youth peace media initiative in Africa

  • Peace Camp visits Kigali Genocide Memorial
  • DSC00733
  • IMG_0057
  • brotherhood at memorial
  • mass grave at memorial
  • Peace Camp 2012
  • aebr youth contest
  • a peace of dance congo style
  • umbrella founder visits western province

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a peace of kwibuka20

Peace Camp visits Kigali Genocide Memorial

Together we stand, divided we fall! April 7, 2014 marked the beginning of the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide – Kwibuka 20 – a time to remember, unite and renew. (kwibuka – “remember” in Kinyarwanda). We pray for healing and renewal to continue in Rwanda and for hope to burn bright in the lives of youth determined to be catalysts of peace, love and unity.

Pictured above: A time of prayer and reflection at the mass burial site of over 250,000 people at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Youth from Rwanda, DRC and Kenya visited the Memorial as part of A Peace of Life’s 2013 Peace Camp, held this past November. (Photo: Dydine Umunyana)

Peace Camp 2014 and 10,000 Dreams Challenge

Plans are well underway for the next peace camp which will be held at a new time – during July’s school break – at a new place (Gashora Girl’s School) – with new participants (a team of Canadian youth). Keep checking our facebook page for more news including exciting updates from our visits to peace clubs during May and June to launch the 10,000 Dreams Challenge and the new youth newspaper, Voice of Peace!!

Imirasire Peace Club

Pictured: Mugisha Prince (A Peace of Life youth coordinator for Rwanda) visits with Imirasire (Sun Rays), one of the newest peace clubs, to hear of their plans for the 10,000 Dreams Challenge. The peace club was started by Petite, a participant and staff at the 2013 peace camp.

Good luck to all peace clubs with your 2014 plans! Persevere in hope and remain strong and courageous in God’s love for all people!

 

 

a last peace of 2013

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Wishing everyone a very peace-FULL, hope-FULL, and happy new year….

Pictured: The newest graduates of Peace Camp, held Nov. 18-25, 2013, in Kigali, Rwanda. We had 65 youth and youth leaders attend this year (including a team of 11 from the DR Congo and three youth reps from Kenya). The camp is an annual event sponsored by A Peace of Life, thanks to all of our generous supporters including CBM, a major partner in this youth peace media initiative.

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In addition to peace education through interactive games and learning, new activities at camp this year included visiting a pottery cooperative, making friendship bracelets, a traditional dance lesson and performance by NIYO Cultural Centre, a nightly radio news skit, a lively peace camp presentation during Sunday worship at the AEBR Kacyiru church, and the creation of a few short music videos with the help of our friends at Almond Tree Films Rwanda. See clips on Youtube.

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But overall, was the emphasis on inner peace and personal transformation (living in love, forgiveness and reconciliation).  An important workshop to help us in this process was Paulette Baraka’s session on trauma and peer counselling after our visit to the national genocide memorial. We were also inspired by hearing the personal experiences of Marc, one of the founders of Peace & Love Proclaimers, and Phanual. See more of Phanuel’s story.

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See more photos from peace camp and our other activities throughout the year.

On the drawing board: we are dreaming big for 2014, which marks the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda,with plans for Solidarity Peace Camp – with more countries to be represented; an exciting peace club challenge; a new youth newspaper; a short film, and many other activities to promote youth peace using the arts and media.

See you in the new year!

All photos in this post: Dydine Umunyana

a peace of loving your enemies

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Photo: Peace Olympics, by Germaine Umutoni, one of the original gafotozi, a photography project sponsored by A Peace of Life.

After the dream comes a whole lot of love in action….This week marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s immortal “I have a dream” speech. Words that continue to inspire. However there’s a lesser known speech of his that shows how this dream can be realized. It’s called “Loving Your Enemies” and it was written while he was in jail for nonviolent civil disobedience. Here’s an excerpt:

“Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”

We will be studying passages at the next peace camp to be held this coming November in Rwanda. You can see an abridged version of “Loving Your Enemies” or the full, transcribed version .

