How Social Entrepreneurs Are Using Art To Engage & Empower Youth In A Unique Global Program

One project making waves towards this more peaceful world is the Peace Crane Project: a global initiative using art to to engage children in peace education and connect them in a global network unparalleled by any other programme.

Peace is integral in every aspect of our world. From how world leaders manage the global political sphere, to how decision-making is occurring around human migration, right down to how we treat our family, community and selves. It’s a concept that is too often thrown off as unattainable or unrealistic, yet in fact Peace is tangible, measurable and achievable if we all start making the right choices.

 

One project making waves towards this more peaceful world is the Peace Crane Project: a global initiative using art to to engage children in peace education and connect them in a global network unparalleled by any other programme.

 

Facilitated through the grassroots organisation Armed with the Arts Inc, which I feel fortunate to say I co-run with Founder Sue DiCicco, the Peace Crane Project has developed since its inception in 2013 into the world’s largest independent peace education program for kids, involving around 1 million participants every year. Over the last four years participants in more than 150 countries have taken part, including some from the world’s least peaceful nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico and Honduras.  

 

Students in Mexico stand by their peace pledge and peace cranes as part of the Peace Crane Project.

 

The appeal and effectiveness of the Peace Crane Project comes from it’s simplicity and choice of art a a tool for education and engagement. The way it operates is simple – students around the world make origami peace cranes and write/draw messages of peace on the wings. They also collectively brainstorm what peace means, it’s relevance in the world and it’s impact on people and the community. Doing these activities together creates an environment where students can engage in the topic of ‘Peace’ while having fun and being creative as they make the origami. Students then bundle their messages of peace together and trade them with an international partner school, receiving the origami made by their partner school in return.

 

Simple, right?

 

As easy as it is to implement, the beauty of the project comes from it’s ability to promote peace on multiple levels. Personal peace is taught through the students interactions with each other in the classroom. They help one another, laugh and use their minds to actively engage in what peace is. On top of this, they know that their messages of peace are going to be shared with students just like them in another place. This invokes a sense of accomplishment and pride that is shared between the students. On a larger scale, this international exchange of peace messages means that millions of students are learning about peace and spreading the message across the world, connecting with each other in a unique way that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

 

peace crane project_australia
Students with the peace cranes in Australia.

 

The Peace Crane Project is inclusive and can be undertaken by any student, child or person, regardless of age, location and ability. If the origami peace cranes are too hard, no problem. Students can fold the less complicated peace dove instead. Perhaps paper folding is challenging, period? That’s okay, use the colouring pages instead. For the schools whose budgets (or an unreliable mail system) doesn’t allow for international postage, that’s not a problem either. Participants can exchange electronically with photos via email.

 

This flexibility programme design means that more people can participate and that the sharing of the message of peace can grow without constriction. Key concepts such as respect, compassion, kindness, cooperation, patience come as a result of a diverse participant group.

 

Student in Guwahati, India with her
Student in Guwahati, India with her

 

The fact that there are children exchanging in some of the world’s least peaceful countries shows the value of the project – we are so grateful for these groups because it demonstrates that giving and receiving these little messages of peace really does make a difference to the youth involved. That even in times of conflict and trauma, there are still ways to let children of the world know that others care about them – a simple message that goes a long way.

 

This is the point of the Peace Crane Project – to spread the message of peace and empower children, the leaders of the next generation, to know that they can and do create positive change. That their actions count and that one simple gesture can and does make a difference.

 

In a world that is being ravaged by conflict, man-made disasters, natural disasters, famine, political dictatorships and poor decision making, this project is a way of saying we want change. We all have the ability to make a stand and say how we feel, and can share this with the world. Using art as a tool for healing and expression is powerful for those who’ve been left without a voice, stuck in the limbo of these challenging times.

 

“Give me the right to express my ideas if you want to give me peace”, participant, Cambodia

 

We urge everyone to take part in the Peace Crane Project this year. Join us in sharing peace instead of spreading hate. Show the world that indeed, the power of love and compassion can overthrow the devastation and division we are seeing so often.

 

You can play your part in a better world, and your actions can make a difference. This collective effort by everyone is what will then create change.

 

Peace is the mechanism that is going to change this world, so join Peace Crane Project today.  

 

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Sarah Cowley

Sarah Cowley

Sarah is Director of Armed with the Arts Inc. a grassroots NGO that uses art to engage children in peace education. She has her MA from the UN University for Peace and is focused on creating social change through education and awareness building. Sarah is currently based in Cambodia but has previously lived and worked in Nepal, India, Costa Rica and Australia.
Sarah Cowley

Written by Sarah Cowley

Sarah Cowley

Sarah is Director of Armed with the Arts Inc. a grassroots NGO that uses art to engage children in peace education. She has her MA from the UN University for Peace and is focused on creating social change through education and awareness building. Sarah is currently based in Cambodia but has previously lived and worked in Nepal, India, Costa Rica and Australia.