Meeting a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate changed the way I saw peace. When I met Rigoberta Menchu Tum, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her social justice work for the indigenous people of Guatemala, I wanted to live with peace. She shared her story at a PeaceJam Conference in May, 2016, and I shared my story with her. She spoke about how a woman can change the world, and it moved me to tell her how being bullied in the past made me a stronger, humble person. If it weren’t for PeaceJam, I wouldn’t have experienced that life changing moment.
Co-founded by Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff, PeaceJam is a non-profit organization that started in February, 1996. Its mission statement is, “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.” They have connected everyday people to Nobel Peace Prize Laureates for numerous years, now. Thirteen Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are members of the PeaceJam Foundation, including the 14th Dalai Lama, who served for human rights in Tibet, and Leymah Gbowee, who led non-violent movements for women’s rights in Liberia.
I asked Rody Thompson, director of PeaceJam Southeast, how big of an impact meeting Nobel Peace Prize Laureates has on people, and she replied, “Research on the PeaceJam program shows that meeting Nobel Peace Laureates has tremendous impact. [People] learn that one person can make a difference. They recognize you don’t have to be rich or powerful to inspire others. Nobel Laureates teach us that no matter what obstacles come your way, you can remain positive to create the change you want to see in the world.”
Rody discovered the PeaceJam program 16 years ago and she says, “My life has not been the same since. As the director of the Mid-South PeaceJam region from 2001-2008 and the Southeast Director since 2008, I have watched thousands of youth and adults impacted by this amazing program. Like me, they have been motivated to become better human beings, and they recognize that if we work together, we can change the world.”
She also believes that, “PeaceJam provides opportunities for youth to be part of a huge global movement where they can connect with people their age from all backgrounds and life experiences. PeaceJam builds leaders who can make a difference in the world we live in. Where else can you meet Nobel Peace Prize winners who inspire you to reach your full potential.”
When I asked Rody who can be a part of PeaceJam, she replied, “PeaceJam is for EVERYONE: old, young, rich, poor, disabled and disenfranchised, powerful and powerless. One of the best things about PeaceJam is that it celebrates our differences and helps us appreciate our similarities.”
Getting involved with PeaceJam is easy! PeaceJam is found all over the world. “PeaceJam is growing every day, touching more lives to spread a message of caring and hope. I sincerely believe that through PeaceJam we can begin to find solutions to the most important issues facing our planet, from poverty to women’s rights to protecting our environment to social justice,” says Rody Thompson.