Kids Learn about Conflict Resolution from Nobel Laureates

By Fazzi, Cindy | Dispute Resolution Journal, August-October 2004 | Go to article overview

Kids Learn about Conflict Resolution from Nobel Laureates


Fazzi, Cindy, Dispute Resolution Journal


Kids Learn about Conflict Resolution from Nobel Laureates PeaceJam: How Young People Can Make Peace in Their Schools and Communities. By Darcy Gifford. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (www.josseybass.com), a Wiley imprint, 2004. Softcover. 155 pages. $22.

The Dalai Lama. Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Rigoberta Menchu Tum. President Oscar Arias. What do these famous names have in common? They all are Nobel Peace Prize laureates. They're also among 11 Nobel Peace winners who form the driving force behind PeaceJam, an international educational program that teaches youths about peace building and conflict resolution. This book is about them, but most of all, it's about the children-50,000 worldwide-whose lives they've touched through their involvement in the program.

PeaceJam, formed in 1994, is the brainchild of Ivan Suvanjieff and Dawn Engle. An artist and musician, Mr. Suvanjieff was inspired to start the program when he discovered that young Latino gang members in Denver knew who Archbishop Desmond Tutu was. Not only that, those hardened gang members appreciated the Nobel Laureate's nonviolent efforts to change South Africa's policy of apartheid.

Mr. Suvanjieff had an "aha!" moment: What if Archbishop Tutu and other Nobel Peace Prize winners were to work with him to teach kids about peace making and leadership? So, with the help of Ms. Engle, co-founder of the Colorado Friends of Tibet, PeaceJam was born. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader and a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, was the first to embrace the program's cause. Soon Archbishop Tutu was on board, along with the following Nobel Peace Prize winners: Mairead Corrigan Magviire and Betty Williams (Northern Ireland, 1976 co-recipients), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala, 1992), Jose Ramos-Horta and Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (East Timor, 1996 co-recipients), Adolfo Perez Esquievel (Argentina, 1980), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma, 1991), former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, (1987), and Jody Williams (United States, 1997).

How does PeaceJam work? It's a year-round leadership-training program that teaches students about the lives of Nobel Peace laureates and allows them to attend conferences where they meet and learn first hand from the Nobel winners. The students also implement service projects in their communities, such as conflict resolution workshops, AIDS prevention projects and diversity programs.

For some teenagers, PeaceJam was a turning point in their lives.

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