I love the photo above from last year’s peace camp. It was the water challenge in our Peace Olympics where you had to pass water by hand to fill a container at the other end of the line. On this team we have both Congolese and Rwandese working together. Learning to respect, love and help each other. To work together for a common good. As the global war machine winds up over Syria…as the bombs and hardline rhetoric continue to rain down in DRC and Rwanda…we remember the example of these courageous youth at peace camp; love and peace and just general good neighbourliness IS possible. It starts with respect, listening and dialogue. With being creative together to transform the conflict. Perhaps we need more preaching in governments, business, churches and schools about the need to love your enemies, to seek the peace of your neighbours. We pray for these youth – especially those living in the regions currently experiencing yet again an escalation of violence (Goma/Gisenyi). We pray for safety and that you will be able to stand strong and continue to spread your message of brotherly love.

As one youth commented: “Love is the catalyst for peace; it sets you free yourself.” MLK refers to this need for inner peace, to look inside and be transformed in order to be able to even dare to attempt to love your enemy. To seek the good for others. To find common ground. In the words of another of the world’s great advocates for peace and brotherhood, Nelson Mandela:

“If you want to make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy and that enemy becomes your partner.” ~ from Long Walk to Freedom, 1994

It is a long and hard walk, but worth it. More of our leaders need to be on this path, don’t you think?

NEWS: Are you ready for peace camp? Contest launching next month in the AEBR schools. We will also be joined once again by a team of youth/youth leaders from CBCA in DR Congo.

Food for thought: Interesting perspectives from IMES blog; especially Redeeming the Enemy, by Accad; and Finding Security in the Peace of our Neighbours

a peace of stay away from shuga

photo: One of the large billboards around Rwanda warning youth of the danger of adults, shuga dadi and shuga mami, who give gifts in return for sexual favours.

Can we talk about sex, money and power?

What are you prepared to do to earn some money or to make sure that you stay in school? For many youth in Rwanda, the decision seems to be out of their control. Consider this story.

“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”

Or how about this one. “We live in a horrible situation. My sister is a prostitute. I feel pressure to do this…I don’t know what to do.”

These are true stories.

Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to hear that 500 teen pregnancies were reported by schools in 2012. The number is higher. Many more have gone unreported. Some of these may be due to misguided young emotions or lack of proper sex education, but many are also the result of intimidation – teachers and others in position of authority or respect in the community abusing their power. “Sleep with me or you will be sent home from school.”

Then there are stories of youth violence, like a girl raped by friends of her boyfriend simply because she refused to have sex with him. And stories of exploitation – shuga daddies and shuga mammies taking advantage of youth, offering gifts of money, clothes, food, good times, cars, in return for some “loving” – a little sex for a little attention and nice things. There is no real love behind the shuga! Too many youth are selling themselves short and are at an increased risk of catching STDs and AIDS. God desires so much more for each one of these precious, young lives so full of potential. It starts with a love for God that helps us to love ourselves for who we are and then love others around us in healthy, respectful ways.

tears of hope

Abuse was a prominent theme in our first short film, Tears of Hope, created and performed by youth at one of our peace camps. It’s a powerful glimpse into the life of a young orphan taken in by a family. We thank Almond Trees Film Rwanda for helping us share this story. We hope it sparks more conversation. And to help youth know that they are not alone and that they have value and true love in God’s eyes. We hope they are empowered to realize their self worth, have personal dignity and treat others with respect.

We will continue to explore these and other issues facing youth today at the next peace camp including peer counselling and health sessions for more learning on healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy relationships and the use of drama and the arts to be able to open up difficult dialogue.

It’s time to talk and listen to each other.

