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Peace Jammin

Published on 2015-03-07 by Gill Hickman

Peace Jam? Peace Jam? It sounded American, trendy and no-one had heard of it, but thanks to the generosity of the Rotary Club, two Ringwood School students were able to participate in Peace Jam’s amazing youth conference during a March weekend at the University of Winchester. PeaceJam JOdy PeaceJam warm upPeace Jam was launched in the US and is the only educational programme both devised by and supported by leading Nobel Peace Laureates. They work personally with young people to pass on their spirit, skills and wisdom to tackle issues ranging from racism, conflict and violence to environmental degradation. Trust Thus the Ringwood students heard from Jody Williams who received the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for her work as founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Greeted by roars of applause from students, she rejected this over-hyped welcome. Jody was down to earth, plain speaking and had the capacity to instantly engage with this young audience. She explained that anything is possible and urged the young people to act. In more recent years, Jody as turned her attention to issues such as rape and gender violence while her husband continues with the work on landmines. Students heard of her ordinary childhood in Vermont as she showed students what it means to be a grassroots activist. ‘Inspiring’ is over-used today, but this is probably the only appropriate word to describe this lady. Dance

Students left the lecture theatre to join their ‘family groups’ Family groups were mentored by PeaceJam experts, a large team that largely comprised students from the University of Winchester. Their role was to enthuse, to excite and make the younger students feel sufficiently at home to talk and to plan. ‘Family’ sessions were interspersed with either ‘Service Projects’ or workshops. Here students picked up information from such groups as Amnesty and Tools for Self Reliance. The Ringwood students much enjoyed a highly practical session that involved them in the difficult task of carrying gallons of water. Then the Rotary water carrier was brought in: what a difference! Finally, students were shown a simple filtration system. This kit would make such a difference to the lives of women and children, usually charged with water carrying in countries in Africa. Students thought this would make an excellent workshop for those back at school! Tree of life

Students wished they could attend every workshop – they were so interesting. In practice, Millie joined the Global Volunteering workshop and Katy the schools in conflict zones. A tent had been erected in a classroom and students were told of the way in which arrangements are made to help children get a basic education in war zones, for instance. This too would make an excellent workshop for Sussed in the Forest schools.PeaceJam studen speaks Entertainment was not lacking. The American host, Brett, son of one of the original founders of PeaceJam in the US, was a great entertainer in his own right! Students also enjoyed ‘Surya’s Story’ performed by an all Asian cast, who though dance and interactive theatre brought issues of the Rights of the Child and Fairtrade to dramatic and colourful life. Through the story of a small child who sews footballs in northern India, the audience learnt how children are exploited by the West’s desire for cheap consumer products. It was exceptionally moving. Jody

So the verdict of students? This was an exceptional weekend, one that inspired and planted seeds in the minds of all attendees. One student tweeted, “This has been the best weekend of my life.” The Ringwood students agreed and particularly enjoyed being with a truly international group of like-minded students. They are humbled to have been invited and hugely grateful to Ringwood and Fordingbridge Rotary Clubs for ‘spotting’ them and offering them wonderful support. This is a programme that they are determined to implement. It is certainly one that they would recommend to all Sussed in the Forest schools!