"My aim is to show that those governments that violate the rights of people by invoking the name of Islam have been misusing Islam." - Dr. Shirin Ebadi
The best time of year at Great Lakes PeaceJam is spring! Not only are we happily awaiting the first signs of green - but we are gearing up to bring hundreds of high school aged PeaceJammers together to spend a weekend with a Nobel Peace Laureate.
This year, we could not be happier to welcome Dr. Shirin Ebadi of Iran. As the first female Judge in Iran - a title later stripped from her as the religous clerics determined that women could no longer serve as judges - she was awarded her Nobel Prize in 2003 for her tireless efforts defending the rights of women and children in her own country. Due to an increasing numbers of death threats, Dr. Ebadi has had to leave Iran and now lives in exile.
Her visit to PeaceJam could not be more timely. The youth we work with tell us stories of the discrimination and stigma that surrounds them everyday. From bullying, to being ignored, to young LGBTQ people who have no support from their own families, youth today much navigate this frightening world as they exlpore and create their own identies and come to understand who they are, and who they want to be!
For LGBTQ youth, the tensions they face are often born out of misunderstandings and stereotypes that paint a mostly negative picture people with various sexual identities. For many youth, thay have had little or no opportunity to discuss sexual identity and gender issues in a safe, supportive environment, making life at least difficult for out LGBTQ youth, and in some tragic cases dangerous.
Dr. Ebadi's story is so important for our youth today. Not only did she survive some of the most deadly bullying and hate in the world, she has used these experiences of standing up for herself, other women and youth to thrive!
While she is most well know for her work defending the rights of women and youth, she has also been a leader in educating our global community against the stereotypes of LGBTQ people and defending the rights of ALL youth, regardless of their sexual orientation. As Dr. Ebadi has said, "Human rights is a universal standard. It is a component of every religion and every civilization."
On April 13th, hundreds of youth from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana will come together to hear Dr. Ebadi speak about finding your inner light, even when your are surrounded by darkness, and how each and every youth can make a difference in ending stigma associated with sexual orientation in their home, their schools, their neighborhoods and communities. This is especially exciting as the youth have been studying all year.
We want ALL PeaceJam youth to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Ebadi, to work directly with her during the weekend, and to explain to her the service project they have been working on in their clubs. Unfortunately, many of our PeaceJammers are simply unable to pay the basic fee to participate.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
For only $100, you can sponsor a youth to spend the weekend with a Nobel Laureate! This includes food for the weekend, t-shirts, participation in workshops and service learning projects - and the invaluable experience of working directly with a world leader of peace!
Stay tuned for great pictures and stories from our April 13-14 Youth Conference weekend!
Thank you ALL for your generous support!
Fall is here and as the youth in our families and communities come back to school we are excited to launch a new year of PeaceJam programing throughout the Great Lakes region!
On November 17th, youth from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana will gather together in Battle Creek, Michigan to meet with their peers at the PeaceJam SLAM and begin their annual journey of making change in their neighborhoods and communities. This year, the social justice issue that was chosen for the fall SLAM with PeaceJam youth is gender based violence. During workshops, youth will be led by community activists through understanding the complexities surrounding the different issues of gender based violence, and guide the PeaceJammers in identifying what gender based violence looks like in their communities - and how it negatively impacts different groups of youth, in particular the LGBTQ youth. They will then have the opportunity to go into the community and engage with various organizations that are working directly on issues of geneder based violence. This will highlight for PeaceJammers the realities of working on these issues, and where they might look within their own communities for potential partners in their own service learning projects.
This year we are happy to see several more Gay-Straight Alliance groups join with PeaceJam in their schools!! This is creating a wonderful dynamic where these two youth groups are joining forces and coming together to work on designing and implementing programs that are aimed at directly addressing the root causes of the social justice issues LGBTQ youth are facing.
These are important steps for our youth as we are reminded again and again that PeaceJam is, for many who self-identify as LGBTQ, the only place in their lives where they feel 100% accepted for who they are, and are treated with respect by their peers. Building a positive sense of self is so important to the overall well being of our youth, and is key to their future success. PeaceJam plays a fundamental role helping youth to achieve this. Through youth led education that culminates in change making service learning projects - and the opportunity to share these projects and personal experiences with a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate - we are creating the next generation of social activists and leaders for equality!
Please join us in supporting this amazing and dynamic group of youth to achieve their full potential, to discover their personal strengths, and to change their (and our!) world!
Thank you for your support.
10th Annual Great Lakes Peace Jam Youth Conference with Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Our youth continue to teach us just how difficult daily life can be for someone who self-identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community. Bullying, discrimination, beatings, teasing......these are the basic facts for many young people in our families and communities.
At our 10th Annual Youth Conference, where over 140 youth came together to celebrate their experiences of PeaceJam with the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala, individuals came forward to share their stories of struggle and pain with Mrs. Menchu and the whole Great Lakes PeaceJam family.
As one young participant struggled to tell the group that even their own grandparents will no longer talk to them because of their sexual orientation, tears streamed down their face. They thanked their PeaceJam leaders for accepting them, and explained just how vital it was for them to have at least 1 place where they could go and always - ALWAYS - be welcome.
This opened the way for others. Again and again, youth thanked PeaceJam for providing them with the only safe place that they have to go - for being the group they accepts them just as they are.
Many PeaceJam Clubs addressed these problems head on in their Global Call to Action service learning projects.
At the United Church of Granville, the PeaceJammers promoted a Day of Silence at their high school for victims of bullying; they organized an anti-bullying seminar for their school's freshmen orientation; the PeaceJam club worked together with the Gay-Straight Alliance in their school to organize an open-mic night. Proceeds went to an LGBTQ organization in the community
The Leaves of Learning PeaceJam Club in Ohio organized a campaign to educate the community on the issue of equal housing and employment for LGBTQ people in their town; they also helped other community organizations to make discrimination against LGBTQ populations illegal through “Project Citizen” campaign targeting lawmakers.
Project T.R.U.S.T. of Battle Creek worked to educate LGBTQ youth in the area on how to create and maintain healthy relationships with positive communication, trust-building, testing, and how to say “No”.
We are so proud of what our PeaceJam youth have been able to accomplish, and this amazing work has been made possible with the support of people like you! Please join us is supporting the creation of the next generation of leaders, and in telling these youth that this work matters!
With your donations, we are able to ensure that this transformative programming stays available to youth throughout the Great Lakes region, and that we can continue to provide safe places where young people can find the support and strength they need to be the change in our communities.
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