Wednesday, May 17, 2006

PeaceJam Reflections

Subscriber Wanda Joseph of Brethren, Michigan, wrote to let me know that she attended the PeaceJam event this list mentioned on Monday. Wanda is a member of the Onekama, MI, Church of the Brethren. You can see her here with her family -- Wanda's got the long red hair!

Here's her report on the experience!

Peace & grace,
Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

For the friends on the Peace Witness Action List,

I have had the privilege of participating in PeaceJam for a couple years with students from our local alternative high school, CASMAN Alternative Academy, Manistee, Michigan. For the past three years, I provided a community connection with the school and taught some service learning classes around peacemaking and community service. One of the quarters each year, the class was called PeaceJam.

PeaceJam is an international organization that links students with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates with the goal of giving students real life experience for learning that they can make a significant difference in their community for peace. Local clubs/classes/church groups hook up with PeaceJam and study the life of one of the 13 laureates that are working with PeaceJam. For the Great Lakes Region, this year, we studied the life and work of Jose Ramos Horta from East Timor. In December 1996, José Ramos-Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize with his fellow countryman, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

In the spring, the clubs come together for a PeaceJam conference in Kalamazoo, the home of the Great Lakes PeaceJam office. The plan is that the Nobel Laureate joins the students at this conference, providing a powerful, face to face, live, breathing example of a peacemaker. This year, unrest in East Timor pulled Mr. Ramos Horta back home before the conference. Amazingly, we had a "conversation" with him, via a satellite video/audio connection.

For the CASMAN students, this connection with PeaceJam stretches their hearts and life experience. They mingle in small and large groups with students of all colors, shapes, faith from the midwest region. They understand that they are part of something much larger than themselves and their contained community. Just hours into the first day, students say with enthusiasm, "I am coming next year!"

An expectation of the club is to develop a community service project that is connected somehow with what they have studied of "their" Nobel laureate, or otherwise a project that addresses a community need. They then present the plan or the report to the Nobel Laureate and all 200-300 participants as part of the conference. Definitely, a skill building event!

Last summer, we had an opportunity to meet Desmond Tutu, and before that, we met Mairead Corrigan Maguire from Northern Ireland.

The stories of the Laureates and the curriculum are available on the website:

The organization began 10 years ago with the focus on high school students and is expanding to the elementary age with plans for middle school and college curriculum in the future.

Community groups, schools, churches, 4H, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs participate.

I'd be glad to share more information about our experience if members of this list have questions.

Wanda Joseph


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