Every year at this time, our school community comes together around an event called Peace Festival.
Peace Festival started many years ago as a way to celebrate the multicultural make-up of our student body. It was also a way to focus our entire school population (teachers, students and admin) around topics of human rights, global awareness and the difficult living conditions of many people around our city, country and the world.
Each year we bring in a number of guest speakers, from both local organizations to international development agencies. Guest speakers range from Homelessness in Calgary, to HIV/Aids Hospices to Child Soldiers. We also like to highlight some of our own staff who have chosen to volunteer, both locally and internationally, as we believe it’s important to model making these types of decisions to our students.
Combined with the guest speakers, we also make teaching resources available on global issues. One package of lessons came from uEnd (http://www.uEnd.org), formally known as ChristmasFuture. Over the course of a week, teachers can sign out different guest speakers, and select different lessons to build stronger global awareness.
The culmination of Peace Festival is a two-day celebration over the last two days of school before Winter Break. Each class is provided with space in the gym to build a booth, or informative experience, based on a topic related to multiculturalism or Human Rights issues. During the last two days of school, all the students get time to visit the celebration, and we finish with a final Peace Festival Assembly, filled with student videos, blessings and prayer from a variety of Faith Communities, and singing.
This year, today was the first (unofficial) day of Peace Festival, as we had our first guest speaker in this morning. Donna Kennedy-Glans is the founder of Bridges, a ‘volunteer based humanitarian organization.’ Bridges works to support gender equality in middle Eastern countries, particularly Yemen. Donna had one of her own children at our school a few years ago, and as a result, she’s spoken here a number of times. It was great kick off to this year’s Peace Festival.
Following Donna in the afternoon were two other guest speaker. Amy Golumbia is the education manager for uEnd – a Calgary organization that has developed a database of proven, sustainable development projects. Amy spoke with four of our classes about the conditions she witnessed during a recent trip to Ghana, and how uEnd is working to redirect North American spending habits to development projects.
Finally, Chris Dittmann, one of our Grade 5 teachers also spoke with four classes about his recent trip to South Africa. Chris volunteered with “Hands at Work” – an organization that worked with HIV/AIDS patients. During Chris’ presentation he shared stories from his travels, as well as sharing his insights into the relationship between poverty and HIV/AIDS.