PeaceJam unleashes potential for good

Loy Norrix High School pupils from Michigan, USA, last month joined locals from PeaceJam South Africa for a beach clean-up. Earl Mentor, South Africa co-ordinator of PeaceJam can be seen in the front, far right.

What do Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama and 10 other Nobel Peace Prize winners have in common?

One answer is Earl Mentor, Ocean View-based PeaceJam South Africa co-ordinator.

PeaceJam is a worldwide American-based NPO registered by the United Nations. It has created programmes in conjunction with the Nobel laureates to develop good people to do good things in our multi-cultural world.

“Unleash your potential for good,” is one of their rallying cries, with Nobel Peace Prize winners mentoring youth to change the world, helping to develop programmes used wherever PeaceJam operates.

There are programmes such as “Juvenile Justice”, which is “rethinking life choices and personal power, channelling the struggle of Nobels to support those in the juvenile justice system to learn civic responsibility, peace, reconciliation and leadership while challenging them to rewrite their life stories and learn the power of peace”.

Or mentoring young people to become global citizens. Or “Adventures in literacy and leadership”, which encourages literacy by exploring the lands and cultures of the Nobel Laureates with step-by-step lessons for engaging young students in service. Another important programme is the prevention of bullying, preparing young people to live with compassion in a multi-cultural world.

The bonus is that these programmes and mentoring possibilities are all set up, ready to be used, with support from PeaceJam and their benign laureates.

Desmond Tutu was to have attended the local PeaceJam conference in October but couldn’t because of health problems. He was ably replaced by his daughter Mpho Tutu. Next up for the locals is laureate Betty Williams, Founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People).

“I was approached by the PeaceJam executive who had observed my work at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre,” said Mr Mentor, a musician also known for his work at Fruit(* )ation and his use of music as a catalyst for positive change and to release trauma.

“Knowing me, I didn’t hesitate,” he said with a broad grin.

So armed with the wonderful PeaceJam curricula, he is building partnerships and training up facilitators to spread PeaceJam from the far south to beyond, moving northwards as it grows as he hopes it will.

Mr Mentor is enthusiastic about the programmes that focus on overcoming stereotypes and breaking barriers; those exploring peace and violence in society; problem solving; identity and differences; as well as empathy and compassion.

“The aim for us is to engage more of our at risk youth positively, as this is a great programme that helps develop positive leaders – especially in marginalised communities,” he said.

He has started linking up with youth forums to discuss the programmes, event planning and how to tackle local issues. He is hoping to get the anti-bullying programme into local schools.

Last month they had their first international event when students from Loy Norrix High School from Michigan, USA, joined them in a beach clean-up.

They believe in linking up and building on what has gone before, especially when it comes to matters such as the gangs in Masiphumelele and Ocean View. With Save Our Beloved Slangkop (SOB) they are hoping to build relationships between parents and children and doing conflict resolution.

“PeaceJam is about bringing organisations together in order to hold hands against social ills and unite communities,” Mr Mentor said.

“It’s an exciting process. It’s changed my life personally, given me a different outlook.”

Mr Mentor is hoping that local businesses, organisations and youth groups will join hands to take PeaceJam forward.

If you are interested in taking part or contributing in any way, email southafrica@peacejam.org or call Mr Mentor on 072 857 3392.