English Language Specialist Wendy Coulson spent two months working with teacher trainers at the Queen Rania Teachers Academy in Jordan, both in-country and virtually, to develop a reading and phonics program for young learners. During the two-week in-country component of this project, Coulson collaborated with the coordinator of the English language training team and a training specialist to plan the creation of two reading modules and a teacher training manual for the virtual phase. She gathered information during meetings with staff by interviewing teachers, observing classrooms, participating in phonics workshops, and reading existing QRTA training materials in order to craft goals and objectives to design a well-rounded program for teaching reading. One of the most impactful encounters Coulson experienced during her time in Jordan was with a third grade class of energetic boys as they read and responded to a letter she had delivered to them from a third grade class learning EFL in Central Mexico. They found they liked many of the same things such as football and McDonald’s. The boys were so enthusiastic about the opportunity to correspond with a faraway group of children that they shouted, “One, two, three, Mexico!” during their entire recess. Through the common language of English, these Jordanian schoolchildren were able to experience just how much in common they have with other children from a different culture who are growing up thousands of miles away. Wendy Coulson holds a Master’s of Education degree in Bilingual Education, a Master’s of Arts in Applied Linguistics, and a Bachelor’s of Arts in French. She is a graduate of the Rotary Peace Fellowship at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. She is the founder of Peace & Development Education Consulting which creates dynamic education programs for development projects using peace principles. Her main areas of focus are curriculum and lesson development, monitoring and evaluation, outreach, and instructor training on topics such as peace and environmental education, bilingual education, water and sanitation, health and basic literacy. Thanks to: English Language Programs
Upon landing in Mexico in late April, I hit the ground running. I was asked to share my amazing experience as a recent graduate of the Rotary Peace Center in Bangkok at a peace conference organized by our local Rotary club and Camino de la Paz. Soon after, I was invited to participate on the organizing committee for International Peace Day. There is a huge imperative in the world, and in our little community in Central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, to create peace among our citizens on both sides of a huge social and economic divide. Two years ago, a concerned group of community members came together to promote peace by acting as an umbrella group for all the peace initiatives in town. The group, which includes several Rotary members, calls itself Camino de la Paz — The Way, or Path, of Peace. The group organized a short conference with staff from Rotary International who talked about Rotary’s efforts to promote peace and held a celebration last year on the International Day of Peace that attracted over 800 people. Continuing its success, Camino de la Paz will celebrate this year’s International Day of Peace on Sunday, 20 September, with even greater involvement from the community, Rotary members, and now Rotary Peace Fellows. Peace is possible Our motto for this year is “Peace is possible and it is inside every one of us.” We have expanded our scope to become a connector between the Mexican and foreign communities, which represent a significant percentage of the population, and between the cultural center and the outlying communities. For the event, we have united leaders from organizations to take action on peace projects like Allende la Cultura, which seeks greater participation for marginalized youth in the city’s many cultural events. Most of these events happen in the center of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are not accessible to the youth in outlying neighborhoods due to cost and location. So Allende la Cultura brings the events to them by holding spinoff activities in their own neighborhoods. Together with Allende la Cultura, we will start the Peace Day celebration — actually a full weekend — on Friday, 18 September, with a rap tournament in which a well-known rapper from Mexico City will draw in youth to rap their freestyle messages of peace and community. These young people will close the peace day event on Sunday with a performance. San Miguel’s two Rotary clubs have donated funds to cover the cost of the rap tournament and will display their peace and development projects. We were also happy to receive a donation for the event from a Rotary club in Portland, Oregon, USA. Peace is possible around the world, but it needs community, Rotarians, and perhaps a Rotary Peace Fellow.
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. 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.
