Peace Mural: Bridging Racial, Political and Religious Divides

Chicago, IL

Hands of Peace is an interfaith organization that works to develop peace building and leadership skills among Israeli, Palestinian, and American teenagers through the power of dialogue and personal relationships. Forty-two Israeli, Palestinian, and American teenagers (ages 15-18) from Hands of Peace will join forces with 25 inner-city teenagers from the Chicago Freedom School to plan and create a “peace mural” in a low-income Chicago neighborhood. This activity will be accompanied by facilitated dialogues in which the Chicago Freedom School participants will learn more about the situation in Israel/Palestine and Hands of Peace participants will learn more about inequalities and injustices within Chicago.

Goals include challenging stereotypes, inspiring interfaith cooperation and understanding, and building empathy for the injustices and violence suffered by civilians in the US and the Middle East. In the process of planning the mural, students will learn from each other’s stories and feel connected on a deep personal level to one another’s suffering. Their mural will also inspire Chicago locals for many years to come and serve as a lasting testament to the power of intercultural cooperation.

Direct beneficiaries of this project will be 42 Israeli, Palestinian, and American teenagers from Hands of Peace, 25 innercity teenagers from the Chicago Freedom School (a cost-free program serving at-risk Chicago youth), and the residents of a to-be-determined Chicago neighborhood where the mural will be painted.

Indirect beneficiaries include everyone who is inspired by watching the video about the project (which will be shared widely on YouTube and Facebook) and everyone who will visit the mural and learn more about the story behind it.

Encountering Our Neighbors: A Peacebuilding Workshop for Students of African Christian Universities

Beni, D.R. Congo

The project takes place in the Central Africa’s Great Lakes region, where decades of conflict have created animosity between neighboring countries and distrust runs high between citizens of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Here, a university student organization seeks to transform the conflict and distrust by bringing together peaceminded university students from across the region to learn and envision together.

Women’s Voices, a student group at Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC), will hold a four day workshop that will bring 6 students from Rwanda, Burundi and  Uganda to DR Congo where they, together with UCBC student leaders, will participate in experiential learning and facilitated dialogue. During the workshop, the participants will work together to find common ground and to begin transforming toxic erceptions of their neighbors into collaborative partnerships. The workshops will teach conflict analysis and transformation and how to make strategic plans for communicating their new learning to the campus communities they represent. On the third day of the program, UCBC will host a university-wide conference for students and community leaders in which the workshop participants will present their learning and discuss collaborative responses to regional conflict.

The project will directly impact the six international participants, some 50 members of Women’s Voices, and an expected 500 students who will participate in the university wide conference on the third day of the workshop. As the participants take what they have learned back to their own communities, organizers hope that the number of people ultimately touched by the project will exceed 1,000.

Gen Peace: I am the Change!

Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

In Indonesia, the three biggest universities have repeatedly seen violent conflict. Even a small incident between two students can trigger a massive violent incident involving two large groups where solidarity is based on ethnicity, affiliation or friendship. This project aims to reduce such conflict, create a network of student leaders, and develop a model for a student-led peace-building project that can be replicated as a regularly offered program.

The six-day workshop will train thirty student leaders of the State University of Makassar with skills, knowledge, and values that can actively defuse violent conflict in their university. The focus of the workshops will be in-depth conflict analysis, comparative case studies, roleplay dialogue, group-project planning, visits to historical places, teambuilding and community building activities, and the use of metaphor, rituals and storytelling.

The program will directly benefit thirty student participants from the State University of Makassar. Indirect beneficiaries will include the larger student body of the State University Makassar as well as the communities around the university.

Growing Seeds of Transformation: Peace-building Training for Mong Pan Youth”

Shan State, Myanmar

In Burma’s conflict zones, communities have been deeply affected by years of military dictatorship and armed conflict. Due to years of conflict, in Mong Pan (Shan State, Myanmar), there is a lack of trust among youth and a division in the community. To address these problems, this project will provide a 10-day intensive training to 15 diverse political youth leaders from different groups in Mong Pan.

The focus of the workshop is to help the youth build trust in themselves as leaders, learn skills to heal the trauma they have experienced from the military conflict, and rebuild their trust in each other and their community. The project aims to enhance the leadership skills of the participants by training them as trainers so that they in turn can teach others what they have learned. To further extend and consolidate the impact of the 10-day workshop, the organization plans to create a long-term leadership school, which will hold weekly meetings with the youth throughout the year.

Direct beneficiaries of the program will be the fifteen young participants. Organizers are that once the youth leaders start working together to improve and advocate for the community, the project will also benefit the broader Mong Pan community. The organization plans to use this pilot program as a model to share with other conflict-affected communities in Burma as well as in other countries. The model will address the issues of recovery, healing and empowerment for communities impacted by violence.

It is one more little circle in Lisle’s long and storied history: since Uncle Si and Aunt Edna started their journey working with youth in Burma, this project, in a way, seems to bring us full circle again.

Sharing Challenges, Building Community: Building Bridges between Sierra Leone and the U.S.

Freetown, Sierra Leone & Chicago, USA

This project creates a pen-pal exchange via letters and Skype between elementary and secondary students in Sierra Leone and in the US to empower the children by building empathy and international connections. The primary school activities will take place between a primary school in the Western rural area of Sierra Leone and the McCleery Elementary School in Aurora, IL. Each group of students faces their own unique challenges: The students in Sierra Leone face poverty and lack access to basic educational materials while many of the students at McCleery come from immigrant families confronting social and economic challenges of their own.

The secondary school activities will take place between teenagers of the Pikin Padi Youth Empowerment Program (Sierra Leone) and students at Highsight, a Chicago-based program for disadvantaged inner city youth. Here too, each group faces its own challenges. In Sierra Leone, adolescents must deal with poverty, child labor, and early marriage. In inner city Chicago, teens deal with community violence, poverty, and immigration issues. The students will be paired with a pen pal from the other country. They will write letters and share pictures. They will learn how to write about their lives will discuss differences in cultural practices.

When possible, Skype will be used so that students will be able to directly communicate  and talk with their pen pals. The project will directly impact the 50 primary school students and 36 teenagers in the two countries. In addition, four high school students in Sierra Leone and four college students in both countries will mentor the pen pals. The project will also impact those persons who view these exchanges on line and increase their intercultural understanding.

The Ebola crisis creates a particular challenge to carrying out this project. The Lisle board is hopeful that the schools will open so that the project can proceed. The Ebola crisis itself demonstrates the need for more cross-cultural community

Promoting Intercultural Learning and Adoption of Best Agricultural Practices

Lira district, Uganda

While agriculture has not been an area of Lisle’s funding previously, the Board was persuaded that this creative project that would bring together poor farmers of four ethnic groups for the purpose of increasing agricultural productivity could extend cross-cultural exchange and learning into a new field. The focus of this project is to bring together farmers from different tribes to exchange agricultural practices that will improve agricultural output.

The project will train 200 farmers from the Lango, Acholi, Iteso and Kumam tribes of Lira district in Uganda, on good agricultural practices as poor farming practices and the loss of traditional crops has harmed health and economic success of the communities. To do this, organizers intend to enlist the aid of village elders and doctors and nutritionists (who can speak to the nutrition and health benefits of various crops) as well as agricultural experts.

Participants will also tour different tribal farms. In this way, members of each tribe will be able to benefit from the knowledge and traditions of the other tribes. While 200 farmers will participate in and directly benefit from this project, organizers expect another 200 to benefit indirectly through the experience of the farmers who participate. The village elders, doctors, and nutritionists are also expected to benefit as they gain a greater understanding of the cultures, their farming tra