By Victoria Nyanjura, Fundraising Associate at Generations For Peace
I was blown away by the overwhelming number of 39 Generation For Peace (GFP) volunteers from around the world arriving at the hotel. It was just one of the greatest moments of this year that has shown me how international organisations can prepare local communities to identify measures to address conflict on their own within their contexts. I am describing the Generations For Peace Samsung Advanced Training (GFPAT19) at GFP’s global headquarters in Amman, Jordan, where volunteers from 12 different countries were brought together to participate in a five-day training in order to develop new skills in areas of local fundraising, local asset mapping, understanding indigenous peacebuilding, and conflict resolution with which they can improve relationships in their various local communities. Throughout GFPAT19, all volunteers took-on different responsibilities during and after exercises, which enabled them to build their confidence in expressing their ideas with one another and participate in other activities that will support peacebuilding back in their home communities.
It was the first Advanced Training I had ever attended, and as I reflect back on the training, I share four key takeaways with you:
- The Importance of Mapping Local Assets for Peacebuilding
There is a need to build the skills of local peacebuilders to empower them to identify the issues existing within their local community, classify community assets that may be of use to solve these issues and develop ideas that they feel will best address the conflicts within their communities. As I was listening to the GFP volunteers discuss the strengths and assets of their local communities, I witnessed first-hand how they were able to explain how they can tap into these assets to strengthen their peacebuilding efforts. For example, a volunteer from Nigeria explained how one of their projects regarding youth can contribute positively to the overall goal of their Ministry of Youth, which aims to combat violence and conflict in Nigeria, especially among youth. Her description demonstrated how local community assets were beneficial to the broader society to foster peace. People are more willing to participate in businesses and other ventures when they are sure there is peace within the environment they reside as well as possibility of growth that will boost the economy through sales and productivity to generate more assets within their communities. The potential outcomes enable us peacebuilders to appreciate the significance of teamwork in bringing about peace in our communities as it surfaces the importance and contribution of all the different assets within our community. This is a confirmation that the local community understands the dynamics and resources that exist within their settings and know the approaches that can work best towards addressing them.
- Team-Building Activities Inspire Change
During GFPAT19, one particular exercise that caught my eye was a team-building activity, where volunteers had to interact with each other through art and dancing. The purpose of this exercise was to have the volunteers learn something new about themselves before the training started, set a foundation for interacting with one another, and build their confidence up. This left me in awe because it confirmed to me as a peacebuilder the importance of art and dance as a way of connecting people and promoting reconciliation through dialogue and storytelling. Throughout the training, I was able to witness these volunteers realise their talents and transform their skills to support peacebuilding in their local communities. As a peacebuilder, I must agree that we are always in constant learning, and we must accept that we do not have all the skills but must be willing to learn from each other.
- Motivational Speeches Spark Connections Between Communities
Motivational and short speeches by volunteers of different backgrounds helped to build confidence and trust among the volunteers. The motivational speeches helped to bond them together by showing that they all have a common desire to contribute positively within their communities. This manifested the importance of storytelling and sharing of experiences towards the foster of learning. Such an attitude of learning and sharing helps to shape their individual approaches and views of how peacebuilding actions and processes can be localized to suit local needs. Opportunities to listen to each other provides the support of long-term peace that helps us as peacebuilders to understand and appreciate how the implementation of peacebuilding varies from one local community to another.
- The Need to Celebrate Successes and Identity
As outside peacebuilders focus on helping local actors improve their capacities in peacebuilding, it is necessary to celebrate the small successes that these local populations achieve along the way. Acknowledging small successes is not a way of displaying that volunteers have reached the peak of their efforts, but a way to motivate them to continue their peacebuilding. GFPAT19 concluded with an awards ceremony, and it was interesting for me to notice that because the efforts of the volunteers were celebrated so proudly, they became motivated to return to their local communities and do more. As I watched the volunteers receive their awards, I was struck by the remarks of Charles, a GFP volunteer from Uganda. As he accepted an award on behalf of volunteers in Uganda for winning this year’s Impact Award, he said, “I am humbled that the little efforts we make on the ground are appreciated highly by many.” I found myself nodding in agreement because his comment resonated with me! The local efforts of a grassroots actor might seem simple but being celebrated offers a great motivation not only to the winner but all of those present, as well as individuals who will hear of the news after the event. Outside peacebuilders need to support the enthusiasm of local actors as a way of promoting complementarity towards ensuring global peace.
When I think of my vocation, as a peacebuilder, the description by John Paul Lederach in “The Moral Imagination” comes to mind as a direct representation of myself, the volunteers, and other peacebuilders. Lederach describes our vocation as the identity which stirs inside, calling out to be heard and calling out to be followed. Listening to the volunteers discuss what led their desire to serve their community, I appreciated the importance of going local in peacebuilding to enable the volunteers and other peacebuilders who understand their assets and what works best by identifying and utilising the local resources to build relationships through partnerships in promoting peace within their communities that support humanity and advocate for the collective flourishing of all humans. Our vocation, as peacebuilders, reveals that we are consistently on a journey towards discovering who we are, the virtues that we possess to support humanity, and how these virtues contribute to the broader goal of sustaining peace in societies.