Our Team: is comprised of skilled trainers with backgrounds in advocacy, prevention education, social work, healing arts, martial arts, yoga, and dance. Each has completed teacher training with Prevention. Action. Change. and participated in an extended apprenticeship.
Prevention. Action. Change. Director Clara Porter, MSW (she/her) is a nationally certified instructor in Empowerment Self Defense (ESD) with the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and the Center for Anti-Violence Education with 30 years experience in the field. Porter holds a Masters of Social Work, is a trained Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, and certified in Advanced Trauma First Aide. She and has extensive experience working with organizations and people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities including those with physical, mental/emotional, and developmental challenges.
AJ Stash: My name is AJ Stash and my pronouns are they/them. I was born and currently live in Southern Maine, the unceded land of the Wabanaki Confederacy. I am 26 years old and identify as genderqueer/transgender/non-binary. I write music and poetry about my life experiences and emotions that are important to me. I enjoy reading books that expand my mind and imagination. I am an adventurer of the outdoors and seek to further my connection to all living beings. I believe in love that is honest, radical, autonomous and contributes to the spiritual growth of all that are involved. I have a mutually caring relationship with my lovely pug, Jazzy, who loves to cuddle and soak up the sun, much like her parent. I have a fondness for things and experiences that may qualify as strange or weird to some, and think that a weird and strange life is a fulfilling one. I believe that change is the only constant in life, and we all have a place in the change that takes place every second. Music is my first passion of life, as it was the first thing that showed me how to love and grow in community with others. I enjoy taking dips in the ocean, at any point of the year, and have a special affinity for octopuses!
I moved away from Maine when I was a young adult and became involved in environmental activism and social justice work. I dropped out of college around the time that Trump was elected in 2016, and joined the front lines of the anti pipeline movement. Standing up for what is right, and being an active part of the change that needs to happen in our society, is important to me. When I moved back home to Maine to heal from an injury, I struggled to find my place in that work here at first. Through PAC, I found that I am not only able to heal from my own wounds of being a survivor of sexual abuse from childhood through to adulthood, but am also able to heal alongside others and help to build a community of empowerment while doing so. Being able to share knowledge and skills for safety through teaching empowerment self-defense, active bystander intervention and de-escalation makes my heart sing. In a world where we are constantly faced with systemic oppression, the most radical act is to love one another and love ourselves. Through this work with PAC, we can break down the judgement and hate we are taught in this world, and build our love and strength in community. That is why this work is so important to me.
When I found PAC, I took our Healing Through Empowerment class. And then I took it again. This class helped me cultivate and strengthen my voice and self-confidence. It helped me to believe in my own self-worth, and that I deserve kindness and respect, and all the good things! I started to experience shifts in my life and relationships when I was able to put the tools we learned in class into practice. Teaching, for me, is essential for me to be able to continue to use these tools in my everyday life. Empowerment is a beautiful positive feedback loop. When I teach classes, I witness people having tremendous moments of realizing their own power and worth. Being able to see that empowerment and healing truly contributes to my own empowerment
I feel most fulfilled in teaching ESD when I can work with youth, and the queer/trans community. My life would have looked a lot different if I knew what a boundary was when I was a young person. Young people are vulnerable in this world, and are also so powerful! It is important for me to work with young people in order to share skills of safety that they may not otherwise have access to. Being part of the queer community, I feel such heavy grief for the violence and death our community faces. The more that we can expand our understanding and practice of empowerment and safety, the more we can take care of each other to ensure we are not only surviving, but thriving in our lives and being able to live as our true queer selves without fear! I hope to continue teaching with these communities (and others!), in order to better protect ourselves and each other.
Marita Kennedy-Castro: My name is Marita Kennedy-Castro and my pronouns are she/her. I was born in what is part of traditional Wabanaki Confederacy territory, currently referenced within the dominant narrative as the town of Strong, Maine. Recognizing that we live on stolen land feels essential to me in my quest for a life that centers love, healing, reparations, accountability and truth. I am an embodied movement artist, dance educator and intercultural bridge-builder. I am passionate about illuminating avenues to healing through movement as medicine.
I have always been drawn to taking action to help prevent violence (in all of its forms) from occurring. Particularly as a survivor of sexual violence living in a patriarchal society that upholds white supremacy ideology, I have both experienced and witnessed far too much harm. As an “activist” for the right to life and wellness for all living beings (including the planet we live on) I’ve sought out ways to support, lift up and empower those who are particularly vulnerable to victimization. Aligning with all that we offer through Prevention. Action. Change. has been natural and life-changing. It is deeply important work.
I came into this work after having participated in the Healing Through Empowerment series offered by PAC. I have gained greater confidence and belief in my abilities and have felt empowered to put them into action for the community. As a trainer I’ve had opportunities thus far to share with people from medical settings, hospitality settings, community settings, high schools, universities, young adult programs, LGBTQIA+ programs, and community centered in wellbeing for the People of the Global Majority. In every case I have heard folks at the end of the training express that they feel more empowered, carrying new skills, feeling a part of and helping to build a more empowering community culture. Being on a team of change-makers and culture-shifters is incredibly gratifying!
What we bring forth through convening conversations, increasing awareness, practicing new skills, exploring options and increasing confidence, helps to not only bring much-needed healing but helps to shift culture. Bit by bit, community by community we are creating ripples of positive change. It is within culture that we uphold or challenge the “norms” by looking at the particular behaviors we’ve allowed to occur, and it is through awareness, education, empowerment, compassion and community work that we can shift culture to be safer and more life-enhancing for all beings. My vision is that the cultural changes ripple so quickly, bringing so much healing and benefit that this work becomes obsolete.