Help support this youth peace media initiative. Send a youth to peace camp.

a peace of extreme love

brotherhood at memorial

Fragments of families  –  visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial was eye-opening for all of the participants at peace camp. Among the powerful exhibits were wall-to-wall photos of family members who had been killed: a mom, a son, an aunt, a cousin…row after row of victims. One section contained photos of babies and young children. Each had a small note card that listed their name, age, favourite food, favourite activity and how they were killed: thrown against a wall; hacked with a machete; shot in the head; thrown down an outside toilet…

It leaves you wondering about evil and injustice. How do you respond? With despair and a sense of futility? With anger and desire for revenge? Or with hope and determination to overcome evil with good?

On another wall were stories of people who helped their neighbours and others, often at great personal cost. I’m glad the memorial included this. It’s important to have this reminder of goodness at work even in the midst of evil – and that you have a personal choice to make. How do you wish to live? To go along with evil or to take a stand against it?

Seeing one of the young boys come and comfort the other (pictured above) is hope for Rwanda, for all of us. They symbolize a brotherhood that is possible and the willingness of youth to not only learn from past mistakes, but to also work together to build peace and community – a better life not just for themselves, but for each other. Empathy is a crucial building block in this process. Being able to listen to someone’s story or opinion or perspective builds empathy, dignity and respect. We hope that the peace camp opens up these safe spaces to share, learn and listen. To be able to talk to, not at, each other.

Back at camp, we had a time to reflect and share about the memorial visit. Here is one youth reflection from that day:

Yesterday when we went to the memorial site emotionally it took me back to a bad situation. Yes, it’s better to remember our history so that we can build a bright future, but when I looked on photos I saw one woman who was the older sister of our neighbour. I just saw her begging UN armies to save her and eventually they didn’t save her so that made me to be even more sad.

Also there was a small text which was on the side of a photo of General Dallaire who was a UN chief commander in Rwanda in 1994. It said that he wrote a letter to the UN headquarters showing the situation which was bad in Rwanda, but they didn’t authorize him to fight against genocide! So that text message also made me very sad. So though I read some text messages of UN chambers negotiating what they didn’t do to save people, this should make the whole world not repeat the same mistake.

So from these things I was very sad, but it also makes me to be strong and say ‘NEVER AGAIN’.

Music soothes the soul…later that afternoon, youth gathered to sing somgs of love, peace and unity. Listen to one song.

For more youth peace media, see Change Poems.

paulette leads trauma session

Paulette Baraka/Peace Camp 2012: Some emotional hurts are lighter, don’t last long and are more visible than others; while some are deep wounds, hard to see, long-lasting, buried within, and surface in a variety of ways and behaviours.

Don’t you think we’ve had enough extreme hate in our world? Time for some extreme loving!

To help youth cope with what they saw and felt at the memorial, and to be able to better understand each other, we had a session on trauma and mental health led by psychologist Paulette Baraka. At the heart of her teaching is belief in the dignity and value of each person. And that God can heal any wound in life.

We believe that helping youth to discover inner peace, to know that they are created in God’s image, loved by God, is an important step in life and in any peace-building. For it’s only in knowing deep in your heart and mind that you are truly loved and valued, that you can treat others in the same way – with love and respect. And have the strength to not be overcome by evil, but instead to conquer evil by doing good. Join us.

p.s. We’re busy working on exciting plans for Peace Camp 2013. More details to be posted shortly along with updates from youth peace clubs and some of their activities during this time of the 19th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi.

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Photos: Johnny Lam Photography/A Peace of Life. All rights reserved.

a peace of change poems

a peace of change

Happy Easter, with love from Rwanda

Think change is impossible? Be inspired by these Change Poems written by courageous youth as part of activities at Peace Camp 2012.

Change Poem

I was… hopeless.

I remember… little children encouraged to kill.

I heard… people calling others animal names.

I saw… people mistreating their neighbours.

I worried… about the day after that.

I thought …it was the end of life.

But I want to change.

I am… built up with peace.

I think… of the world with love and peace.

I will try… to live in peace with myself.

I feel… so strong.

I forgive… all mistaken elders.

Now I can change.

I will… be a peace-builder.

I choose… to follow the bright side.

I dream… of making the world more peaceful.

