Don’t be a bystander!

During our discussion of the right to dignity, we seek to give campers tools with which they can disrupt injustice. What can you do when you see someone being disrespected, hurt, or oppressed?

Campers first discussed the bystander effect:

…and then they watched this video:

Then campers split into groups of four and created skits about moments when they’ve seen or experienced disrespect or injustice. Their stories included:

  • Seeing someone shoplifting
  • A young person being bullied on the school bus
  • Police hassling a person of color in a wealthy neighborhood
  • A female person of color being sexually harassed by a group of white boys

While watching the skits, campers were invited to stand up and enter the scene, trying out ways they might disrupt the situation. Approaches they experimented with included:

  • Using their voice to interrupt the situation
  • Using their phone to video an interaction
  • Sitting down next to a bullied person to be an ally
  • Standing between two people in conflict
  • Telling an offending person they are wrong

What other techniques might you use? Are there situations where it might be unsafe to intervene? Would your reaction be different if you were the only person that saw the situation? Or if you were in a huge crowd of people? Would your reaction change depending on your identity, race, or gender?

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Jonah |

Are you up to the challenge?

All of Session 1 campers from Peacebuilders Camp 2018 are home, or on their way. Many are probably napping, while others are telling their families of the friends they met, the things they learned, and the new things they experienced during a very full week of camp. While they, like our staff, will appreciate a couple of days of rest and relaxation, we are confident that they are not finished thinking about ways they can change the world. In fact, we believe that in the coming months, we will be hearing great things from many of them about how they are impacting their communities.

To help them focus on how they might put all they learned this week into action, our campers were presented this morning with a list of challenges, based on the human rights we explored this week. Campers chose one to three of these challenges to accomplish in their home communities. We want to share these challenges with you, and we’d love to hear if you, like our campers, accept one or more for yourself. Which of these can you pledge to accomplish in the next few months? Let us know, and we’ll check back in with you and see how you’ve done!

The right to dignity and equality — we challenge you to:

  • Make and effort to always thank workers who are usually not noticed or respected, like janitors, grocery store clerks, and garbage collectors. (One of our campers shared her own family’s practice of noting and honoring the birthdays of their mail carrier and others.)
  • Make it a habit to notice who is being left out of groups or activities, and invite them to join you.
  • Start or join a group at your school that addresses problems of bullying.

The right to a fair wage — we challenge you to:

  • Talk to your family about trying to buy only fair trade chocolate, coffee, clothing, or gifts.
  • Learn about the gender pay gap and call your elected officials to say what you think should be done about it.
  • Find out if there are businesses in your community that hire people with disabilities or people who have been in prison. Write them a letter to thank them.

The right to a nationality — we challenge you to:

  • Learn about the situation in Israel/Palestine so you can explain it to others.
  • Choose a country you don’t know much about and learn to cook food from that country.
  • Get to know someone from another country and find out what they value about their nationality.
  • (One camper suggested celebrating holidays from another country. For those of us not of US American heritage, invite neighbors to celebrate your country’s special days with you!)

The right to food and medical care — we challenge you to :

  • Organize a food drive for a local food pantry.
  • Pack small bags of snacks and hygiene items to give to people who are asking for help.
  • Raise money to send to an organization that provides healthcare in a developing country.

The right to freedom of expression — we challenge you to:

  • Practice a form of expression that is new to you until you become comfortable with it. (Examples: dancing, writing poetry, public speaking, drawing, joining protest marches)
  • Write a letter to your senator, representative, or other elected official about an issue that is important to you.
  • Have a conversation once a week with someone you disagree with and listen to their opinion respectfully
  • (One of our CITs also reminded us that,  for adults, voting is a form of expression and suggested to campers that they could encourage others to vote, or participate in campaigns for candidates whose positions they support.)

Two of our newest Peacebuilder alumni, Giselle and Jay, wait to be picked up from camp. Now the real work of peace building begins!

