January 25, 2010
There is a fabulous organization in Philadelphia, PA, called Mural Arts Program. Their mission statement says that they unite “artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.” They organize community and school murals, art education programs, restorative justice projects, and other special projects. Their programs bring together people in the community, giving them a common goal to work towards together, with powerful results for the individuals and the community:
The Mural Arts Program includes the community in every step of the mural-making process, from selecting a theme to selecting a muralist, and from collaborating on a design to celebrating the mural’s creation. This way the mural fulfills its intention by becoming a living part of the community long after the project is completed.
We strive to have our mural projects represent collaboration. The mural-making process builds lasting community relationships, bringing together people whose paths might otherwise never have crossed. When diverse community members have joined together to promote the community, the finished mural celebrates their collective creative force.
Community-building, as this program does, is one of the foundations of peace. People who work together on one project are more likely to work together in the future. To conclude, here is a quote about the program from a muralist:
I’ve seen murals bring people together. They don’t solve all of a neighborhood’s problems, but they can bring new life and energy to the people who live there. They can be a catalyst for change.
—Donald Gensler, Muralist
January 20, 2010
From Small is Beautiful, by E. F. Schumacher:
It is of little use trying to suppress terrorism if the production of deadly devices continues to be deemed a legitimate employment of man’s creative powers. Nor can the fight against pollution be successful if the patterns of production and consumption continue to be of a scale, a complexity, and a degree of violence which, as is becoming more and more apparent, do not fit into the laws of the universe, to which man is just as much subject as the rest of creation. Equally, the chance of mitigating the rate of resource depletion or of bringing harmony into the relationships between those in possession of wealth and power and those without is non-existent as long as there is no idea anywhere of enough being good and more-than-enough being evil.
January 18, 2010
I have said on this blog before that I think education is crucial to creating a more peaceful world. I generally mean education for the masses, but in this post I want to highlight an organization that is focused on educating the next generation of leaders in Africa: African Leadership Academy. Their mission is “To transform Africa into a peaceful and prosperous continent by developing and supporting its future leaders.” They accept applications from high-school age students across Africa and select (on merit alone) approximately the top 100 to attend their innovative two-year program. They prep the students to attend the top universities in the world, but with a focus on leadership development, entrepreneurial training, and an understanding of African issues. From their website:
African Leadership Academy was founded in 2004 with the belief that ethical leadership is the key to transforming the African continent. Founders Fred Swaniker, Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur, and Acha Leke sought to create an institution that would develop, connect, and support those individuals who will lead the continent toward a peaceful and prosperous future. In the two years that followed, the founding team built a powerful network of advisors and developed a robust, sustainable operating model for the Academy, a world-class, pan-African secondary institution on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Their five founding beliefs are: address the underlying causes of problems, the power of one, the power of youth, the need for pan-African cooperation, and entrepreneurship is fundamental to growth. The core values that form a foundation for their program are integrity, curiosity, humility, compassion, diversity, and excellence. I admire the mission, beliefs, and values of African Leadership Academy and think it has the power to help bring peace to the world.
January 13, 2010
I collect quotes and quite a few are relevant to the topic of this blog, so I thought I’d start another weekly theme. Although I will usually post the quotes without added commentary, I welcome discussion in the comments!
From Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng:
It seemed that they really thought I would change my mind simply because they had beaten me up. But then, people who resort to brutality, must believe in the power of brutality.
January 11, 2010
First Place for Youth is a non-profit in Oakland, CA, dedicated to helping youth in foster care transition to living on their own. The California foster care system kicks children out as soon as they turn 18, leaving them to find their way in the world on their own, without the family-based support system that other 18-year-olds have. The numbers for these youth are stark, as stated on First Place for Youth’s website:
Without housing, education or emotional support, 65 percent of foster youth will face imminent homelessness, 20 percent will be arrested or incarcerated, 46 percent will complete high school and only 3 percent will graduate from college.
First Place for Youth has been successful at defying these negative statistics and helping many youth transition to adulthood:
First Place for Youth pioneered four innovative programs designed to defy negative statistics among former foster youth by providing an innovative mix of:
* permanent housing with a graduated subsidy
* employment training and job development
* education assessment and support
* transformative emotional support and community building
Over the last decade, First Place has had a profound impact on our youth participants. When compared to other transition age foster youth, First Place youth are:
* five times less likely to experience homelessness
* three times less likely to give birth before the age of 21
* three times less likely to be arrested
* six times more likely to be enrolled in college
* twice as likely to graduate from high school
* twice as likely to be employed
It is inspiring to me to learn about programs like this. Youth who are in foster care already have troubled lives, and badly need this sort of support to help steer them in a positive direction. It is an important way to strengthen our communities and decrease violence and crime. I am glad that there are wonderful programs like First Place for Youth out there!
January 4, 2010
I’m going to try again with an “organization of the week” series. I really like the idea and it is a good way for me to make note of the various inspiring organizations I come across. The day of the week may change but for now it will be Monday – to give you a nice inspired start to your week!
Shajar-e-Ilm (which means “Tree of Knowledge”) is a young and hopeful organization doing powerful work to educate girls in war-torn areas of Pakistan. From their website:
Shajar-e-Ilm began as a group of young students and activists who banded together to promote female education in Swat Valley, in the backdrop of the militancy which had banned female education in the area. After an overwhelming response to its first project Shajar-e-Ilm is now on its way to becoming a registered organization, with the goal of furthering education in Swat Valley and Pakistan more generally.
Shajar-e-Ilm’s core belief is that education is not simply literacy, but the ability to think and act progressively, creatively and compassionately. Shajar-e-Ilm encourages students to be creative and different; it provides them with networks of support and mentorship which they can use to reach for their greatest ambitions for themselves and their societies.
They have a blog to which I have just subscribed. I believe strongly that this sort of education is critical to peace and I hope Shajar-e-Ilm succeeds and continues its great work for a long time.