If one event could fully capture and brilliantly tie together all that our youth have been working on and learning throughout the Global Institute and with Kids4Peace so far, our event today with the US Institute of Peace did just that. The event was comprised of three aspects; a panel, roundtable discussions with policy makers, and a workshop led by USIP on nonviolent actions. The panel included USIP officials and policy leaders, as well as two recent graduates of the Global Institute, who are representing Kids4Peace on a speaking tour around the US. For the current Global Institute participants, hearing from such great role models and was inspiring. The two graduates, Omar and Eliana, exemplified to our youth the outstanding and admirable work that they can achieve when they use the tools and lessons they have gained from the Global Institute.
“It was inspiring to hear how much work they are doing after the Global Institute because that is one of the things I feel is most important about this program; not only do we get our tools here and learn all about public speaking, sharing our stories, and making a change, but we can continue to make a change when we go home. I thought it was extremely inspiring to see the changes they are making in their own community, and seeing them use what they gained from the Global Institute to make those changes. The Global Institute is not only this amazing experience over these intense 10 days, but it is also about bringing what we learned home with us and using these new skills and tools to make a change where we are and when we can.” – Catie, Christian, Seattle
The officials and peace leaders on the panel described how the USIP works to achieve peace through ‘bottom-up’/grassroots and ‘top-down’ efforts. They explained how from the top down, the USIP works with government officials and policy makers to create active change. Additionally, the grassroots efforts are equally as important, as a member of the panel said; “what you all do with Kids4Peace is not simply a nice and optional addition to our peacemaking, but a necessary addition.” The USIP addressed the importance of our youth telling their stories, connecting today’s lessons with what was taught yesterday, and further encouraging our youth to make their voices heard. Roundtable discussions were held, where our youth were able to ask policy leaders important questions and have conversations on relevant and important topics with such qualified people. These questions included; ‘how do you try to engage in conversation and dialogue with people who are from the “other side” or who don’t agree with your opinions?’ and ‘what inspired or attracted you to become an advocate for peace?’ The USIP also led a workshop on nonviolent action and how to achieve a just, peaceful society through peaceful measures. Our youth were given examples of conflict situations and asked how they would respond, in an exercise focused on teaching the best ways to solve a problem in a peaceful manner. Later in the evening, we were joined by Nina from an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder to hear how music and visual arts can play a role in promoting peace. Our youth discussed how lyrics in songs often speak to people, and motivate them to take action. It was an impactful day all around and the day ended on a high, when the kids finished off the music workshop with a dance party and performance by our very own musicians David and Ido.