Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PartThree: Kids are Kids Everywhere

I move back into memories of Alison’s trip imagining and hoping the teachings of travel outside her own culture transforms into meaningful ways of seeing the world and that this spreads infectiously to others who do not have the same opportunities.

Alison, Maya, and I took part in a summer peace camp for a week in Halifax held by Peaceful Schools International (PSI), a non profit, charitable organization that provides support to schools around the world that commit to creating and maintaining cultures of peace within and outside school settings. The organization was birthed by Hetty Van Grup, a warrior mother who turned tragedy into hope after her 14 year old son was killed in a bullying incident at his school over ten years ago. I shared this story with Harford Village Peace Leaders as I was inspired by Hetty’s commitment to peace and her strength and courage to turn tragedy into hope. I too share her belief that teaching peace building skills to kids is a crucial element missing from schools and communities. Alison met Hetty the first day of camp and was able to put a face to a story. I remember Alison saying after the first day of camp “That lady a real hero oui!” and further reflecting on the violence in her own school and community and recognizing the value to the activities we facilitated weekly with the Village kids.

During the week Alison and I volunteered our time to assist in helping the facilitators while Maya was one of the peace kids. Throughout the week the kids were engaged in learning gardening skills, making traditional aboriginal talking sticks, role playing various conflicts and peace building solutions, making peace banners and playing peace games and other activities. The kids sang with legendary Nova Scotian folk singer Terry Kelly, met a famous book illustrator, and danced to the soulful beats of various visitors. They talked through skype with kids from Pakistan and Sierra Leone who are also involved in PIS.

Alison met a variety of kids throughout the week: biracial kids like Maya; physically challenged kids who were treated like everyone else and who contributed equally to the scene; outspoken kids and shy kids; kids who came with very little to eat for lunch and those who had enough to share for everyone. There was unlimited art supplies and unlimited time to talk, be heard, and listened to. Alison recorded various activities, games and ideas throughout the week so we could use them with the kids in our community. On most evenings Alison arrived home exhausted from kid’s unbridled energy. She said one night “Those kids not easy man, I didn’t know Canadian kids can be so unruly and crazified just like Grenada kids. Eh eh I thought it was village kids alone who could get on so!” She learned kids globally have energy "for real" and if this energy is not channeled creatively and with purpose then it has the potential to burst into confusion, chaos and sometimes violent directions.

Part Four is in the making!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Part 2: Youth Revolution Starts Here

I can still feel the ear to ear grins, the yelps of excitement as our extended family lept over the coastal waves on our way to placing ourselves on the path of the pilot whales off the coast of Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton; magical moments floating in the midst of prehistoric creatures rolling in and out of the sea, blessing us with their existence.

The meeting of the whales was part of our trip to Cape Breton on the first weekend of Alison’s arrival. Theo, Maya, Alison and our friend Nancy drove to Pleasant Bay where we dived into a weekend of meeting new friends, visiting spiritual places and inhaling the natural beauty of Cape Breton. Our trip was organized with the help of Joel Burton, a past participant of the Grenada Service Learning trip. Joel traveled to Grenada with a group of students from St. Francis Xavier University to take part in a cross cultural immersion program a few years ago. Upon hearing about Alison’s trip to Canada, Joel jumped head first into raising funds for Alison’s trip. Joel’s mom, spear headed a community fund raising initiative within their community of St. Margaret’s Village, Cape Breton and raised over $300 for Alison’s journey. Joel and his family also organized our weekend agenda and we found ourselves meeting grass roots “salt of the earth” people in the form of Joel’s extended family. This included mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and his past high school teacher who introduced us to his ninety year old father who was in Grenada during the Revolution in the early 80’s. There were many stories remembered and shared of revolutionary times both in the Caribbean and Latin America. We departed our new friends with a renewed sense of global community.

That weekend we also inhaled the gentle mindful air of the Gappo Abbey; the Shambhala Buddhist Monastary that sits on the northern cliffs of Cape Breton. We visited the Abbey and walked amongst the wild cliffs of Atlantic coast, inhaled the silent stillness and walked to the Stupa of enlightenment laying down our gifts of stones and flowers.