By Magdalena Zurita with Phill Gittins, Rotary Peace Fellows
My interest in promoting peace brought me to Bolivia, where I am doing my applied field study while earning a master’s degree at the Rotary Peace Center at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. I am passionate about the reduction of poverty and inequality, and efforts to address these challenges in ways that promote working together and embracing difference. In May, a Skype call and email exchange connected me to Phill Gittins, a fellow Rotary Peace Fellow, who has been working in Bolivia for many years. Through Rotary two strangers, working on peace separately, are now working on peace together.
Phill’s expertise is in peace education and youth work. Most recently, he has been using what he learned in his doctorate work in International Conflct Analysis to help develop and inform the next generation of peace builders. NewGen Peacebuilders is a global youth peace education programme, designed by Rotary Peace Fellows, endorsed by the Rotary Action Group for Peace, and supported by Rotary clubs and districts, internationally.
Phill put me in contact with Bolivian Rotarians, international organisations and friends working in peace and development here. Some of these people turned out to be key contacts for my current research. As a virtual speaker for NewGen Peacebuilders, I connected Phill with Argentinean NGOs, Rotarians and friends interested in expanding the programme in Argentina.
Without us realising, we were practicing some of the same necessary ingredients for peacebuilding
In September, we met in person in Bolivia. Phill offered guidance on readings and courses to improve my knowledge and skills as a peacebuilder. I, meanwhile, put Phill in touch with people from Colombia, where he has a possibility of working next year. Without us realising, we were practicing some of the same necessary ingredients for peacebuilding – engaging in dialogue and thinking through ways to work together on peace despite our differences. These differences include our varying histories, cultures, and ways of being in the world.
At the same time, we both shared a desire to promote peace in ways that encourage collaboration and the development of peaceful and just relationships. We are both thankful to Rotary for playing a key role in this, We encourage other Rotary Peace Fellows (and Rotarians) to share stories of how they are working on peace together – the biggest challenge humanity currently faces.
Learn more about Rotary’s peace fellowships