Why is it that in South Africa, one of the most violent places to live, we do not celebrate Peace Day? We celebrate more holidays than most, and yet International Peace Day passes by annually on 21 September without much attention.
Peace is an all-encompassing concept that presents the opportunity to open important discussions about racism, tolerance, kindness, rights and responsibilities. It’s a platform to highlight positive, community-building activity.
With Learning in Reach’s focus on Early Childhood Development, why are we concerning ourselves with World Peace?
The child learns most from his environment. He mimics what he sees and hears and if left unchecked, he grows up accepting this as normal behaviour. And so, in some communities, the cycle of violence repeats itself, generation after generation. We need to ensure that, through experience and environment, the child is shown another way – how to build peaceful relationships.
So with our focus on the holistic development of the child, Learning In Reach felt it imperative to highlight Peace Day to the children of Lavender Hill. The question then was how to drive awareness and create a movement of change that could have far-reaching and long lasting impact. Peace in Lavender Hill is a mammoth undertaking, bigger than any individual organisation and stretches well beyond our current resources.
We decided to invite all key stakeholders in Lavender Hill to come “Together In Peace”. With limited time, a number of organisations and community members eagerly committed themselves to this initiative and prepared activities to engage the community in peaceful activities and learning opportunities.
As Peace Day drew nearer, we were in for a roller-coaster ride of excitement, disappointment, success, failure and frustration. War between rival gangs seemed to reach its peak as we were starting to bring the community “Together In Peace”. The shooting claimed young lives. Residents became too fearful to take part in activities, resulting in a number of activities being postponed or cancelled. But as the week drew on, and the shooting continued, fear morphed into determination: determination to take a stand, determination to own the streets, determination to make good triumph over bad.
We ended the week on Heritage Day, with more than 100 children taking part in a Peace Walk through Seawinds, Hillview and Lavender Hill. As neighbours heard their chants “We Want Peace”, they came out their homes to wave the children on.
Another 160 children took part in a street-sport carnival organised by PSP and Hang Ten Pool club, bridging divides and building community.
We know that we have started something magical that the community desperately needs: something to bring hope, something that can build strength through connections, something that can bring peace to the hearts, homes and streets of the greater Lavender Hill area. We will grow this event next year, with more time and better resources. We will triumph over the violence and spread peace.
If you would like to help:
- Join our Peace Day team of volunteers to co-ordinate next year’s activities. We have a year of planning and organising ahead of us.
- Sponsor Peace Day 2017 or donate to this cause.