We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.
“Hemos aprendido a volar como los pájaros, a nadar como los peces; pero no hemos aprendido el sencillo arte de vivir como hermanos y hermanas.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
April 21st, 2017
We started the day with a visit to a colegio, IDEHUCA, where Somos CaPAZes has been working for quite some time to work with two groups of late middle school to early high school age students. As soon as we walked through the doors of the school, the Somos CaPAZes volunteers were greeted with warm smiles and hugs by the students. On one wall of the school, the students had painted a peace dove on top of the colors of the Colombian flag with the Somos CaPAZes logo painted underneath. All of the teachers and administrators were extremely welcoming and went out of their way to make us feel at home.
Our first session was with a group of thirty to forty students, all in uniform, crammed onto the floor of the classroom. Paula and I shared our experiences working in the area of peace and conflict studies and I was asked to speak on my experience as a co-facilitator at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan with Detroit Public Theater’s Shakespeare in Prison program. The students were fascinated with this experience and I was able to highlight the importance of communication, storytelling, and the arts in the construction personal narratives that are critical for forming peaceful communities.
Our next session was in a classroom with a smaller group of students. It was here that we were able to take our plans for the upcoming PeaceLabs pilot event off paper and watch them come to life. Based off of the curricula developed by the United States Institute of Peace’s Generation Change program, Paula and I have been working diligently to develop a storytelling workshop focused on empowering young peace makers to gain the confidence and tools to express themselves powerfully. We were happy with how the pilot session turned out and the experience gave us the confidence we needed to continue to move forward with the project.
We ended our time in Barranquilla with a visit to a museum dedicated to the Carnaval de Barranquilla. Again, I was taken aback by the rich history and culture of Colombia. However, the best part of the museum was the young, Afro-Colombian woman we met who was working as a tour guide. She sat with us for almost an hour after giving us a tour of the museum and told us about her dream of opening up an Afro-Colombian restaurant in Barranquilla. Paula encouraged her to apply for the YLAI 2017 program. This young woman has been in contact with Paula and has been working on her application ever since.
Unfortunately, our flight from Barranquilla departed late and we weren’t able to attend an event dedicated to the victims of the Colombian conflict at the Universidad de los Andes that was organized by undergraduate students enrolled in a leadership course. Regardless, I have never felt so incredibly exhausted and inspired as I have throughout my exchange thus far. It has been a gift to be able to bear witness and offer small contributions to the long-term, significant work that Somos CaPAZes, Colombian universities, and the country of Colombia in general has been dedicated to all in the pursuit of peace.