Baba Tree International was founded in December 2011 by Jesse Wiens and Catherine Cadden to advance the lived understanding of peace and nonviolence among all peoples, through sharing the wealth of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wisdom of history’s peacemakers.

Baba Tree is both an outgrowth and furthering of the Play in the Wild! Initiations into Nonviolence for Youth that Catherine co-founded in 2006 with Melanie Whitham, and Jesse and Catherine’s ZENVC trainings in Zen and Nonviolent Communication for adult individuals and organizations, started by Jesse in 2006.

Play in the Wild! itself evolved out of the TEMBA School, a K-8 alternative school in California, based on the tenets of nonviolence, that Catherine founded in 1997; and Melanie’s experience leading canoe adventures for youth through Paddlefoot in Ontario, Canada.  At the TEMBA School, teachers would take students out on “Wild Days”, a day of learning set in the outdoors, which encompassed everything from nature walks to experiencing the thrill of an avalanche search. When summer came around, Wild Days would become TEMBA Summer Camps, where even non-TEMBA students could sign up for a “Wild” experience.

In the summer of 2005, Catherine and Melanie met at a training for educators in Quebec, Canada. At the time, Melanie was also running an elementary school that she founded, called P.E.A.C.E.  Melanie and Catherine spoke of their dream to combine their work with youth and the three pieces they had really seen make a difference in people’s lives: getting them outside and connected to the earth, to themselves and to one another. From the fertile ground both of them had spent years nurturing, Play in the Wild! was born. The next summer, in 2006, the first group of Wilders set out on their first “Canoe Quest” in Quebec.

From 2006 to 2011, Play in the Wild! grew into a fully international program, with youth coming from six continents and camps offered on four. It expanded its offerings to include families and educators, and added conference-style intensive trainings in nonviolence to its offerings for youth. In many ways, this growth presented challenges that highlighted the need for a stronger organization and a wider network of support.

During that same period, through ZENVC, Jesse and Catherine were developing new and innovative ways of teaching mindfulness and Nonviolent Communication training that were adapted to meet the needs of everyday people all around the world.  Instead of offering trainings in esoteric practices for spiritual seekers or new tools for counselors and social workers, ZENVC’s focus became the understanding of how to create peace and fulfillment in the middle of ordinary life, including the transformation of everyday conflicts in the family, workplace, and community.

Baba Tree International was created to build on the strengths of both Play in the Wild! and ZENVC, by helping increase access to these trainings and the knowledge and skills that they offer.  Our vision is for a world where everyone is a leader of peace, with the willingness and ability to contribute to peace within themselves and with others, and where this knowledge is passed on to each successive generation.

To find out more about Baba Tree’s Mission, click here.