2015 Peace Scholar Wendy Coulson Talks About Program Offered by Rotary Peace Center in Thailand.

Wendy Coulson, a Peace Scholar who completed her studies in Thailand late last month, discussed at this month’s District Conference an outline of her course of study. Speaking on May 2 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she explained that the Rotary Peace Center offers five master’s courses in peace studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand and one professional development certificate. All-0038 Rebecca Crall, the Area of Focus Manager for Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution at Rotary International in Evanston, Illinois, Ms. Coulson said, urged her to apply for a peace scholarship, because, she said, she was already immersed in conflict resolution programs. Courses she perused, Ms. Coulson said, spoke of restoration of peace after a conflict, concepts of peace, conflict analysis, peace journalism, trauma and self-care monitoring and evaluation, and the role of religion and dialog. In examining these courses, Ms. Coulson said, she was of a mind not to accept Ms. Crall’s recommendation, asking herself, she said: “what can a teacher contribute to peace?” But, she said, in every course case study, education was identified as a key factor in building peace. Among her classmates, she said, were a police hostage negotiator, and a chief of police. Some of her classmates Ms. Coulson said, were citizens of Palestine and Afghanistan. One of her classmates, she said, was a 25-year old student from Afghanistan, who was also the youngest member of her class. Among her teachers, she said was “one amazing professor” from Bosnia, a region within Yugoslavia that emerged as an independent nation after a civil war in 1992 – 1995. Peacebuilding, Ms. Coulson said, is about “connecting, not dividing.” In meeting with Rotarians, Ms. Coulson said, she was “astounded” at the amount of peacebuilding Rotary does. All too often, Ms. Coulson said, during her course of study in Thailand, “we saw that education is often thought of as a long-term solution to the peace process, meaning little if no peacekeeping money is available.” She then spoke of peace efforts that have been undertaken by people of different nations. She spoke of a group of women who are members of a non-profit organization in Nepal, known as “Trekkers”, who, Ms. Coulson said, try to educate women in the art of peace. She spoke also of the Children’s World Peace Organization of which she is a part, which conducts educational peace programs in Kenya, Mexico and Nepal. A staff of 68 Facilitators/Peace Educators, Ms. Coulson said, works with 16,000 children in grades one through eight. Teams of two facilitators each teach “knowledge and wisdom” for one period in each class every week over a period of 35-weeks. Peace education programs, Ms. Coulson said, are being brought to Interact and Rotaract clubs in conflict zones in indigenous languages by NewGen PeaceBuilders, a program, Ms. Coulson said, that was created by Patricia Shafer, a Rotary Peace Scholar alumnae, from North Carolina. Noting that she lives in Mexico, Ms. Coulson spoke of the massacre last September of 43 students in a small town in Mexico, which prompted protests. Student unions, she said, are prohibited by law. Only one-percent of people receive vocational training, Ms. Coulson said, with many people in Mexico not rising beyond a sixth-grade education. Speaking of these peace efforts, Ms. Coulson told her audience: “You are funding all of these (peace) projects”. In a question-and-answer session, Robert Balentine of the Park Ridge Rotary Club asked what programs devoted to peace might benefit young people in urban areas such as Paterson who are threatened every day by the prevalence of violence, of whom Past District Governor Leonard A. Agrusti had spoken the day before.

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