We talked a lot during our first two weeks at the Rotary Center in Chulalongkorn about connectors and dividers —what brings people or groups together and what drives them apart —in conflict situations. As soon as Class 18 fellows arrived, we looked for ways to connect with each other. In fact, our tallest fellow found many of us on Facebook and began friendships and organizing workshops even before we arrived. We were so keen to meet each other that we threw open our doors to see who had arrived and threw open our arms to greet those we had only known virtually. When you look at conflict situations around the world, dividers are typically differences in religion, language, ethnic group identity or over resources. Class 18 has all of these as potential dividers, but they are used as connectors here. We connect through sports, food, curiosity about each other’s cultures, travelling, the arts, children, and celebrations. We put business cards on our doors, leave them open, send messages, hang out and play in the hallways signaling to each other our desire to connect. So far, I do not see any dividers on the horizon. Do we behave this way just because it is our job to connect as peacebuilders and peace fellows? I don’t think so. I believe that it is our human nature, and, in the case of the peace fellows, also our calling. Just about an hour ago, our “chief” fellow posted a Nelson Mandela quote about how love is our nature as children and that we learn to hate as we grow up. I believe we are natural connectors, and we learn to divide or see certain circumstances as divisions. We, as peace fellows, obviously did not unlearn love or the ability to connect. I know this about myself and I hear it from my classmates. During our class work on conflict assessment, it was clear that we were all looking for long-term sustainable solutions. There are teachers, restorative justice and traditional mediators, and police officers among us. It occurred to me that it mattered who was sitting around the peacebuilding table. If we teachers were not present, would anyone have thought of education as a solution for peace? Had there not been mediators, would we just create more violence and economic burden for already devastated economies? If our resident nutritionist were absent, would the donated, stored and processed food be enough for the children, elderly and infirm? If we saw peace as only part of our jobs, would we care so much about the outcome? For me, teaching is connecting, especially when the teaching context supports connectivity. Education is often thought of as a long-term solution to the peace process, meaning little if no peacekeeping money is available. However, during our class conflict analyses nearly every group mentioned education as a connector. If you have ever had a passionate, caring teacher in your life, you know the power that this can have on a child and in relatively little time. Imagine if every teacher were a peace educator! As a curriculum developer for a children’s peace studies organization and a long-time educator, I know that every subject can be taught through the lens of peace. I had the very fortunate experience of working as a Waldorf teacher for five years in Central Mexico, my home. If you don’t already know, Waldorf education is an education for peace, although you won’t find this in any of the peace literature. It was created by Rudolf Steiner during the rise of National Socialism in order to create a more peaceful society. Its philosophy, based on Steiner’s anthroposophy, takes into consideration the child’s and the teacher’s spiritual health as well the academics of empathy such as music, art, movement and language learning. Cooperation is prized over competition, the group over the individual building bridges between people and cultures. Many of us in the Rotary Peace Fellows program are the main bridges, or connectors, of peace in our communities through the various agencies or projects we work with. When we were starting to work on our individual conflict analysis last week, I realized that there was a large communication gap in my community amidst growing insecurity. There is a large ex-pat community that by and large does not speak Spanish and the local Mexican community who do not speak English. There is also quite a large economic gap between these groups, favoring the foreigners. I have been talking to peacemakers and well-wishers on both sides about what the issues are and find they are isolated from each other. Then, I realized that I could be that connector through a peace education program I am hoping to bring to the community. The Rotary Peace Center in Bangkok is the chief connector of our new peace community that is Class 18. Together we are creating our own super-culture of peace during these three months. We are connected to each other forever by this experience, to the Center in Bangkok, to Rotary and our communities. Calling all connectors to the peace table!
June 21 to June 23, 2016 Charco de Araujo, San Diego Union After many meetings and lots of hard work on the part of CEDESA, COCIRA, UCCANG and Rotary under the guiding hands of Wendy Coulson, our expert in curriculum and adult teaching methods, the first five modules of the education program were presented in Charco de Araujo. The program is very hands-on and participatory so it is much more than just a presentation. There was much enthusiasm among the participants with several persons proclaiming that EVERY person in the community should have an opportunity to learn all of this! Overall, we are very pleased. We are now teaching at Boca de Canada in San Miguel and next week Wendy and I will meet to review and talk about revisions to the curriculum and also the manual which is in its "almost final draft" form. I will let the photos tell the story. Enjoy - Lee
Visit.. Rotary Water Harvesting
May 19, 2016 Yesterday, after going to Nombre de Dios with Chela and Abel, we returned to CEDESA for additional planning of our new global grant (GG1524911) for 319 more water harvesting cisterns in San Miguel, Dolores Hidalgo, San Diego Union and San Luiz de la Paz. Present were Chela, Abel, Meche, Benigno, and Ceci. We reviewed first the progress on the new education program and the principal objectives of that program. Meche has been working hard with Wendy Coulson to develop the program and didactic materials to go with that. We all agreed that in a nutshell our goals are:
- Have people fully understand that the reason for cisterns is lack of an improved water source or having water that is terribly contaminated with fluoride and arsenic.
- Have people fully understand that the cistern water is free from those poisons and they should never drink water from wells.
- Have people understand that they can improve their water and health even more by integrating disinfection steps to improve the cistern water and eliminate any biological contamination.
- Have people learn how to self-construct their water harvesting system and maintain it to get maximum benefit from it.