Firstly, we hope you are all safe and healthy. In March, both the United States and Rwanda were placed on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, we have been dealing with immediate and short-term concerns for both our families and ourselves.
Now that the dust has (somewhat) settled, CTP is ready to spring right back into action. But this will not look the same as it has in years past. At the heart of our program is community, and the pandemic has made it impossible to experience community in the way we were once able. For that reason, it is with a heavy heart that we say we will not be able to safely hold our annual Youth Peace Camp this summer 2020. This is the first year since 2016 that students from across all four provinces of Rwanda will not come together to discuss peace, community-building, and their role in both.
However, CTP has always understood that peace does not mean a world with no conflict. It is how one handles inevitable conflict that can bring peace. And we at CTP are committed to fighting for peace and continuing our important dialogue whether or not that can take place in person. We ask for your patience as we re-center ourselves during his challenging time. We are currently holding team discussions on the way forward, and we welcome any input from you all, our valued community. We plan to come back full force to celebrate 5 years of CTP when we return.
Thank you for sticking by our side no matter the circumstances and once we are ready to change course, we sincerely hope you will come with us.
As 2019 comes to a close, CTP has a lot to be proud of. As an organization started by youth, run by youth, and made for youth, CTP has shown the value of including young people in development on a community and national level. Our 2019 Youth Peace Camp was attended by more students than in any previous year, and reached students from all corners of the country.
Our students came away from the Youth Peace Camp program with a better understanding of their role in peace-building. As one student wrote after the camp, “During the CTP camp, I was taught that to sustain peace, it starts from me and no one else.” Often times, youth feel helpless in the face of adversity and feel that they are too young to intervene in conflict. This cannot be further from the truth, and we work hard to communicate this message and empower our students to find their own role in their community’s development.
This past year, one of our main goals was to focus on encouraging students to design project proposals that address hindrances to peace and social cohesion in their respective communities. We successfully implemented this aspect of our program, running a friendly competition for project start-up funds. All students pitched their proposals in either a written or verbal presentation, with the top five projects presenting to the entire camp. The top three projects were awarded $100 each in start-up funds. We invest in our students, and enable them students to carry forth the lessons they learn in our program and share them with their classmates and community members. This not only exponentially grows CTP’s impact, but provides a very tangible path for youth to discover and fulfill their role in peace-building. As another student wrote after the camp, ““I also learned how effective I can be to the community around me by knowing how to make a project.”
We thank you for your incredible support as we work to empower youth to recognize their leadership potential and bring positive change to their communities in order to sustain peace. We do not take your advocacy for granted, and deeply appreciate all of the support you have all provided, whether it be making a donation, spreading the word, or providing expertise to enhance our programs. Together, we can create a world in which conflict is met with empathy, understanding, and a critical mindset.
We are pleased to recap CTP's fourth annual Youth Peace Camp, which took place from July 24-30 of this year. Our program started with just 30 students in 2016. This year, we welcomed 100 youth from all four provinces of Rwanda and Kigali City for a one-week intensive on peace education and sustainable development. Out of nearly 200 applications, these 100 accepted students represented some of the strongest and most impressive young leaders in the country.
The theme of this year's camp was Positive Disruption for Continuous Development. What does it mean to positively disrupt the status quo to develop yourself and your country? We brought in experts across Rwanda in various fields to answer this very question and begin the discussion with our students. Esther Kunda, the Program and Operations Coordinator for Next Einstein Forum and member of Girls in ICT-Rwanda, talked to our students about the importance of gender inclusion as a positive disruption towards sustainable development; Honorable Francis Gatare, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board and of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board, and previous Principle Private Secretary for the President of Rwanda, discussed examples of positive disruption in Rwanda’s history, specifically the Liberation Struggle; and Janvier Kabogo, the Public Health Officer at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, led a workshop on positive disruptions in health with a focus on breaking the taboos of discussing sexual and reproductive health. Other notable guest speakers included Bamporiki Edouard, Chairman of the National Itorero Commission, award-winning filmmaker, poet, and actor, and former Member of Parliament; Inosenti Nizeyimana, historian from Aegis Trust; and Theoneste Ndungutse, Peace Building Program Field Officer at Never Again Rwanda.
In addition to the morning sessions led by these esteemed guest speakers, our program included what we call ‘Breakout Sessions.’ These are workshops taught by our mentors (Youth Peace Camp alumni), that break our students up into smaller groups to address a specific topic in the context of our larger theme of Positive Disruption for Continuous Development. The mentor leadership in these sessions is intentional, as we use a youth-to-youth peer mentorship model to communicate the importance and ability of the youth to serve as leaders in their communities. This year, our students were able to choose between four different Breakout Sessions which included ‘Disruptive Solutions in Business,’ a workshop analyzing the necessary disruptions in business, specifically in the fields of agriculture, mobility, and communication; ‘Disruptive Techniques in Writing,’ which trained students in basic writing methods to improve written communication; ‘Disruptive Speaking Techniques,’ a public-speaking intensive using the Model UN debate format; and ‘Disruption in Leadership,’ which evaluated and encouraged youth leadership in politics, business, social change, and their community. Each of these Breakout Sessions allowed students to discuss ideas in intimate groups and practice different practical skills, enabling them to better serve and lead their communities and country.
The final component of our program is community service. We challenge our students to take what they have learned back to their home communities and work to address the problems they identify. Each year we incorporate a community service day to give our students hands-on experience in community-building. Our students spend a day out in the local community of Rubona District carrying out various community service projects that directly address an identified need with a sustainable solution for the root of the problem. Students are encouraged to listen to members of the community and work with them to ensure that their voices are heard, they feel empowered by the work, and they are able to sustain the positive change on their own after the initial project is over. This year, students built and repaired structures in the homes of vulnerable elderly members of society. We often experience doubt by youth who, due to their age, are unsure of their ability to create change and help others in their communities. After this year’s community service day, we were pleased to hear from students who expressed tremendous pride and compassion in their discovered ability to help others.
Overall, our 2019 Youth Peace Camp was a success. Our students continue to remain in touch, and we look forward to welcoming some of them back as mentors and interns in next year’s camp. We could not have reached this level of impact without your support. Thank you for your generosity; you have truly enabled us to provide peace education for 100 students in Rwanda. We look forward to sharing our current and future successes with you as we already begin to prepare for our 2020 Youth Peace Camp.
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