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Redding native starts worldwide peace organization

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REDDING, Calif. - Redding's Janessa Wilder was recruited for the CIA in 2001 while she was attending grad school at Stanford. She spent five years working on issues with the middle east and was on the ground in Iraq. She was on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq during the first major battle in April 2004. "I was so sleep deprived and despaired and that was the closest I've been to an actual war zone," Wilder said.

She was sitting next to the Euphrates River when she had a thought. "This magical, peaceful, beautiful river cutting it's way through the desert and it just seemed like this symbol of peace and it seemed like the symbol of peace in the midst of war and the symbol of life in the midst of this desert and this death."

That moment along the river lead to her leaving the CIA to start a non-profit called the Euphraties Institute.

"It was just this thought in my head that I'm going to choose the river. This is the more powerful force that there's always some element of hope even in the darkest of circumstances and the darkest of situations." The Euphrates Institute now has 30 chapters all over the country. Wilder has spent the years studying these issues and traveling the world. "Military and other experts share that we can't just bomb those people into oblivion, because each strain gets more and more extremist," she said. "Al Qaeda, was more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS is more extreme than Al Qaeda. So unless we really get at the root of what's driving this, the lack of development, the lack of opportunity for the young people, the extremist thought, get at the lack of democracy." "I think the military and the CIA are incredibly important. You have to have the military and those forces for our protection and our defense but they're not the best ones to build peace. To prevent things from happening again to prevent these wars and conflicts from happening in the future. I wanted to be involved in the part that gets overlooked, building up the next generation, peace building." The Redding chapter meets on the first Thursday of every month in the Pilgrim Congregational Church. Wilder invites those interested to join. "I think it's fair for each one of us to ask what can we do more in our own communities. what can we do here? how can we make a difference?," she said. "I ask myself that every single day." She will be honored at halftime at the Shasta High School football game this Friday. She says she's open to meeting new people and sharing new ideas and encourages you to come up and say hello.

You can find more information, including her Tedx talk here.

She's also having a workshop in November at the McConnell Foundation.

The full interview can be found here:

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