Peace Seeker Spotlight
Peace Seeker — July/August 2012
(& Summer 2013 Update Honorees!)
The Waweru Family
The Waweru Family (L-R) Ray, Terry, Mike, & Brian
When Brian Waweru of Kenya was selected as one of the 31 Global Teen Leaders who would attend the 2011 Just Peace Summit, no one would have predicted that Mattie’s message of hope and peace would touch and inspire his entire family. Today, Mike and Terry (Brian’s parents), Ray (his brother), and Brian (the youngest in the family) work together on the RUWEWA Foundation. Created to promote peace through sports, RUWEWA stands for “Real Understanding of Well-being With Action.”
The Waweru family has been selected by Mattie’s Foundation as a “Summer Spotlight Update” honoree. Each summer, we update some of our Spotlight Honorees from across the previous year, selecting those individuals, families, and organizations who have continued to make deliberate choices that spread peace in our world. The Waweru family has continued to spread peace in Kenya, in the United States, and in the hearts of the people with whom they interact.
The Wawerus’ original Spotlight feature is below on this page.
Responses from the Waweru Family
our August 2012 Peace Seekers of the Month:
Despite humble beginnings in a country struggling with violence and discord, Brian decided to seek peace for the citizens of Kenya. He networked with other peace seekers, began talking with other young people in community centers and slums in Kenya, and launched a semi-annual Sports Day to teach cooperation and to drive social change for children, including children orphaned by the post-election violence in Kenya several years ago. It was because of this work that Brian was selected to participate in the 2011 Just Peace Summit.
The annual Just Peace Summit, hosted by the We Are Family Foundation in New York City, grew out of Mattie’s final book (Just Peace: A Message of Hope). During the Summit, along with many other speakers and facilitators and contributors, Jeni Stepanek (aka “Mattie’s mom” or “Mama Peace”) shares her son’s message through a series of assemblies and activities that help the teens understand, explore, and embrace Mattie’s vision of humanity as a mosaic of gifts to be treasured and celebrated, as well as Mattie’s concept that peace begins with tending to and balancing the basic human needs of all people around the world.
Brian called the Just Peace Summit “a life changing experience, for me and for my entire family.” In addition to furthering his own peace project with the skills and peace tools he gained through participation, Brian also chose to become a key supporter for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation’s “For Our World Campaign.” After reaching out to friends and students in both Kenya and South Africa, Brian secured more than a dozen translations of Mattie’s 9/11 peace poem which reminds global citizens to ‘stop, be silent, and notice’ and to celebrate that ‘we have, we are, are a mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.’ Now, those who speak these African dialects can download and share Mattie’s message in a language that is understood by their families. (Visit our For Our World Campaign translation page here).
“I am humbled to be part of Mattie’s audience throughout the years,” Brian said. “Mattie is a gift to me and my family, and has rallied us behind creating the RUWEWA Foundation to ensure that the basic needs of 350 orphans are met. We cannot ignore the power of words in our life, and Mattie’s gift of delivering a message of peace is one we can help him to take to all the corners of the world. As peace seekers, this is our mission and we hope that one day we can all look back on the fruits of our labor and be satisfied to have made the world more peaceful than it is now.”
Mike and Terry initially heard about Mattie as a result of their son’s experience as a GTL. “Through Brian’s involvement with the Just Peace Summit, we learned about Mattie’s ‘Peace Mission’ to the world and how he valued peace,” Terry said. “This has touched us in various ways. Mattie’s message was so inspiring coming from a young man who was a peace seeker. He made me understand peace as a choice. This revealed a new found way of understanding what peace in the world and particularly my country meant.”
Several months after the 2011 Summit, Mike and Terry learned even more about Mattie while watching Oprah Winfrey’s 25th anniversary show, when Mattie was recognized as one of Oprah’s top three Most Memorable Guests. As recommended by Oprah, they then read the biography Jeni penned about Mattie’s life – “Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs” – and decided that ‘choosing peace’ was something they wanted to do. They became ‘peace seekers.’
“At home,” Terry said, “we always tried to make sure that our family had their basic needs met, and I came to appreciate what that could do for peace. Many times in Kenya, the violence that we have seen has stemmed from socioeconomic turmoil, so much so that people take it upon themselves to disrupt the peace, the choice that someone has made.” She added that because of what she learned from Mattie, “ I began to conceptualize peace as an attitude and a habit and this moved me to action. As a result, we became strongly motivated and committed to understand that ‘Peace is a Gift’ we give to the world and we decided to begin at Children Garden’s Home (a Kenyan orphanage) and by creating the WUWERA Foundation to promote the gift of peace.”
During the spring of 2012, the Waweru family made a trip to the United States, which included a visit to the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park and Peace Garden in Rockville, MD. During that visit, Jeni met with the family and together, they discussed personal peace and world peace, and the choices each of us can make in attitudes that make peace possible. They also talked about Brian’s support for the For Our World Campaign, which helped transform Mattie’s poem into an international passage for peace. “As a family,” Mike said, “we now hope to continue carrying the same campaign in our community here in Kenya, especially with our elections coming up. We don’t want a repeat of violence that our country experienced in 2008. We are happy to see Mattie’s message guiding young people’s energy, most notably with Sophie Umazi, a 2012 Global Teen Leader who after learning more about Mattie’s message, began the “I am Kenyan” Project with the mission of promoting peace in the country.
Ray also first heard about Mattie from Brian. “After my brother returned home from the Just Peace Summit,” Ray said, “Brian embarked on a project that re kindled Mattie’s message of peace in many hearts at the Children’s Garden Orphange in Kangemi, Kenya. As an environmentalist and conservationist, peace is something that resonates with me deeply in my daily work. I am involved in the ecological maintenance of natural spaces and sanctuaries where individuals and groups may find peace within themselves and their surroundings. There is a certain calmness that overcomes an individual when sitting on a bench gazing on a lake, taking a hike on a trail, bird watching or visiting a national park/historical site.
“Our world today is threatened by taking this peace away,” Ray added, “as developments encroach these natural places where people have developed deep connections with nature. It is my hope to restore this peace so that future generations may gaze upon the same lakes, hike the same trails and watch the same birds while innately developing a peace that only nature can give. When I visited Mattie’s Park, I was inspired not just by nature’s tranquility but by the message Jeni spoke to me of making peace part of my disposition. I am therefore honored to say that in this restoration, peace will be internalized as a lifestyle to give comfort to our souls.”
“We feel greatly honored and humbled as a family to be recognized as Peace Seeker,” Terry said in a letter to Jeni. “More than the honor though, we are greatly motivated to champion the message of peace, in the same simple words Mattie used to explain it to the world. The impact that Mattie’s Foundation has had on our lives cannot be measured.” Brian added to his mother’s comment, saying “Thank you, Jeni, for changing the world day by day with the work of Mattie’s Foundation.”
Mike, Terry, Ray, and Brian,
for being Peace Seekers.