Burlington Students of Diverse Cultures Build “Sustainable Peace and Sustainable Future” Together

Friday, September 14, 2012

This fall youth leaders from nine countries of Africa and Asia, including Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mali,  Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam, will work together with their American born peer leaders, including high school International Club members and football players, to launch a community project “Sustainable Peace and Sustainable Future” in the greater Burlington area. 

Most of these multicultural youth leaders are members of Diversity Rocks who go to school at Burlington High School, Winooski High School, Essex Junction High School, and South Burlington High School.  Diversity Rocks is a fun-filled group of culturally diverse, former refugee youth between the ages of 14 and 21.  Its mission is to increase access to education and employment for former refugee youth, while expanding awareness of racial and ethnic diversity in the Vermont community.

The project “Sustainable Peace and Sustainable Future” has as its mission to encourage and enable youth of different cultural backgrounds to gain peace building skills through cross-cultural learning, understanding and relationships. It will start with a ten-hour training of leadership, communication and peace building skills. During the training the group will take a trip to the UN to participate in the one day conference at the United Nations on September 21st to celebrate International Day of Peace. They will also learn from the youth leaders of the world about community peace project building. Returning from the UN they will design and plan peace building projects to be carried out in their local communities.   The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a way that, through interacting and working together with people of different cultures, American born youth increase their awareness and understanding of cultural diversity, thus effectively preparing them to become successful citizens of the globalized world in the 21st century.  It also aims to help former refugee youth learn American culture, American society and new skills that enable them to have a successful life in their new home country.

The ten-hour training will be conducted by the youth trainers of Children of the Earth.  Children of the Earth, founded by Dr. Nina Meyerhof, is a well established, UN recognized non-governmental organization.  It is dedicated to the building of a better future.  Children of the Earth deliver programs which provide young people with the empowerment and leadership skills necessary to advance peace in the world today and in the future.  Training topics include: “Knowledge of UN and International Day of Peace,” “Defining Spirituality for Individuals,” “Active Listening”, and “Community Action Plan,” and more.

The trip to the UN for International Day of Peace will take place on September 21st.  It is a full day event.  The International Day of Peace, a.k.a. "Peace Day," provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. In 2002 the General Assembly officially declared September 21 as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.  Each year the United Nations holds a conference for international youth peace leaders at the UN assembly hall of the UN headquarters in New York City. UN Secretary General and UN peace ambassadors make speeches to youth leaders.  During the conference, the UN Secretary General conducts a bell ceremony, international youth leaders present their peace building projects, and they participate in a world flag ritual. Hundreds of Vermont youth leaders have been participating in this celebration since 2003 through Vermont Peace Academy and Children of the Earth.

The Sustainable Peace and Sustainable Future Community Building in great Burlington project is initiated and led by Vermont Peace Academy in collaboration with Diversity Rocks, Children of the Earth and six participating local high schools.  Vermont Peace Academy (VPA) is a non-profit organization that promotes the teaching, learning and practice of peace. Established in 2003, VPA contributes to the global movement of creating a culture of peace through an array of programs including conferences and workshops, educational programs in primary and secondary schools, and professional trainings. 

The training will take place on Saturday September 15, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, and on Wednesday, September 19, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Chill Out Center in downtown Burlington.  The UN trip will start at 12:00 am, September 21, at the Echo Center in Burlington.  

This event has received financial support from the Bay and Paul Foundations.