The Windsong Peace and Leadership Center
Windsong is a 40 acre Free the Children & Me to We ranch that offers a space for youth & others to gather for facilitated leadership programs, service projects, & retreats, in an area rich with diversity & committed to social and ecological regeneration.
To serve the Me to We message by providing an open space to learn and dialogue about pressing social and environmental issues, as well as to empower people of all ages to make practical and powerful changes both globally and locally.
Located minutes away from Patagonia Lake State Park, in the heart of Apache Chiricahua and Tohono O’odham traditional land, the Windsong Peace and Leadership Center is strategically situated within a diverse and fascinating community of human and nature-folk working to change the world through their daily actions and interactions with the Earth.
Nestled against the foothills of the Patagonia Mountains, the Windsong ranch harbours acres of indigenous flora and fauna, southwest-style accommodations, tasty home cooking, indoor and outdoor teaching spaces, and the peace and tranquility indicative of the Sonoran desert grasslands. On-site gardens supplement local fare, and visitors/volunteers are welcome to get involved with the ranch animals, plants, and work projects, learning more about the principles of permaculture and regeneration.
Through the continuance of its Me to We state-of-the-art leadership and social issues training, and cutting-edge focus on reducing its impact on the environment, this year-round education center is committed to “leading by example”, proving it is possible to live the Me to We philosophy by changing our daily actions to change the world.
As a grassroots role model for social and ecological regeneration, the Windsong Peace and Leadership Center is a safe and inspiring haven for people of all ages and backgrounds wishing to transform their passions into a life of action.
“There seems to be so much more anger in the world today. I would hope we could someday realize that skin color makes no difference; that the God you worship is the same as mine, although possibly under a different name; that a child can suffer pain and hunger as much as an adult; that the gifts of this earth are precious and we must not waste them; and that kids can be the hope of the world. At 86, one does not look too far ahead! But I am totally confident that the kids will do what we older people have to leave undone.” –Virginia Benderly
In 1995, Virginia Benderly was invited to attend the State of the World Forum where she met a young Craig Kielburger. After learning of his efforts to bring education and inspiration to children all over the world through Free the Children, she pledged to do whatever she could to help him in his efforts. A talented, intelligent, and generous woman, Gini became an incredible benefactor for the organization. Notable early contributions that Gini made were funding two mobile medical clinics in Kenya, funding and planning school-building projects in China, serving on the US Free the Children Board of Directors, and even cooking all of the food for an entire Take Action! Academy in Toronto. However, Gini’s real legacy has been the Windsong Peace and Leadership Center.
In 2003, Gini and her husband Shaw opened up their home to host Free the Children/MetoWe staff training, and subsequently to programming for Arizona/Mexico volunteer leadership trips. After Shaw’s death two years
later, Gini decided to leave her house, property, and belongings to Free the Children, ensuring that there would always be a space for young people to learn and be inspired by the landscape and people she loved so much. Until her death in 2009, Gini stayed on at Windsong as the resident storyteller, musician, spiritual guide, occasional cook, and good friend to all of the youth that made their way to her home.
It is a cherished and noble task that the Windsong Peace and Leadership Center, and its staff, have been left with the responsibility to continue Gini’s dream, a dream that the space will always be available for young people to learn and be inspired to create positive change in the world.