It is my great privilege to hand this post to Mel and Joccoa, mother and daughter who have been using the Peace Heroes program in their homeschooling program for over a year now (feel free to read this blog post for more about their very creative ideas). It begins with Joccoa’s lovely poem, featured artistically in her picture above, followed by some of her thoughts, and ends with some reflections from Mel.
Peace is pale aqua
The taste of cool smooth cream
Peace is the smell of fresh rain
And clear clean air
Peace is the sound of birds singing,
Wind in trees
And flute music.
Peace is soft and cool and light
A blanket to protect you
Peace is an island in a war torn world.
I love Peace Heroes. It teaches me about new countries, cultures, and brave people willing to stand up for what they believe in. It has also taught me how lucky I am to live in a peaceful place.
The stories have inspired me to work for peace and equality for all, in a world where many thousands of people live in horrible conditions, and are too scared to fight for a better life.
With every hero, I get to do amazing works of art to remind me of them, and I love to see my peace tree bud and blossom. Some of the things the heroes stand up to are a bit scary, like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, but I still love learning about the heroes themselves.
My favorite heroes are Gandhi, because he was an inspiration for so many others to peacefully protest; and Mum Shirl, because she was so motherly, and I want to be like her. I want to help people who are suffering, and do my part to bring peace to this world.
The African masks with their black faces and hollow, dehumanised eyes, crowd into the small space beside the apartheid ‘wall’ of apart-ness. The few white faces occupy a much larger area. One black African (with required pass book) represents those who come into the ‘white zone’ in order to carry out required services for the whites. The artwork is a visual representation of all we learned about apartheid and the injustices the system imparted on anyone who was not white.
Into this visual comes a black mask with a purple cross on his face – Desmond Tutu, the peace hero we are currently learning about.
My daughter and I have been making use of the Peace Heroes program in home-school for over a year now. It quickly became our favourite subject to study, for although a lot of the situations we learn about are hard to digest, we are constantly in awe of the people who make a stand for peace. Some stories resonate more strongly than others, but all of the heroes we have learned to date have inspired us in some way to be advocates for peace.
Being a classroom of one has its challenges, but one of the things I love about this program is that it doesn’t have a fixed structure with set lesson plans to follow. It gives you all you need to get started and allows you the freedom to mould it to suit your own specific situation. Obviously class discussion and group activities were not going to feature in our one-student classroom, but if nothing else, our household is creative, so a lot of our activities were expressed or represented through art projects. A Tibetan prayer banner that outlines the Dalai Lama’s life; Mum Shirl’s motherly arms wrapping around the people she cared for and protected; and our latest venture – the representation of apartheid and its devastating effect on the South African people, and the changes Desmond Tutu helped to bring about. Being visual people, we love having these pieces of art that at a glance can remind us of all we have learned about the struggles of a country and the steps individuals took to be a beacon of light in the darkness around them. Collectively they convey a message of hope.
I love that through this program my child is learning to embrace our humanness as a uniting factor, rather than focusing on differences that so often leads to fear and hatred; to value perseverance as a positive and strong characteristic worth pursuing; that one person can make a difference; that heroes do not need super powers, just the willingness to use their God-given abilities for a more just world; she is learning that there are people in the world (beyond media conceptions) who are worthy of emulating; and perhaps most importantly she is learning to look beyond herself as she sees hero after hero deny their own personal safety and comfort, for the betterment of their fellow humans.
Since the program covers heroes from a vast variety of countries around the globe, of all walks of life and religious backgrounds, both male and female, it soon becomes clear that no one particular type of person or characteristic is needed to be a hero for peace – any one of us can make a difference in the world. The diversity of issues also makes it obvious that my child’s privileged life is not the norm. Walking in another’s shoes for a time is allowing her opportunities to develop empathy and hopefully sparking a desire to follow in the footsteps of these numerous heroes and be a more active voice on behalf of those less fortunate than herself.