Posted by Tammy Heckenberg
Rotarians Work for Peace and Conflict Resolution
 
Each month Rotary International focuses on a particular humanitarian issue.  In February, for instance, the focus is on Peace and Conflict Resolution/Prevention.  While we all tend to focus somewhat singularly on the high profile conflicts around the world, like the fighting and human suffering in Syria, the fact is that according to the 2018 Global Peace Index the global level of peace has deteriorated in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations.  Peacefulness in ninety-two countries deteriorated, while 71 countries improved. The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the past decade remain unresolved, especially in the Middle East, resulting in this gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness.  Clearly there has never been a more important time for Rotary International to push forward with peace initiatives worldwide. 
 
In our own District 7190 we will hold our second Peace Summit for Youth on May 11 in Schenectady.  This daylong event is aimed at high school students and invites them into a facilitated conversation which encourages them to self define peace - in their school, in their community and in the world.  While adults may think of peace on the context of war and border conflicts, our youth perceive conflict in social media, drug abuse, violence, bullying and sex.  Finding peaceful solutions to these issues is where they tend to focus their thinking and hopes.  It is our job to nurture their ideas and help them to grow hope for their own future.
 
Read on for an example of what Rotary International is doing around the world to address peace and conflict resolution.  This particular blog focuses on the effort of a Rotaractor (college age Rotarian) to encourage peace in her community. 
 
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Painting the way to peace

By Yesenia Uribe, Rotaract Club of Juárez Integra, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
 
I have always been concerned about the situation in my city. Ciudad Juarez is sadly known for a high crime rate and violence related to drug trafficking which creates an atmosphere of insecurity.
 
I wanted to learn more about how I could implement peace in my community, so I applied to participate in a workshop called A Stronger Mexico: Pillars of Positive Peace organized by the Institute for Economics and Peace. I learned that peace starts in small communities and that we cannot think about global peace if we do not work on it from the roots.
 
Art for peace
 
I live in a city with many abandoned and vandalized parks. My Rotaract club decided to create peace murals in each park to unite communities through art and rehabilitate these common spaces. We needed to recover public spaces so the community has a place to gather in a healthy environment and coexist in parks that are in good condition.
 
At first, we were afraid to make a single mural. We thought it was going to be expensive. And our neighbors were apathetic. Many people didn’t want to help because they didn’t get something in return. But we were determined. We secured sponsors and some club members also contributed. After we painted one mural, we saw how easy it was – nobody could stop us.
 
Little by little, more participants joined us. First, it was our neighbors, and then other organizations and even local artists offered to paint murals. They saw the results of what we were achieving and wanted to be a part of it.
 
It took us practically a year to paint 10 murals. (See a video of one project.) Each park’s mural has a different design, but they all focus on peace and leave a positive message.
 
What it takes to create lasting change
 
The project has had a huge impact on our community. Places that looked totally abandoned and vandalized have become meeting spaces for the community. We continue to rehabilitate parks and leave peace murals in each of them.
 
When I joined Rotaract I had a desire to do something concrete for the world. Thanks to the Positive Peace workshop, I learned a lot about how to use the tools at my disposal to achieve my goals. I learned that carrying out projects with lasting change doesn’t take much, only a firm conviction, clear objectives, and a good team.
 
I invite all young people to get involved in social projects, to be agents of change in your communities, and leave the world a better place than how we found it. Rotaract provides us with an impressive platform to bring our ideas to reality and to start generating innovative projects with great impact. 
 
Yesenia Uribe is a member of the Rotaract Club of Juárez Integra in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She is a social entrepreneur, concerned about the current situation in her country and her city. Read this post in Spanish.
 
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There's an acronym for everything in Rotary.  One which is commonly used is JET: Join leaders, Exchange ideas, Take action.  Painting the Way to Peace is a clear example of JET for us all to emulate. 
 
Tammy Heckenberg, District Governor for District 7190