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.
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.
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.
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!
Photo credit (for all photos in this blog posting): Johnny Lam Photography
It’s Friday Fun Foto….So You Think You Can Dance, Rwanda? Yego! (Yes!)
Just some of the song, dance and slam (poetry) that we had at our youth peace camp, held this past November in Nyange. Our photographer is Anthony, one of the gafotozi.
See more photos by the gafotozi at peace camp.
Gotta see this…clips of some of the song, dance and slam (poetry), live and unedited, from nyange youth peace camp.
Learn more about our first peace camp and how you can help sponsor another one.
Meet the newest peace ambassadors in Rwanda…on our last day of peace camp we celebrated, danced, sang, prayed and said our good-byes…more photos and news about all of the events at camp will be posted shortly. It was a truly remarkable opportunity to bring 48 key youth representing 6 of the AEBR schools from across the country and we greatly thank all of our supporters for helping to make this happen.
Till our next posting, we leave you with one of the peace songs written and performed at camp.
p.s. Picture taken by one of the gafotozi, our “official camp photographers”
“You have to see it to believe it.”
Perhaps that’s the best message a day like today offers, as people around the world celebrate International Day of Peace. A glimpse of what could be that captures the spirit and the imagination.
Maiden of Peace
It’s only fitting today to share the story of young *Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace in kinyarwanda) and her classmates at Nyange Secondary School in Rwanda. *not pictured
In 1997, three years after the official end of the genocide in Rwanda, militia rebels continued in their mission to wreak havoc. One night, they burst into a school classroom where students had just finished homework and evening prayers. They demanded that students separate into Hutu and Tutsi. Their intention was clear – to kill all the Tutsi students.
But Chantal refuses. “All of us are Rwandans here,” are her last words as she’s shot dead. Her courage and conviction inspire her fellow classmates, and they too refuse to separate. Rebels continue to fire and even use grenades. In another classroom, the same story, and the same brave response. All in all, 6 students lose their life, and 20 wounded, rather than betray their friends and classmates. I wonder what impact the selfless act of students had on the rebels, deep down inside?
Peace starts within
This incident highlights the deeply spiritual aspect to peace – for it involves the necessity to love and forgive at some point in order to break the spiraling cycle of evil, hate, revenge, guilt and shame.
The path to peace is not in what I do, but in what I believe; that affects what and how I do things. ”The transformation that we should seek should not only be the transformation of our society, but also the transformation of our spirit because the inner transformation inspires the outer work…there is an intimate connection between our inner state and what we do in our outer spheres. This consistency is the foundation of being a fully integrated person.” (Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace, by Centre for Peace Education)
”The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” notes Jean Vanier in his book, Living Gently in a Violent World. “The vision of Jesus was extraordinary… he entered into this world to love people as they are…saying to each one, “You are important. You are precious…There can be no peacemaking or social work or anything else to improve our world unless we are convinced that ’the other’ is important.”
Nyange in November
When we stumbled across the story of Chantal and her classmates, we knew we had found the perfect location to hold our first youth peace camp this November. It will be in Nyange, at a school just a few miles away from the original site. We will also have one of the school survivors on hand to share their story. We will learn about conflict transformation, share personal stories, and even plant a peace garden for a lasting memorium.
Join us. Help encourage and inspire youth who are committed to working for peace in Rwanda. Make a donation today.
Upcoming Special Events in Toronto:
Oct. 2 - Bowl-a-thon
2 – 4 pm, Newton Brook Bowl A Rama, 5837 Yonge St., Toronto
Join New Faith Youth Ministry in their sweet quest to have fun and raise funds to help youth at risk in Rwanda, including those courageously dealing with HIV/AIDS, go to peace camp, an inititiave of a peace of life and AEBR Youth.
Oct. 5 - a peace of life photo exhibit and film night
7:00-9:30 pm., Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto
Join us for the screening of Munyurangabo, a beautiful film that was also the first feature film to be produced in kinyarwanda (with English subtitles). It presents some of the issues youth face today in peace and reconciliation. Also on hand: gafotozi – photo exhibit from our village workshop last November with youth at risk in Rwanda.
Admission: suggested donation of $5, or pay what you can. We are very grateful for the generous support of Merchants of Green Coffee for providing the space for this event. Our evening will include an opportunity to make a donation for the youth peace camp in Rwanda. For more info, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace) truly lived up to her name. You can learn more about her story and what happened at her school in Catherine Larson’s book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. Or check out the short film, “We are all Rwandans”.