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |

Guest Peacemaker Cameron Williams (aka C-Grimey)

C-Grimey & Litzy

Peacebuilders Camp welcomed a hip hop star to camp on Friday! C-Grimey (aka Cameron Williams) from Chattanooga joined us for a day centered around the celebration of the right to expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all people have the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

But as Cameron explained to us, in the mid-1970s, the budget for arts in New York City schools was virtually eliminated. Without options for artistic expression in their schools, students the same age as our campers started creating collaborative art in public places. Hip hop grew out of this youth movement. Cameron led us through a history of hip hop and campers were eager to chime in with their own knowledge, especially fitting their own favorite artists into the history Cameron presented.

C-Grimey and Erica

Campers then got to work directly with Cameron in a workshop where they were encouraged to write lyrics, perform their own or others’ compositions, and to dance. A concurrent “How to Draw Comics” workshop also encouraged campers to exercise their right to expression.

By Friday, campers have made friends and defined themselves in the camp community. But music, dance, and art can allow them to redefine themselves and to step into new roles. Some of the quieter campers eagerly took leadership and even performed their work before their peers. Erica, Litzy, and Alicia were three campers who were particularly drawn to the content of Cameron’s workshop.

Camper Alicia performs while her peers and counselors dance

Erica is one of our quietest campers – but she did a great job with writing and performing. Litzy was an especially eager participant in the workshop, composing and performing in both English and Spanish. And Alicia also performed in our showcase on Friday night – rapping solo while her peers danced! (click the video to right)

And we got a personal concert from C-Grimey, as he performed one of his own compositions, “A Glimmer of Hope,” with campers as his back-up dancers. (click the video below to view some of his performance)

C-Grimey performs “A Glimmer of Hope” at Peacebuilders Camp

We are so thankful and inspired to have someone like Cameron Williams at camp, guiding us to use hip hop as a vehicle of self expression and social justice!

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Jonah, Guest Peacemakers, Guests at Camp |

A Peacebuilders Tradition

For the eighth year in a row, Peacebuilders campers traveled to Ellenton, Georgia to learn about the work of the clinic there that serves migrant farm workers. Thanks to a donation from Diaz Foods in Atlanta, and to Café Campesino staff who transported it, campers were again able to stock the food pantry that the very first Peacebuilders started there in 2011. This year, we repackaged 200 pounds of rice and 100 pounds of black beans!

While some campers were working at the clinic, others were touring the surrounding farms with clinic director Teresa Quintana. They were able to see the fields that grow the produce that ends up on our supermarket shelves, and learn about the hard working men and women who harvest it. They learned about health hazards the workers face, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which claimed the life of a 24-year old worker there recently.

We are honored to continue this tradition of serving, and grateful to our partners who make it happen each year!

Step 1: Kalindi (and Haden!) clean the cabinets

Step 2: Camper groups (here, Alicia, Medley, Jay, and Haden) package rice and beans into smaller quantities for use by families.

Step 3: A job well done!

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |

Guest Peacemaker Izzy Pitman

Izzy Pitman and camper Prince

Izzy Pitman just graduated from Paideia School in Atlanta where she was a varsity ultimate player. As she drove up, campers Kalindi and Prince recognized her and cheered. Izzy had been teaching ultimate at their after school program for the last year and now here she was at Peacebuilders Camp! The boys were excited to help Izzy teach the game of ultimate to their new friends at camp. Both are already amazing players!

Izzy uses her sport as a vehicle for peacemaking. She has always been interested in multicultural learning and, having grown up in Namibia, has been surrounded by an international community her entire life.

She gathered campers together to tell us about Ultimate Peace‘s work to build bridges between Israeli and Palestinian youth through the game of ultimate. Ultimate is unique among competitive sports in that no outside referees are involved, and players must referee themselves and work out conflicts and differences of opinion on the field. This teaches conflict resolution skills that can transfer to other situations. Ultimate Peace (and Izzy) believe that the game of ultimate played in multicultural settings can lead to changes in behavior and deep and enduring shifts in awareness, which can in turn lead to peace on a small and large scale.

