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PeaceJam: A Program To Reduce Bullying and Further Compassion

By Nicole Colchete, CEI Intern

What Is PeaceJam?

Over 1.25 million students have participated in PeaceJam clubs since it began in 1996.  During that time 14 Nobel Peace prize winners have facilitated 31 million peace projects in 39 countries. PeaceJam is a program that reduces bullying without directly discussing bullying. Rather, Peacejam uses compassion training and diversity education to reduce bullying behaviors.  PeaceJam provides options for structured curriculum that frame an in-depth understanding about the personal and communal benefits of empathy and volunteer work.

PeaceJam Clubs. PeaceJam operates as an extracurricular club that combines service and diversity education. Through this, PeaceJam intends ‘to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.’

Examples of PeaceJam’s Global Success

One reason why PeaceJam is so influential is because it impacts schools on an international scale so that compassion and diversity education is being taught to students from all different countries, cultures, and ethnicities. Here are examples of its success from all over the world:

James S. Rickards High School (Tallahasse,Fl)  uses PeaceJam to instill civic engagement, peacemaking skills, and the understanding of social justice issues in its students. At James S. Rickards High School, students select a civic engagement project and work towards accomplishing it throughout the year, with different relevant lessons and concepts being discussed along the way.

  1. This club presented their project, which was a Peace memorial built around their school’s campus, to Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchu.

  2. Students were touched and ecstatic when Ms. Menchu signed their wall.

  3. Teachers reported being beside themselves at the wisdom, compassion, and connection they see between students in the club each year.

Anatolia College (Thessaloniki, Greece). In Greece, bullying is not a commonly accepted topic discussed among educators, which made implementing anti-bullying programs nearly impossible, as there tended to be a lot of resistance from students and parents. However, PeaceJam was still able to be successful in a Greek School because it teaches qualities that combat bullying by teaching qualities and skills that eliminate bullying behavior.

I co-led PeaceJam at Anatolia College, and we focused on building compassion through learning about how The Dalai Lama used compassion even when he was being wronged, having lessons about celebrating differences, and planning a volunteer opportunity at a soup kitchen.

  1. The engagement, insight, and kindness that I saw from my students in the club speaks to how impactful diversity lesson plans are on a student’s ability to think deeply and empathetically about their actions.

  2. My students were dedicated and passionate about the club’s mission, and they became inspirational themselves.

The European PeaceJam Initiative (Netherlands and Belgium) aims to implement PeaceJam in schools across Europe by having Nobel Peace Prize Laureates visit the schools and inspire students along the way with discussions and interactions that students will remember for the rest of their lives.

  1. Sirin Ebadi and Jody Williams visited 10 schools in The Netherlands and Belgium to speak about PeaceJam and their journey, and to start the club at each school they visit.

  2. There was an overwhelming amount of student interest and engagement in PeaceJam as a result.

  3. Through Sirin Ebadi and Jody Williams, students felt empowered to address issues that they were most passionate about, while learning about issues that can drive resentment and violence and learning about how to take these situations and use them to spur right-based, inclusive, and non-violent social action.

PeaceJam also gives students to opportunity to engage with other inspiring Nobel Peace Prize winners, such as

  1. Oscar Aris-Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica who was pivotal in bringing peace to Central America

  2. Jose Ramos-Horta, a former President and Prime Minister of East Timor who fought for freedom from oppression, developing a peace plan that resulted in withdrawal of Indonesia from East Timor

  3. Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a peace activist in Northern Ireland

  4. Betty Williams, also a peace activist in Northern Ireland, and President of World Centers of Compassion for Children

  5. Adolfo Perez Esquivel, an artist, writer, and activist who defended human rights in Argentina

  6. Sir Joseph Rotblat, a Polish-born British physicist who promoted nuclear disarmament

  7. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese diplomat and politician who led the opposition to a military junta and worked to establish a democracy in Burma

  8. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian Peace Activist who led a women’s peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.

Through meeting and sharing their PeaceJam projects with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, students are able to see the inspirational results of facing challenges head on with strength, compassion, and a determination to help others. Students are able to see a mirror into what their future could be like if they face challenges with the same qualities as these inspirational people. Suddenly, the idea that a student could become an extraordinary humanitarian, a hero, or even a Nobel Peace Prize winner who can change the world for the better does not feel so out of reach. At the PeaceJam website, you can learn more about membership and curriculum options.

By having outstanding people like Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Betty Williams teach students and connect with these students so personally, students are able to see that one day they can be just like them. When students feel better about themselves and their future, they will be much less likely to partake in bullying. The lessons taught by PeaceJam also inspire students to try to understand the people around them, rather than taking out their frustrations on others.


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