I hope… to live in a wonderful place.

I know… I will make it in Jesus’ name.

I will change.

View Change Poems 2012 Presentation for more inspiring youth poems.

As we enter Holy Week, a time of intense sorrow but also incredible joy, we remember, reflect and celebrate the world’s greatest example of love and forgiveness – the death and resurrection of Jesus so that all can be reconciled to God and to each other. It’s a message of true peace. It starts with a personal choice to change.

mass grave at memorial

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis occurred on the eve of the Easter season. Neighbour sat beside neighbour in church and then some went about brutally eliminating their neighbour.  It’s a soul-wrenching reminder of the battle raging between good and evil in our world. Are we complicit? Complacent? Or are we committed to not being overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil by doing good? There are many youth in Rwanda who are committed to doing just that, to being peacemakers in whatever situation they find themselves in.

We believe it starts with treating each other with dignity, to listen, to show empathy, to help each other explore skills and talents. We encourage the use of the arts to stimulate creativity and sharing our stories, to discover common ground.

Join the change.

Photos: Johnny Lam Photography/A Peace of Life. All rights reserved.

a peace of camp 2012

Peace Camp 2012

Congratulations to the latest graduates of peace camp offered annually by A Peace of Life in partnership with AEBR Youth! The most poignant and meaningful activity of Peace Camp 2012 was the day we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (pictured above). It was a time to renew our commitment to work together to be a source of peace, hope and love in our world. After this deeply emotional day youth were encouraged to write reflections on their visit. We look forward to sharing some of their thoughts and writings in future blog postings.

Peace Camp 2012 brought together over 60 youth and camp leaders from across Rwanda as well as a team of youth leaders from neighbouring DR Congo and volunteers from Canada and Kenya. We enjoyed a jam-packed six days of interactive learning on conflict and conflict transformation, peer to peer counselling basics in mental health and trauma, art therapy, character development for radio scripts, and self-help group basics.

dydine in action

Our training involved a variety of hands-on-learning and games – including our very own peace olympics which featured team relays and challenges as well as an arts category with spoken word (peace poems) and dance presentations. Pictured: Dydine, one of our volunteer directors in Rwanda, was our “filmmaker in residence” at camp, capturing activities such as this peace poem performed on the last day of camp. Dydine is one of Rwanda’s up-and-coming talents and has started an organization, Umbrella Cinema Promoters, to empower and encourage more female participation in the film industry. We look forward to seeing more of her work and will be uploading some short clips on our YouTube channel in the coming months.

campfire night

Popular night activities (besides staying up late in the dorms to talk!) included campfire night. Pictured left to right: Michel, our camp co-director, teaches William, our Kenyan volunteer, some Rwandan dance moves to the delight of campers. William also led a workshop on starting a self help group and shared some of his personal peace-building experience which includes food security and development in one of the most violent-prone and drought-striken regions of Kenya.

Another special night was the screening, in our makeshift outdoor theatre, of the latest short film, “Behind the Word,” by Clementine Dusabejambo, one of Rwanda’s rising stars in the film industry. She was on hand with other filmmakers of Almond Tree Films to answer questions and encourage youth to pursue their dreams and potential in the arts.

Anthony leads a session

Pictured: Anthony, a former peace camper, returns as a leader. We were thrilled to have Anthony lead a session and share his personal experience in starting a peace club in his village. Anthony also facilitated an outdoor game that he learned this past year as part of trauma counselling training with pyschologist Paulette Baraka. We were also pleased to have Paulette join us once again to facilitate a session on spiritual and mental health after our visit to the Memorial Centre to help youth process their feelings. Read more about Anthony’s story 

There’s so much more to report on from peace camp 2012, but that will have to wait till next month’s posting. Thanks so much to all of our donors and volunteers for making this event possible. You are terrific!

p.s. Check out a great instagram series (compliments of our Canadian volunteer John Zondo) of photos of daily camp life  and catch up on current news via our facebook page.