Campers cook food from Israel & Palestine

After explaining how this approach to peacemaking relates to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Izzy led a group of 4 campers in making hummus and baba ganoush for our international dinner. Yum!

Then after dinner, Izzy, Prince, and Kalindi got all campers and staff out on the field to throw frisbees and play warm-up games. Many of the campers and counselors played ultimate until it got too dark to see, even through a downpour!

Today, Izzy leaves for Israel/Palestine to be a mentor and coach at an Ultimate Peace camp there. We are privileged to have her at Peacebuilders Camp, giving our campers a model for how sport and peacemaking can be intertwined!

Playing ultimate until dark

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn, Guest Peacemakers, Guests at Camp |

Where do you stand on the right to a fair wage?

Everyone has the right to a fair wage, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our campers didn’t have any trouble understanding why this right is important! And yet as obvious as it is that pay should be fair, they also are very aware that for many workers, this is a right that is not honored. We considered what groups of people might not be able to exercise this right. Here are some of the answers our insightful campers gave: people with disabilities, people who lack transportation, immigrants, and women.

To consider some of these issues further, campers were asked to put their bodies on a spectrum between the extremes of “Agree” and “Disagree” in response to three statements.

  • Everyone who works full-time should make enough money to support their family.

In response to this, every one of our campers placed themselves on the far “Agree” end. No one could offer an argument against this statement, and yet we know from recent reports that nowhere in the U.S. does a full-time minimum wage job pay enough for a worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Somehow, there is a disconnect between what is clearly fair in the minds even of middle schoolers and the reality that many, many workers face.

  • Some jobs are more valuable to the community than others, and those workers should be paid more.

Initially, most campers placed themselves near the “Disagree” end on this one. But when specific examples were given, many changed their positions. Should a brain surgeon be paid more than a garbage collector? Should an artist be paid more than a judge? How about a professional football player and an elementary school teacher? These questions had campers spread all over the spectrum, and in defending their positions, they brought up many different considerations. How many people does each occupation impact? How much education or training did this job require? If this job doesn’t pay well, will anyone choose to do it? How broadly does someone in this profession inspire others? What expenses and risks does each job entail? Clearly, there are no simple answers!

  • I am willing to pay more for a product if I know that the people who produced it are paid fairly.

While most campers tended toward the “Agree” end of the spectrum, others near the middle brought up realistic concerns about how they could afford higher prices, even if it did mean a fair wage for the workers.

Where on the spectrum would you put yourself for each of these statements? What values drive your responses?

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |

Guest Peacemaker Bill Harris

Bill Harris & camper Roan

On Tuesday, to meet their first special guest peacemaker, campers traveled to Guatemala. Well, to the Guatemala house at the Habitat for Humanity Global Village in Americus. There they met Bill Harris, the founder of Café Campesino who is a strong advocate for fair trade. Through his leadership and example, Café Campesino has become part of a greater movement – with emphasis on social entrepreneurship, sustainability, & business by the Golden Rule.

We visited with Bill at the Guatemala house in particular because it was during a Habitat building project in Guatemala that he first became aware of the situation of small coffee farmers and took the first steps to join them in promoting fairer practices in the coffee trade. Watch Bill tell his story by clicking the video below.

Bill shows us around the Guatemala house

At the Guatemala house, Bill described what makes a healthy house in Guatemala – a smoke-free stove, an adequate roof, an adequate toilet, and a clean water supply. And he helped us understand why the homes where many coffee farmers live are not healthy. Fair trade practices are one step that can help people live healthy lives in safe, comfortable homes.

Roan (our camper pictured with Bill above) raised her hand and asked Bill if he feels it is realistic to expect fair trade practices to expand worldwide. Bill’s answer was a passionate, “Yes!” He said that the fair trade model can be applied to many, many more products that we buy. Because fair trade makes win-win economic interactions possible, it’s feasible for workers all over the world to raise their standard of living.

