Moving Forward!

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mohandas Gandhi

The quote above has become our motto here at The Growing Peace Project.  It inspires me to do my best work, informing my attitudes, decisions, and actions.  And it keeps me believing in a just and humane world!

Here’s an update on our progress and plans since I last posted:

The Growing Peace Project is now a program of Milestone Adventures, Inc, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a seven-member Board of Directors.  I’m excited to be working with a talented and committed group who do the hard work necessary to move us forward.  Their contributions have been invaluable.

The 2010-2011 school year culminated in a student retreat held in July at my Vermont home and Growing Peace office.  Sixteen students (eight from each school) were selected to spend four days together, where they considered their place in the world, thought about their relationships to each other and to society, addressed their responsibilities as citizens, and actively worked together to grow peace.  These students took their retreat experiences and their work products back to their home schools and communities, where they are working this school year on leading their peers in addressing community issues of their choosing. 

The retreat was a moving experience for students and staff alike.  Here are two culminating reflections:

What I learned from my new friends is that it doesn’t matter where you come from or sex you are, that we are all the same on the inside.  So because we are all family don’t kill, only peace.  That’s what I’m asking for, that’s all.  (student)

I don’t know if you are able to fully grasp the work you did, but each of you has contributed to creating peace in this world.  In this day and age, I’m not sure if there is anything more important for our communities or our minds to be focused on.  I hope you continue what you started by being mindful of our four project goals – to develop leadership and cooperation, to foster relationships between cultures, to empower one another, and to become citizens of conscience – by carrying them over into other parts of your life.  Each of you has power, potential and potency!  Never forget that.  (staff) 

Lovely sentiments indeed!  

Another important facet of The Growing Peace Project is our free food garden.  We’ve devoted nearly a half acre of land to growing food for people in need, which we donate to local families and to organizations that serve the needy.  When the retreat students were here in July they helped maintain and harvest the garden.  In the process they learned about organic gardening and healthy food choices, with the added benefit of bringing home a new awareness of serving their communities.  In the summer of 2012 we will also partner with local youth organizations interested in supporting our garden, and will enlist their help in implementing a “plant-a-row” campaign and gleaning produce from area farms.  A long-range goal is to offer a series of food-related workshops for needy families, such as understanding the nutritional value of healthy foods, as well as preparing, processing, and storage.

As we enter our second year of service we are excited to be working once again with our original cohort of students, who are fine-tuning the action plans they created at the retreat for implementation throughout this school year.  Those students will be invited back for “Retreat 2” during summer 2012, where they will further their peacemaking and student activism skills, and help write curricula for future cohorts of students.  They are also eager to help create a student blog that will provide a forum for young activists around the country to share their work with one another.  In addition, I’m in communication with other schools interested in joining the project in the fall of 2012, and I’m keeping these potential partners informed throughout the coming year.  Finally, to help us move our vision forward we are actively seeking grant funding and financial support from donors who believe in the work we do. 

It’s a very exciting time for us here at The Growing Peace Project!

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