Editor’s note: Rotaractors Andrea Tirone and Jennifer Petrichenko were among more than 1,800 participants in the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii, 25-27 January. The forum held a special focus on getting youth involved in the peace process. We asked Tirone and Petrichenko to share what inspired them about the event.
Tirone: Having been involved with Rotary as a Rotaractor and Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar, I have had many opportunities to see how peace is built through club and district projects, events, and initiatives around the world. I’ve also had many opportunities to attend conventions, and sometimes ask myself “will I benefit from attending yet another?”
The answer in Honolulu, Hawaii, was a resounding “yes.” Not only did I learn a lot from the speakers and from informative workshops, but even more beneficial were the bonds I built with other delegates. I gained a better understanding of the friends I met and the cultures they come from, which in turn builds on my understanding of why people behave in different ways. This is a key step in building peace.
All this was captured in the very first workshop, which sought to teach participants how to understand different cultures. It is rare that a conference will begin its first sessions with workshops instead of a plenary. In Honolulu, the schedule did just that – and it worked!
The workshop was led by students, faculty, and alumni from the Brigham Young University of Hawaii and was designed to be interactive. Engaging topics invited us to consider our relationships at work and in our personal lives and how the interactions we have with others are either responsive or resistant. We learned that the patterns formed when we react to others can trap us into cycles of collusion rather than cooperation and understanding. “If no one thinks they need to change, no one will.”
It was such a powerful start to the forum where subsequent plenaries focused on peace through communication, service, collaboration, and action. A trip to the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor was moving, and served as a reminder that the road to peace is not always easy, but it is necessary.
Petrichenko: When I learned about the peace forum in Hawaii, my first thought was what a great opportunity to escape the cold and dreary winter along Canada’s west coast and travel somewhere warm. But when I investigated further, it was the thought of taking part in a peace forum concentrated on youth that won me over.
Two aspects of the conference were awesome – the quality of speakers and the access to Rotary leaders. I sat in on several excellent workshops, including ones focused on how to bring out peace in others by finding peace within, how to use social media and how it’s used differently around the globe, and how using a self-administered personality test can help you understand different cultures.
There were many opportunities to sit and talk with Rotary leaders during the event. I was impressed at how open and accessible they were. It’s not every day that you get a lesson in Japanese from the RI president (Sakuji Tanaka), or get to discuss dancing “Gangnam style” with the president-elect (Ron Burton).
The peace forum was one of the best conferences I have ever attended.
Tirone is a member of the Rotaract Club of Toronto, and was sponsored for the forum by District 7070 (Ontario, Canada). Petrichenko attended as Rotaract representative for District 5050 (part of Washington, USA, and British Columbia, Canada).