Ethan explains how coffee is roasted

Across the street at Café Campesino’s coffee roastery, our learning continued. We saw how the coffee beans that Café Campesino buys from their partner farmers are processed to make the coffee we drink.

Bill emphasized how he never set out to be in the coffee business specifically. Instead, he followed his interests and passions to offer a solution to a problem he saw in Guatemala that could help farmers create a better way to make a living. And this vision has now spread to many other countries as well!

Roan and other campers left informed and inspired to seek ways they, too, can participate in the fair trade movement.

Hair nets are necessary during the roastery tour

Counselors and campers smiling during the tour of the coffee roastery

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Jonah, Guest Peacemakers, Guests at Camp |

A foundation for building peace: honoring dignity

“Everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This first article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also the focus for our first day of camp. Our initial task in understanding what this article means was to define dignity. Words like “value,” “respect,” and “equality” came up in our discussion. To narrow down further what it means to treat someone with dignity or respect, campers were asked to complete four sentences. They came up with some very insightful answers. Here are some of them:

I feel respected when others . . . 

  • introduce themselves
  • ask before physical contact
  • make eye contact

I feel disrespected when  . . . 

  • people are being fake
  • someone makes fun of my name or gives me a nickname I don’t want
  • someone tells lies about me

I show respect for myself when I . . . 

  • stand up for myself
  • honor physical and mental limits
  • ignore peer pressure

I show respect for others when I . . . 

  • acknowledge their culture
  • make sure they are heard
  • don’t gossip

Tomorrow, we’ll take all the ideas that were shared and distill them down into guidelines that we can all agree on for how we will treat each other this week of camp. Using dignity as a foundation for our relationships, we are well on our way to building peace!

Some other activities from our very full first day of Peacebuilders 2018:

Several get-to-know-you games broke the ice and helped us all remember each other’s names.

Many of our campers (and staff!) just can’t get enough time on the soccer field . . . even in the rain!

During free time, CIT Lucas taught a crowd of campers how to fold origami creations.


Meanwhile, counselor Lily challenged Cinque to Connect Four while Prince built the tallest tower ever.

The rain cleared and the evening was perfect for a hayride  . . .

…until the tractor couldn’t make it up a muddy hill, and we had to walk!

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |

Session One Campers are almost here!

A rainbow greets us at Koinonia Farm

Peacebuilders Staff are really excited to meet our first week campers tomorrow morning! We thought you might like to get to know a bit about them, too.

Our first twenty campers will be coming from urban, suburban, and rural areas of Georgia, including Leesburg, Clarkston, Atlanta, Powder Springs, Snellville, Americus, Woodstock, Bronwood, and Quitman.

They speak the following languages: English, Swahili, Spanish, Chin

They identify as Christian, Muslim, and agnostic, and they attend public, charter, and home schools.

We know they are interesting, talented, and passionate young people! Here are some of their answers from questions we asked when they registered for camp:

What are your favorite hobbies or activities? yoga, theater, seeing how people live, crossword puzzles, playing badminton, boxing, baking

Tell us something new you’ve learned recently. 

  • I learned how to do exponential functions.
  • Being friendly can bring peace.
  • If you see a different person’s perspective you might be able to see ideas in a different way.
  • I’ve learned that to be good at something, you must practice.
  • To dance

What are three of your talents or strengths?

  • contortion, singing, cooking
  • beatboxing, drawing, dancing
  • I speak Spanish, draw, and run fast.
  • I am good at caring for my family. I also can communicate with new people to make them happy.
  • singing, helping others, and helping lift heavy stuff
  • I can make a four leaf clover with my tongue. I’m really good at writing too.

Who is a mentor or hero of yours?

  • Stephen Hawking
  • My parents. I am so thankful for them.
  • My teachers are my mentors because they never give up when students are having a hard time.
  • Lin Manuel Miranda
  • James Barry. James Barry was the fake name Margaret Ann Bulky. Under this name, she became a military surgeon. She had to hide the fact she was women simply to practice medicine.
  • Messi, because I like soccer.

