Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peace Jam

So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. - Martin Luther King, Jr

Imagine for a moment that our world was at Peace. What would peace look like? How would your life change?

Every year the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg celebrates World Peace Week with YMCAs across the globe. This year’s theme was “The Power of Peace. The Power of People,” encouraging everyone from all walks of life, in each moment of their day, to strive to live peacefully. The LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM held a Peace Jam for their youth in order to “to show our own youth the power that they possess as individuals and as a group” said Mary Moore, the South branch’s Youth Coordinator. The event included games, crafts, food and a guest speaker to present a workshop on Conscious Communication.

Conscious Communication is a method for the effective and efficient sharing of ideas, thoughts and feelings between two or more people. Conscious Communication encourages us to be conscious of our body language and method of speech when communicating with others, and avoiding the trappings of violence in our choice of words and posture. Basically, Conscious Communication is about being mindful of how we use our language - verbal or body - in order to express ourselves.

“The presenter discussed liberating ourselves from cultural learning … and encouraged us to create structures in our lives that support compassionate giving” relayed Mary Moore, who co-ordinates the Leaders Program.

The Leadership Development Program is an integral part of the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg, engaging youth to explore their potential in a value-based space. The program provides teens with a welcoming, supportive and safe environment in which they are afforded the opportunity to grow as individuals by sharing their skills and knowledge with others, gaining new skills, and becoming involved with their community.

After the presentation, the group had a chance to discuss the information. Mary noted that the youth thought the most important thing they can do to bring Conscious Communication into their lives is to UN-learn what they already “know.”

We talked about how we communicate with people as we judge them on the way they dress, the way they act and the way others treat them. The youth discovered the importance of questioning conformity. Another strong point we discussed was the concept of making compassionate giving natural. The youth discussed the significance of empathy and understanding – as it applies both to themselves and others.

A few months have passed since the Peace Jam and presentation, and I wanted to know if any of the concepts had a lasting impression. Was the information left at the door, or did it continue to impact these young people in the months after, when they were tempted to fall back into their old habits? Moore commented that she has seen an increased level of maturity in her Leaders, and they are better able to consider the viewpoints of others when discussing important issues, and expressing their values to others.

What does Moore hope that her Leaders gain from this experience?

As a human being I hope they learn to question, but question in a way that they are open to learning and understanding and to never be afraid to broaden their horizons - Above all, I hope that the youth gained that we care about them so much that we want to hear their ideas, their stories and their values and that learning effective communication is a skill that can promote compassion, understanding and above all, peace.
Would you like to learn more about the YMCA-YWCA Leaders Program, Peace Week and other initiatives? Visit us on the web at!