“Everyone has the right to work, to just and favorable conditions of work, and the right to equal pay for equal work,” says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Just as we do for each right we discuss at Peacebuilders Camp, today we asked the question, “Who might get left out of this right?” The answers we got this morning from our 11- and 12-year old campers might surprise you. They are thinking more deeply and watching what’s going on in their world more carefully than adults might expect.
What would be the easy answer to the question? For students who have doubtlessly been told many times that the purpose of education is to qualify them for a good job, it’d be simple to respond, “People who haven’t studied hard enough and gotten a good education.” Certainly, our campers wouldn’t argue (much) with the importance of study and education. But today they bypassed the easy answer and started looking instead at reasons that have less to do with individual initiative and more to do with structural barriers to just and favorable working conditions and equal pay for equal work.
Who might get left out of that right? Our campers listed:
People with disabilities
People with mental illness
People from poor countries
People from places that have been disrupted by war
People who have been in prison
People who have had trouble holding down a job in the past
That’s quite a list. But if all we did at Peacebuilders Camp was to name the problems, we wouldn’t be serving much of a purpose. Our curriculum is structured so that after barriers to rights are identified, our campers are introduced to people who are breaking down those barriers. Today, we split off in two different directions. One group visited Rudy’s Happy Patch, a farm market run by people with mental illness diagnoses. The other group toured Café Campesino, a coffee roastery that is committed to fair trade practices and to operating in relationship with hard-working farmers in many different countries. These are two concrete examples of solutions to structural problems that keep people unemployed and underpaid, and our campers were able to meet the people making these solutions happen. The two groups later shared with each other the insights they gained on these visits and offered ideas about how they and their families could start making a difference themselves.
Our youth are smart, y’all. They see what s happening around them. They see the homeless veteran on the street, the neighbor who is continually out of work, and jobless communities in chaos on the news. We can try to shield them, but they see. And since they’re seeing these problems, let’s show them solutions, too. Let’s show them the best of what’s out there, the passionate people who are fighting the hardest for equality, the initiatives that are most effectively creating opportunities and defending rights. Let’s give them the chance to learn from and build on what’s working so that they can view the problems they see as challenges to be solved instead of burdens with no hope of resolution. Our youth are smart. Let’s give them what they deserve: the tools, examples, and trust they need to make significant change in their world.