By Jean Best, a Peace Officer in District 1020, with Rotary Peace Fellow Flor Yanez and Rotary Coordinator Keith Best
Who would have thought that sitting in an awareness raising session about Rotary Peace Fellows would have led to the creation of a skills based Peace Advocate Programme and an invitation to affect the lives of young people across the entire country of Mexico?
We received an invitation from Mexico’s national commission for peace after Rotary Peace Fellow Flor Yanez addressed the state congress in Mexico City about building a national engagement with young people through a culture of peace. The program provides a bridge from oral intention to practical reality. This reality empowers young people to develop conflict resolution strategies for themselves and to work with others in conquering conflict within themselves, their school, community, home, and beyond.
Half of the program develops skills for changing the mindset from acceptance to questioning to making informed decisions. The other half develops service projects to promote peace in their communities. The combined impact of these individual projects and skills contributes to a culture of peace.
We are now in our third year and as well as creating Peace Advocate groups in schools and communities, we have developed Peace Conferences designed by and delivered by young Peace Advocates to other young people. Peace Advocates are strongly influencing and shaping change in their schools and communities by using the skills of collaborative conversation, purposeful listening, and purposeful speaking.
Once they have achieved the status of a Peace Advocate, they use their leadership qualities to lead other groups of young people through the same processes.
The project was introduced at the Rotary Convention in Sydney and more recently at the World Peace Conference in Ontario, Los Angeles. We now have a Peace hub coordinated in both venues and projects being developed by Rotary Peace Fellows in Liberia, Nigeria, and Kenya demonstrating a cross-cultural approach. The program is in English and Spanish.