#Pathways2Peace experience for Americus youth a success!

campers at Peacebuilders Camp
Peacebuilders Camp at Taraji

Some of you may be old enough to remember these lyrics from the 1969 song Pass it On. “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going…and soon all those around, can warm up in its glowing.” The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation was honored to partner with Peacebuilders Camp this past week to provide that spark to Americus youth age 10-14.

Unable to host its annual overnight Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mattie’s Foundation felt that co-sponsoring a day camp aimed at fostering awareness and understanding of human rights would be a great opportunity to introduce our peacemaking work to the community as well. It was our first opportunity to host community members in our Foundation headquarters at Taraji.

Mattie’s Foundation has worked with Peacebuilders Camp the past several years to introduce elements of Mattie’s messages of hope and peace to campers in brief workshops. Mattie taught us that peace is rooted in being okay with who we are, which is possible when our basic needs are met. Peace grows when the basic needs of all people are equitably met. Education is essential to the process of understanding the diverse needs of all people. Every one of us can make choices that touch the future in a hopeful, peaceful way.

The foundation of Peacebuilders Camp is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Much less well-known than the U. S. Constitution, the UDHR is considered a foundational text in the history of human and civil rights and consists of 30 articles detailing an individual’s “basic rights and fundamental freedoms” and affirming their universal character as inherent, inalienable, and applicable to all human beings.

Jeni Stepanek, CEO and Chief Peace Officer of Mattie’s Foundation, summed up the week’s activities with this reflection, “So often we hear ‘one day, youth will be our future leaders.’ Actually, our youth are leading the way to creating sustainable and peaceful communities today! This group of young campers were eager to learn about local history and civil rights, about tending to basic needs and respecting the human rights of diverse groups, about the importance of fair trade and wages and sustainable farming, about tools for resolving disparities and problem-solving very real challenges that interrupt peace, and so much more — all while having fun and making new friends and enjoying hands on activities and field trips and some great food. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see their attentiveness to the camp program and to witness their compassion for humanity. Cultivating pathways to peace takes patience and partnerships and creativity and collaboration. The continuum of advocacy work and the momentum for peace is strong here in Americus. And after a week of working with these campers, I am more confident than ever that we have many young role models who are eager to continue growing forward — choosing attitudes and shaping realities that will foster goodwill and better living for neighbors around the block and around the world.”

We are extremely grateful to Peacebuilders Camp Co-Directors Marilyn McGinnis and Quayneshia Smith for the opportunity to bring a touch of Mattie and Mama Peace into their outstanding camp curriculum. We are all changed by the power of the connections brought forth as a result.

We also want to thank the following #Partners4Peace for supporting Peacebuilders Camp through donations of food, field trip opportunities, outdoor pavilion space and service projects. We truly could not have done it without you:

  • Americus Living LLC (Bill Harris, John and Amber Stovall)
  • Roman Oven (Anthony Dragoin)
  • Gyro City (Wael Zahrouni)
  • Jimmy Carter National Historical Park (Beth Wright, Jill Stuckey)
  • Buffalo Café (Kim Fuller)
  • Café Campesino Roastery and Coffee House (Tripp Pomeroy, Lee Harris, Ifah Hathcock)
  • T-31 (Elena Carné)
  • Koinonia Farm (Bren Dubay, Elizabeth Dede)
  • Americus-Sumter County Movement Remembered Committee, Inc. (special thanks to Sam Mahone for a powerful living history lesson)

#MakePeaceTheNews #Partners4Peace #UnityInCommunity