"If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children."

~Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peace Education Workshop: Day 4

On Day 4, it was the end of our first week of training. We discussed the possibility of peace without resorting to violence. We reviewed what we learned the past few days-reflecting on using international instruments to promote peace and equality.

With this in mind, the group brainstormed ways to work together-the Human Rights Monitor and the Hope for the Deaf school-to advocate for disability rights. Together, they decided to become more vocal and unified, urging the Liberian government and local organizations to provide services for
people with disabilities. They planned on utilizing local radio and newspaper outlets to generate awareness, as well as writing to government officials to encourage change.

It was a positive ending to the first week. Over the weekend, the participants looked forward to the next week of trainings, focusing on teaching peace through games and hands on activities.

While in Liberia, it can be easy to concentrate on the "ugliness" of a war torn country--piles of refuse, shells of buildings, lack of services to parts of the country. It can be easy to overlook the beauty that it has--beautiful forests with great trees like the cotton tree shown, amazing views of the ocean and quiet beaches, the thankfulness of Liberia's people, even for the smallest of things.

It is never my intention to focus only on the negative, even though it may seem to overwhelm me at times; there is so much positive, so much determination and good will that radiates from Liberia that it is not hard to find hope. It is part of why I went back and will hopefully return to in the future.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Peace Education Workshop: Day 3

On the third day of the workshop, we discussed in depth the causes of conflict. The participants were able to make the connection between unmet basic needs and conflict, as well as how one handles conflict, which can either be in a positive way or a negative way. Though conflict (a disagreement) may be inevitable in life, it is the way one deals with conflict that will produce a positive or negative consequence. The participants also learned about various conflict resolution techniques through role plays and discussion.
The Human Rights Monitor led the dialogue on Liberia's own civil conflict,
connecting aspects to violations of basic human rights. Overall, the participants were able to see firsthand how to use role plays/discussion within a learning environment. The role plays allowed the participants to "step into someone else's shoes" to understand perspective and empathy-two vocabulary words for the day. It is hoped that the teachers at Hope for the Deaf school will use these skills and techniques within their own classroom in the coming year.


One of the challenges during the workshop was a language barrier. While I am fluent in American Sign Language, and Liberian Sign Language is very similar, it was still difficult at times to bridge the gap between the two languages. This being my second trip to Liberia, as well as working with the staff at Hope for the Deaf, it did not take me as long to adjust my signing as last time--substituting American signs for Liberian. But extra time (as much as possible) was spent going over specific vocabulary and teaching new signs to the staff who were deaf, making sure they understood the material. Unfortunately, this time my stay was much shorter, causing our extra time to be squeezed. Fortunately, the staff was very patient and worked hard to learn the new language needed to teach peace.