It is no secret that we live in a broken world. In every country across the globe, children are suffering from the consequences of violence, conflict, crises, poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Nearly twenty-five percent of the world’s children live in conflict or disaster stricken countries. Of the 25 million refugees in the world today, over half are children. Fifty percent of the world’s children have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in this past year alone.
While children are the most vulnerable, they are also remarkably resilient. We want to raise up a generation that will have the capacity to restore dignity to our broken world. Nelson Mandela has said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We believe that through education we can give every child the opportunity to be a hero of peace.
Our hope is (and always has been) to make this program as accessible and inclusive as possible to children everywhere. The two years we have spent piloting the program in ten different schools have given us some insights into possible areas of need in communities across the globe. These insights have deepened our conviction that Peace Heroes is more needed now than ever to empower children to rise up and bring change for good in the world around them.
Our insights have also expanded our vision in ways we could not have foreseen when we set out on this journey more than five years ago. In addition to our ongoing expansion and development of the material we have now, we would like to grow Peace Heroes in several different directions by creating several unique models based on the core curriculum. For example, a model that caters specifically to traumatized communities, and a model that caters to communities with a very strong oral tradition.
The Trauma Model
As mentioned above, the number of children around the world who are living with trauma is staggering. In the Gaza Strip in Palestine, for example, it is estimated that over 90 percent of children suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of the Yazidi children living in the Sharia refugee camp in Northern Iraq were rescued from ISIS captivity. These are extreme examples, but the truth is that children in much less overtly violent environments also suffer a great deal of trauma. Even in the United States, is it estimated that over 60 percent of children will be exposed to some kind of traumatic event before they reach adulthood. Trauma is prevalent, and unless it is addressed in the right way, it can be detrimental to the wellbeing of individuals and the communities in which they live. If our purpose is to help heal the world, then it is essential to make room in our program for children who live with trauma.
There is something very powerful in approaching trauma through the stories of others – through the “back door,” as it were – as it creates the distance that is needed for children (and adults) to feel safe enough to address their experience of brokenness in a non-personal and therefore non-threatening way. It is in and through this safe space that children can find a way into their own trauma, and from there, to healing and restoration. Our stories offer a unique opportunity for children to face their trauma through the lives of others – through people who have also suffered greatly, and have overcome. These stories not only let children know that they are not alone, but can also help guide them to the other side of pain, and to possible healing.
With this in mind, it is our hope to create a comprehensive model of Peace Heroes that integrates trauma healing practices into the curriculum’s core activities. We would, for example, work with trauma specialists and professional art and play therapists to give children suffering from trauma the tools to face their own brokenness and process it in positive and life-giving ways. We would also create a teacher-training program that equips educators to deal with the effects of trauma in the classroom.
While current data shows that the average literacy rate across the world is between 80-90 percent (age and gender accounting for variations in number), this information does not accurately reflect the wide discrepancies in literacy rates based on geographical location and/or particular people groups within countries. So, for example, in sub-saharan Africa, the literacy rate, on average, is only 30 percent. And in Canada, where literacy rates are among the highest in the world, it can come as a shock that among the Aboriginal communities living on reserves, literacy rates for high school students hover around the 20 percent mark.
We believe that all children can be peace heroes – that every child is capable of rising up to be an agent of change within his or her community and the world at large. Our curriculum empowers students everywhere to this particular end, but if we do not take into consideration children who are illiterate, we bypass a segment of our world’s population that would benefit greatly from such an empowering learning experience.
If we focus for a moment on Canada’s Aboriginal community by way of example, we find that there is a very compelling and powerful way to overcome this challenge: namely, tapping into this community’s oral narrative or storytelling traditions as a way of increasing literacy among Aboriginal children. Studies have shown that when oral storytelling is integrated into the educational framework, literacy rates among Aboriginal children improve dramatically.
With this in mind, it is our hope to create an Oral Model of Peace Heroes as a way of both honoring the oral traditions of many communities around the world but also providing the children in these communities with tools to increase their literacy rates. In so doing, Peace Heroes can open up new opportunities for children living in fragile communities to rise above the hardships that illiteracy inevitably brings and be agents of positive and profound change within and outside of their communities.
There are so many ways we can use the stories of real-life peace heroes to mend some of the brokenness of the world in which we live. There is much work to be done – but so long as there are people (of all ages!) willing and wanting to make a change for good, then I believe that peace will keep on coming, breathing new life and new hope into all the broken places.
 UNICEF Press Release December 9 2017
 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook
 American Psychological Association
 UNICEF “Hidden in Plain Sight” Report on Violence
 World Health Organization Report on Violence February 2018
 “Addressing the Literacy Issues of Canada’s Aboriginal Population” by Dr. Rongo H. Wetere, ArrowMight Canada, 2009.
 “Literacy” by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Espina, Our World in Data, 2018.
 “Recognize Trauma Statistics,” Mental Health Connection, 2018.
 “Storytelling as a Foundation to Literacy Development Among Aboriginal Children: Culturally and Developmentally Appropriate Practices,” by Anne McKeough, Stan Bird, Erin Tourigny, Angela Romaine, Susan Graham, Jackie Ottoman, and Joan Jeary. Canadian Psychology 49.2 (2008): 148-154. Print.