Virginia Swain

Peace Corps volunteer, teacher, UN worker, activist

"It’s called the Culture of Peace Initiative and actually it was started by the Nobel Peace Prize winners in the 1990s and I’ve been working with it at the UN for a number of years, but I decided I would bring it to Worcester because there’s so much potential here for hope -- people don’t see that we can get beyond our divisions…so I’m pretty excited about this and I feel a little bit more intentional here in Worcester because it’s taken me all this time to realize how I can contribute. In Worcester, it’s a very unusual and wondrous community of people who, when I first came, always asked me, why would I come here from Cambridge? I keep feeling that they don’t know the potential, there’s so much here that’s possible for Worcester."


Virginia Swain grew up in West Hartford and is the oldest of four children. She lived in Cambridge, MA before moving to Worcester, MA with her husband in 1999. In this interview she relates the impact of her younger brother’s unexpected death, followed by her father’s death, on her life. After college, she spent two years in the Peace Corps which she describes as changing her life as she developed a deep respect for other cultures. After her return to the United she was a teacher before entering the corporate world. She discusses gender and power struggles in the workplace and the difficulty balancing family and career while she was a human resources manager. After switching to the non-profit sector, she took a sabbatical in California, studied to be a spiritual director, and worked with Bernie Segal. She describes herself as an activist and her work with the United Nations has taken her two five continents. Some of the projects she initiated include the Center for Global Community and World Law and the Institute for Global Leadership. Her latest project involves bringing the UN’s Culture of Peace Initiative to Worcester and she believes that she can help raise the consciousness of members of the Worcester community to become global citizens in their own city and spread the message of peace. She also published a memoir about learning to find her own voice and teaches at area colleges.

Interview Date: 
October 28, 2007