 

Photo credit (for all photos in this blog posting): Johnny Lam Photography

a peace of a great contest

And the winner is…..BIG congratulations to all the youth from 8 schools across Rwanda who have been selected to go this year’s peace camp. The contest was tough, but fun and your entries were highly creative. It was a very difficult choice. We look forward to meeting you all in less than a month. We will be joined by a team of youth from the DR Congo, a team from Peace and Love Proclaimers, as well as some mystery guests.

But enough said. We don’t want to give away too many details, and spoil the surprise. We are very pleased to be able to offer some new activities this year, as part of our growing emphasis on youth entrepreneurship and social enterprise. As one of the previous peace camp participants so clearly articulated, “There can be no peace without development and no development without peace.”

So the count down begins….27 days till the opening of peace camp 2012. Till then, good luck to those who are studying and in the middle of final exams.

May we each continue to experience the peace of heart and mind that comes from knowing our creator God who desires that each person experience fullness of life…peace in all areas of life….including exams and all the other stresses of life.

a peace of dance congo

Another Friday Fun Foto: “You got to put your butt into it” – learning to dance Congolese style at Youth Peace Camp in Rwanda.

Sometimes life just gets too serious and you have to have some fun. One of the most anticipated parts of the day at peace camp are the talent nights where youth create and perform their favourite dances, songs, skits, and poems. At last year’s camp, dances from the Congo were the most popular of all…well that, and watching some of the leaders take a shot at showing some moves. See more photos from peace camp and other activites

Youth are finding that song and dance are popular ways to create some common ground and to spread their message of peace. Club Unity in Mubago, for instance, have incorporated learning traditional dance in their community peace-building activities. They’re finding it’s also a great way to build more understanding between generations and learn more about their shared culture.  See video clip of some of the kids performing  

This November, we expect even more fun and cultural learning as we invite youth representatives from other countries in the Great Lakes region to attend Peace Camp 2012. Till then, however, our hearts and prayers go out to youth and their leaders from the DR Congo who attended camp last year and are currently having to cope with continued violence and unrest in their region. May youth continue to lead the way in peace-building and become excellent role models in all sectors of society for a better future.

 

a peace of national treasure

“Youth are a national treasure,” says Dydine Umunyana Shami, one of the volunteer directors affiliated with A Peace of Life in Rwanda. She took this photo on a visit to western province over the holidays.  We agree and are very happy to feature it today as our Friday fun photo.

School’s out…and many youth in Rwanda are now home for the holidays. But large numbers of youth continue to miss out on the opportunity to complete secondary education or even vocational skills training – it remains too big a financial burden for many families.  At our last peace camp, several youth shared the burden of lacking fees and were in tears at the thought of not returning to school in the new term. Poverty is one of the big challenges that youth face and that causes conflict and hardship. Some resort to desperate measures to stay in school or to earn a living. Some become vulnerable to abuse by those in positions of authority. These are just some of the issues we discuss at peace camp and incorporate into dramas, songs and dances as part of peace-building. At our upcoming camp, to be held the last week of November, teams of youth will be working on scripts, do a pitch to a team of “celebrity” judges, with the winning script and/or script characters to form the basis of a new radio drama to be written and produced by youth. We will also be learning more about social enterprise with youth pitching their best ideas to start a small, youth-led business. Stay tuned for more exciting news as plans progress. We’re looking forward to another great camp! Learn more about peace camp

About today’s photographer: Dydine is dedicated to peace-building and to developing the potential of youth in her country, and Africa in general. She recently attended an international conference on forgiveness, “Healing the Wounds of History”, in Kigali. She has also just launched a non-profit organization, Umbrella Cinema Promoters, to “bring the light to Africa through cinema”, and empower more young African women to become invovled in filmmaking.  We look forward to featuring her very first short film on AIDS at the next peace camp, and having her as one of our trainers and peer mentors. Dydine will help youth work on script-writing and share some of her personal experience as a young entrepreneur. More news shortly on other special guests to attend peace camp, including some possible young talent from Canada!

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