What is one way you’d like to see the world change?

  • I want everyone to love each other! It doesn’t matter how anyone looks.
  • I want to see robots everywhere I go.
  • I would make the earth into a giant pizza, so, people would never have to pay for food.
  • I would like to see the world free of racism.
  • I just want peace and love in the world so that poverty, wars, and genocides can stop.

Can you tell why we are so much looking forward to spending a week with these young people?

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |

Peacebuilders Staff, ¡Presente!

Peacebuilders Staff 2018!

With less than 36 hours to go before the start of camp, we expect that our first week campers might be busy checking their packing lists, settling jittery nerves, or enjoying a last outing with their family. Our staff, on the other hand, are already hard at work at camp, and quickly coalescing into a strong team. This year, we are fortunate to have three returning counselors, Carla and Madison from last year, and Lily from 2015. They are being joined by counselor Asa and CITs Christian and Lucas. All of them bring a wealth of talents, knowledge, and experiences to offer our campers. Christian is eager to make disk golf a Peacebuilders tradition, Carla is ready to resume morning hikes with early-risers, and Madison is anticipating more late-night talks in the dorm. But first, there have been posters to be made, groceries to be shopped for, supplies to be organized, and tasks to be divided up. Everyone has jumped right in and proved once again that many hands make light work. They have transformed Fuller House at Koinonia into a home base for camp activities, have spent time sharing philosophical musings, and have (only a little) bemoaned the lack of accessible live coverage of the World Cup.

Children at the Lumpkin Families Belong Together rally.

Saturday afternoon, with most of the necessary tasks checked off Mario’s extensive lists, the team headed to Lumpkin, Georgia, 35 miles west of Koinonia, for a different kind of work. Lumpkin is home to Stewart Detention Center and El Refugio. Peacebuilders and El Refugio have a long partnership. To support El Refugio’s mission of hospitality, campers in years past prepared snacks and last year built outdoor furniture there. We’ve learned about immigration and the asylum process from El Refugio facilitators as part of our study of the right to seek asylum. Many campers have visited men incarcerated at Stewart, one of the largest immigrant detention centers in the United States. This afternoon, though, Peacebuilders’ presence was for a another purpose. We were determined, like people all over the country this day, to be ¡presente!, to be counted, to show up to do the work of democracy, solidarity, and peace. We joined about sixty other concerned peacemakers, many from Indivisible Columbus, to raise our voices in protest of the government’s Zero Tolerance policy at the border, and the inevitable separation of immigrant families when adults are sent to mandatory detention. We listened to speakers at El Refugio, and then the crowd reconvened near the gates of the detention center itself to bear witness to the pain that lengthy detention inflicts on families. Especially moving were the words of a young mother who regularly makes the five-hour trip from North Carolina to visit her child’s detained father. Through tears, she pled for his release and gave a human face to the tragedy that so many of us are seeing only in news reports. Afterward, one of our counselors exchanged phone numbers with this young woman, pledging tangible support in addition to the compassion and empathy that we all felt.

Carla gets her message across in three languages

Can you find Asa?

Our staff members know the importance of showing up, of being ¡presente! with people whose human rights are ignored or trampled. We are ¡presente! in a crowd with other Southwest Georgia peacemakers, and we are increasingly known and respected by them for the work we’re doing. We are ¡presente! with each other, too, in spite of heat, humidity, and gnats; we are listening and learning and inspiring and challenging one another. We know that our voices, our insight, and our energy are needed right now, in this troubling present time, when so many other voices are being shut down. But in the next three weeks, our minds will also be in the ¡futuro!, because we know that as hard as we and others are working for peace in the present, the future will demand as much passion, vigilance and wisdom. And so we commit ourselves to the business of training the next generation of peacemakers, shaping the voices and minds and hearts that will be called upon to stand and be present. Will you be ¡presente! with us in these next weeks? We covet your support!

Categories: 2018 Peacebuilders Camp, By Marilyn |