Nuna Gleason: My name is Nuna Gleason, I am a 34 year-old Kenyan woman. I use She/Her pronouns. I am the Executive Director at Wounded Healers International. I live in Gorham, ME. My hobbies are volunteering and community service. I learned to swim this summer and feel like it’s a new hobby.
I learned basic ESD in 2019 while still in Kenya and felt so much confidence in myself, which also contributed to my healing journey. I am a survivor of sexual violence and, for years, felt like my dignity was swept away and there was nothing left for me to protect. ESD gave me a sense of control over my body and a belief in my right to safety. I have continued to advance my skills in ESD and became a facilitator with a great passion for teaching and bringing healing to survivors of sexual violence. I believe everyone has something to offer and a role to play in ending violence. I teach active bystanders so that people can identify and possibly interrupt a potentially harmful situation, especially regarding sexual violence.
I teach ESD to women and girls in Kenya and African women who live in Maine. Among Africans, sexual violence and other forms of GBV are driven by multiple social-ecological factors, including gender norms that undermine the power of girls and women and expect boys and men to adhere to stereotypical masculinity ideals of violence and risk. It took me years to recognize social norms that supported a culture of violence and dehumanized other women and me in my community. ESD was an awakening moment in my life. Most women and girls who participate in my class say it is the first time they have said NO to someone in their lifetime, or it’s the first time they have ever punched something. Doing so makes them feel very confident in their bodies and realize they have the power to set boundaries for themselves and recognize and resist violence by verbal strategies.
Since I took ESD, I have always dreamed of teaching these amazing skills to everyone in my community, especially women and girls in Kenya. However, it has been challenging for me to teach online since I can only teach a few people and because of the lack of internet connectivity in Kenya. Therefore, I am currently trying to raise money to get a team of Kenyan people to train to become ESD instructors so then they can teach many more people in Kenya. My vision for Maine is to actively partner with Prevention. Action. Change. here in Maine to engage my African community in Maine and also to teach most marginalized groups like black women and non-binary people.
Kellie O: I’m 45, my pronouns are she/they and I am living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I’m not teaching ESD I am working in my garden, running and teaching martial arts.
I found ESD through my martial arts school. I took an ESD teacher training course in which Clara Porter was a guest speaker. The way PAC Maine teaches ESD instantly resonated with me. I participated in several PAC Maine classes and had the opportunity to do our teacher training, which led to me becoming a facilitator. Witnessing a participants ability to change motivates me to do this work. Everyone brings their unique experience to a training. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from our participants and gain new perspectives.
I have seen our participants gain confidence, learn how to set boundaries and feel safer in their bodies. We create a space for people to become more present and learn how to express their needs. We give them the tools to empower themselves.
I hope our ESD work continues to promote healing and growth in the people we work with. My vision is each
participant in our workshops take the tools they learn and use them to lead more present and empowered lives.
Dan Kipp: Dan Kipp, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m 29 years old. I live in Brunswick, ME with my fiance, our two chihuahuas, and our one-hundred-and-something houseplants. I love reading, listening to music, dancing, cooking, and gardening. I have yet to be successful in doing them all at the same time, however.
My work with PAC is part of my larger mission to prevent violence and promote peace. I value empowerment as the guiding principle behind all of the educational practices (including ESD, non-violent communication, and experience as an educator and advocate within the movement to end intimate partner violence) that inform my efforts. It lights me up to guide people into unlearning oppressive mindsets and behaviors, as well as learning and relearning tools for liberation.
I love bearing witness to, and taking part in, moments of shared reality during our workshops. The space for vulnerability and truth telling that PAC facilitators strive to co-create with participants, and the trust and bravery that everyone displays in utilizing that safer space, is special. The impact of the relationships that are built, as well as the healing and leaning into growth edges that occurs individually and collectively, is palpable.
I hope to engage more men and boys in the feminist learning that ESD has to offer. I believe in empowering men and boys to resist oppressive, and specifically toxic masculine, standards of being. I support the development of men and boys who practice justice, equality, respect, and non-violence, and thereby contribute to a world in which everyone can live safer and more fulfilled lives.
Brigit McCallum: My name is Brigit McCallum and I use she and they pronouns. I live in the part of traditional Wabanaki Territory that is now called York County, in the town of North Waterboro, Maine. I have been involved with Prevention Action Change for about four years and came to that work as a lifelong teacher and coach, having taught everything from Pre-K to PhD! Now, as an older adult, I still teach things that I love — mosaic art, garlic growing and home composting, often through adult education programs. I love being part of my local community and over the years have been involved in the workings of the library, the community garden, the transfer station committee and the local newspaper. With others I have created mosaic murals located at the library entrance, on the shed at the community garden, as well as smaller pieces at the fire station and food pantry.
I discovered Prevention Action Change in 2018 when events in national politics triggered strong memories of my own experience of sexual assault as a young adult, and I needed help in dealing with them. I had the good fortune of hearing of the PAC Healing through Empowerment class, and it was just what I needed to “recover” myself. I decided, as someone who has always worked for justice in relationship, that this was work I wanted to be involved with.
I believe that growth is part of our entire life span, even as ageism may add another layer of challenge to other aspects of our identities. While I have years of experience as a learner and a teacher, working with PAC has inspired me to continue to expand my own boundaries as a risk taker and as a mentor to others as they seek to heal and grow. I have a particular interest in bringing the tools that PAC offers to other older adults as we face the changes that life brings to each of us. With the knowledge that we can hold strong boundaries for self-protection, we may simultaneously dare to expand our horizons of possibility and the capacity to grow as long as we live.