation and peacebuilding. Fernando founded A North Georgia Community Mediation Center which educates communities about their local governments, promoting peacebuilding, transparency, and accountability.
Learning to Communicate
Fernando Andrade immigrated to the United States from Chile thirty-one years ago without speaking a word of English. Because of this, he began doing labor work, eventually starting his own business doing housekeeping, landscaping, and carpet cleaning, among other things. Fernando finally gained a hold on the English language and being able to communicate with his customers better allowed him to grow his business. Fernando’s son was born with autism, which motivated him to learn English to understand his son’s medical issues. In 2005, Fernando earned his degree at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. After graduating, he began working with a small law firm as a legal assistant and interpreter. He became an interpreter in the judicial system freelance and started doing this full-time across Georgia. Fernando did this for twenty years, providing his services for the State Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney General during this time, and offering his services in every county in Georgia.
Becoming a Mediator
Fernando’s work in the Georgia judicial system exposed him to mediation, and he began going to classes to become a certified mediator, which he achieved in 2011. Some counties in Georgia, such as Gwinnett, require mediators to have a master’s, so he later went back to university and graduated with a master’s in international conflict management from Kennesaw State University. After earning his degree, Fernando began an internship with Peace Alliance, where he became very interested in their Department of Peacebuilding project. The organization has collaborated with Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She introduced HR 1111 to the 116th Congress, a proposal to create a Department of Peacebuilding in the United States government at the Executive Branch.
Fernando works as a mediator, including volunteering as a judge at international mediation tournaments at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. He is also the former chair of the Human Relations Commission in Gwinnett County, Georgia, one of the largest counties in the United States. In this role, Fernando works to implement checks and balances on the local government to prevent abuses of power against the county’s citizens. In keeping with his passion for preventing abuse, Fernando founded A North Georgia Community Mediation Center, which educates communities about their local governments, promoting peacebuilding, transparency, and accountability. His goal is “to educate the community regardless of their political background or ethnicities, on how the local government works. Once we educate the community on how the local government works, we can hold them transparent, accountable and then build a sustainable peace among the communities.” Ultimately, Fernando wants to create a Human Relations Commission in every county in Georgia to keep communities safe from abuses of power by their governments.
Fernando’s primary passion is working with people and preventing abuses of regular people by those in power. “My parents didn’t know how to read and write, and they had very little education where I’m from and worked very hard for me to get educated. So for me, it’s very personal to fight abuse. Abuse of any form.” Having a child with disabilities constituted an early experience of advocating and fighting abuse for Fernando. He learned to demand the conditions his son deserved while in school, even writing to the Secretary of Education about his son’s abuses during his education. Fernando explains that he feels a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves and does not take “no” for an answer. He loves that his work allows him to communicate with and advocate for others.
Fernando is passionate about creating a Department of Peacebuilding in government to build a more sustainable peace on the international level. This department would work with the Department of Defense and the Department of State and employ trained professionals to mediate on the ground. “War should be the last resort. It is the continuance of diplomacy by other means, and we should stop that by using professionals in peacebuilding. We should exhaust all the diplomatic ways to achieve peace.” Ideally, this would preserve military and material resources and would result in more effective peacemaking.
Additionally, it would reduce the hatred that is often a result of war and ensure better diplomatic relations between parties engaged in a conflict. Fernando cares deeply about this project and hopes it will one day come to fruition. “From being a carpet cleaner, painter, housekeeper, now I’m working in the international arena working on peacemaking and peacebuilding, and that’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Article by Tess Hargarten, MBBI Writer