by Manuel Padilla and Amy Watts
Haiti Project Co-coordinators
One of the highest priorities we have had with the collaboration between Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi Port-au-Prince (PCPAP) is the peace education curriculum, designed for the older youth of SAKALA and with curriculum specialists Jane Cruz and Lori Baker. It has been over 2 years in the making, from raising the idea, through development, translation, and now teacher training and implementation. These last two are happening right now and we have never been more proud of SAKALA, the children, and the four peace educators who have been selected to teach this first cycle: Delto, Elio, Wenley, and Stephanie.
It is perhaps the single longest, on-going project either Amy or I have worked on. This is true for two very important reasons: 1. the process was inclusive and 2. the curriculum is local. The planting of peace education is always the planting of an invasive species. That is no less true of the very beginnings of the formation of this educational framework.
Several students from Jane and Lori’s classrooms in Virginia, at Fairfax County Adult High School, where they teach secondary education to immigrants, refugees, and locals looking to finish their schooling, supported the creation of this curriculum through their efforts at constructing the biographies of peace makers which are part of the curriculum’s content. These students bring with them a deep repository of experience and they brought this to bare on researching and writing the bios of 29 different peace makers, all of whom are on the backs of SAKALA’s soccer jerseys, the funds of which were orchestrated by two active and skilled PCUSA members, Therese Terns and Kim Redigan. After the process of research and writing, these students gave presentations on each figure for class credit and held reflection sessions on each figure, deepening their own connections to each model for peace and often seeing the events of their own lives differently as a result. Reading some of their reflections was not only moving, but illuminating of the power of storytelling. As it was told to us,
“They discussed how they became more interested in these peacemakers the more they read/researched. One woman mentioned how at first she thought this project (the writing aspect) would just be good practice, but then realized what a great responsibility she had undertaken as she was writing to educate the SAKALA children. If she didn’t do a good job, the children wouldn’t ‘learn well’. Another student, who wrote about Oscar Romero in the first round, wrote about Cesar Chavez this time. He said that now every time he eats he thinks about where his food comes from and the hands involved in bringing the food to him.”
SAKALA used to have a day of peace education every Sunday, in the small one room building behind what is now the SAKALA community center. This room is perhaps no bigger than an average kitchen, but this was where Daniel Tillias grew up with his family. During these Sunday lessons, Daniel began to piece together ideas he had for a more formal, standardized framework for doing peace education with the kids being served by PCPAP’s programs. After the 2012 earthquake, the building was damaged and became unusable. The Sunday lessons stopped. At PCUSA’s 2010 Annual Conference, Daniel came to us with a proposition: partnering with PCUSA to develop an educational component for SAKALA that would utilize the symbols and stories of the people of Cite Soleil, draw from the everyday experiences of the youth that came to PCPAP for guidance and for alternatives, and broaden their exposure to peace figures and the history they shaped. The end result was a tri-part framework:
- 29 peace makers from around the world and from different times in human history
- The emblem of SAKALA’s peace soccer team. This includes the symbols of the earth (ecology), the sun (Cite Soleil), the peace sign (peace education), and a soccer ball (sport as the means to reach the people of Cite Soleil).
- Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world”
The entire program is a mechanism for fostering mentorship with each of the participants who, in turn, will become the next set of facilitators for a new class. The curriculum runs a 58 week course. The new facilitators of the program will be in charge of each 2 week section. This will involve a preliminary survey of the students to gather data on their initial, base level of education about the content of the curriculum, planning education around the peacemaker biographies, using the symbols and experiences of the youth in Cite Soleil as guides to each lesson, and engaging with the filter of Gandhi’s imperative. Yet the most important thing to remember about this framework is that it is generative. Its purpose is not simply to inform, but to elicit. These youth have much to learn and even more to teach, to us and to each other.
On Monday May 27th, we sat in SAKALA’s urban garden, under the shade of Moringa trees, and took the first steps toward realizing, toward implementing an educational process, a framework tailored specifically for these young adults, their neighborhood, their circumstances, their community, their lives. We began with foundational concepts of Peace, Violence, and Conflict, and we went over the basic structure of the framework. On Tuesday, we began to fill in the gaps by taking these facilitators through the general motions of lesson planning. Later we will refine the lesson planning training, have completed the first 2 weeks of lessons, and see the first couple sessions take place.
We have been blessed with the support of all of you, the membership of PCUSA, and with the support of an anonymous grant that has kept this coalition afloat for 2 years, with the hope of one more year on the horizon. We cannot thank you all enough for helping PCUSA, us, and SAKALA reach this point. The collaboration with PCPAP has been important on so many levels, from accompaniment to education, from community building and friendship to learning how to be good partners to our brothers and sisters in Haiti. The last two years have certainly changed our lives; we hope it is touching yours and providing the space for these youth in Cite Soleil to reclaim the opportunities that were always theirs.