How do youth play a significant role in advancing peace? What can we learn from youth leadership in peacebuilding? How can we support youth to grow their peacebuilding impact?
The answers to these questions reside in the stories below about courageous and innovative youth, and their persistent efforts to build peace worldwide.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” These wise words of Maya Angelou are well and alive in the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, who started speaking for girls’ rights when the Taliban took control of her town in Swat Valley. She almost lost her life, shot in the head for having spoken up about educating girls. The bullet to her head did not silence her voice. When she recovered her voice became louder. Today, she continues her worldwide mission through the Malala Fund to help the 130 million girls who are unable to go to school. Our world is a better place because of Malala’s courage for peace.
Trisha Prabhu was 13 years old when she learned about the suicide of Rebecca, a 12-year-old girl from Florida. Rebecca ended her life due to cyberbullying, which many teenagers, including Trisha, have unfortunately experienced. Rebecca’s suicide deeply affected Trisha to the extent that she could not ignore the problem. This led her to create ReThink, a patented technology that detects online hate and puts a stop to it early before anyone gets hurt. Trisha’s research shows that 93% of the time young people chose to stop hurtful posts after being reminded by the software. Trisha’s solution protects countless people from virtual bullying each day. ReThink inspired a student-led movement to stop cyberbullying across the US and her efforts were recognized by President Obama in 2016.
Nicholas Lowinger was heartbroken when he met two siblings, a girl and a boy, who had one pair of shoes between them. The siblings took turns wearing the shoes to school every day. Nicholas took off his own shoes and gave them as a gift to the boy. One act of kindness was not enough. He put shoes on over 100,000 children in homeless shelters in every state in the US. Nicholas won the Youth Award in 2015 for founding the Gotta Have Soul Foundation.
Now Nicholas is 18 years old, and he still cares about every child he helps. He ensures that each child has the correct size shoe, and whenever he gets the opportunity, he even delivers the shoes in person. Nicholas realized that something as simple as a single functioning pair of shoes can change someone’s life. Nicholas’ thoughtfulness and acts of kindness bring peace to many children each day.
Reflecting on the wise words of the 40 under 40 social entrepreneur, Tyrone Poole, who said, “the people who don’t know what the box looks like, always think outside of it.” Youth build peace through their courage to explore innovative and “outside the box” solutions. Youth are the perfect peacebuilders who have a fresh pair of eyes to rethink, reimagine, and lead action for peace.
The above stories highlight only three young peacebuilders among countless others worldwide. Rotary’s mission is fulfilled as Rotarians continue to open opportunities for our youth, elevate their voices, encourage their contributions, and nurture their solutions from seeds into impactful peace action.
Act for Peace,
Youth Lead Peace
Youth are our future for peace. As Rotarians we must engage, educate, and empower youth to be leaders in positive change, equality, service, and peace.
Youth are watching us. Our movements, our language, and our actions toward others. Now more than ever, it is essential that we continue to be the model peacebuilders to take action to serve vulnerable communities around the world. It is our actions for peace that take a lasting effect, not only for the communities we serve, but also to the young eyes that are watching. When we provide peace, no matter how small the action, we are educating and empowering the youth in our communities to be the peacebuilders of tomorrow.
On top of being the peacebuilders our youth needs, we must also provide youth with the tools, education, resources, and support they need to thrive as leaders in peace in the future. In this month's newsletter, we are outlining the many programs Rotary has to empower today's youth with peace so they can become dedicated peacebuilding adults. From children, teens, to young professionals, Rotary has programs that provide leadership development, service, and most importantly, peace to empower youth around the world.
Take action for Peace today by becoming a member of RAGFP. Join the network of thousands of peacebuilders around the world who are passionate about making peace an international reality.
Rotary Youth Exchange is a program targeted at thousands of youth ages 15-19 that allows them to build leadership skills, learn about other cultures, and become global citizens. This program serves youth in over 128 countries. Exchanges last anywhere from a just a few days, to several months, to an entire academic year. Students attend local schools, live with host families, and even attend camps when school is not in session. Youth who take part in this international experience develop lifelong leadership skills, learn new languages and cultures different from their own, build lasting friendships with youth around the world, and become global citizens for life. Students who engage in an Exchange abroad become future Peace Leaders.
Exchange Student wins prestigious College Scholarship
Kolten Conklen traveled to South Korea through the Rotary Long-Term Youth Exchange during the 2016-2017 school year. He was sponsored by the Sterling Noon Rotary Club and spent the year with three host families. During his exchange, he dived deep into South Korean culture. Throughout his visit, he collected all sorts of pins and memorabilia that he attached to his jacket, a tradition with all of the Rotary Youth Exchange students. Influenced by his extraordinary experience during the exchange, Kolten attended the University of Illinois with a double major in Global Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures. He was one of 16 students in the United States awarded with the Beinecke Scholarship to pursue his degree. It was through his global immersion in South Korean culture that lead Kolten to pursue an education that furthers goodwill and understanding across national borders.
Get Involved in Rotary Youth Exchange
In the 2018-2019 school year, over 5,700 clubs and 9,300 students participated in Rotary Youth Exchange programs. If your club wants to get involved with a Youth Exchange program, check the list of non-certified districts to make sure that your district can participate. You can learn more about opportunities by reading the Youth Exchange Handbook. All of the information regarding student safety, District Certification, and opportunities can be found on Rotary's website.
Rotary Interact Clubs
Rotary Interact Clubs allow youth ages 12-18 to connect, build leadership skills, and empower their community through Rotarian action. Interact clubs are sponsored by other Rotary Clubs in the area. To date, there are 14,911 Interact clubs and over 342,000 Interactors worldwide. Each year Interact clubs focus on two main projects; One project to help their local school and community, the other to broaden their understanding of the international community.
Nepalese Interactors fund hygiene kits through gardening
One such local program, Seeds of Change, was created by Interactors in Nepal in 2013. They sought to supply the underprivileged youth in their school with hygiene kits. They did this by building a community garden. They grew herbs and vegetables, and when they were ripe, they sold them to teachers, parents, and other community members. Using the profits from this garden, they were able to purchase hygiene kits for their classmates and more seeds to keep the program growing. This project helped the Interactors become self-sufficient in building their hygiene program for students in need. This is just one way the Interact program prepares the next generation of Rotarians. Learn more from the Interactors by watching their video.
Get Involved with Interact
Youth interested in joining an Interact club can reach out to their local Rotary club to learn about Interact clubs in their area. Rotarians can also recruit Interactors by partnering with local middle and high schools to coordinate service and peace projects that empower and engage local youth.
Rotary Youth in Leadership Awards
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in an intensive leadership experience organized by Rotary districts and clubs where youth develop their skills as a leader while making long-lasting connections with peers in their community. Local Rotary clubs organize local RLYA events for local participants within the targeted age-range of 14-30. Local clubs can cater RYLA events to best suit the needs of the community. These events can take the form of a 1-day seminar, a three-day retreat, or a a weeklong camp. All RYLA participants are nominated by local Rotary Clubs. Want to organize a RYLA event? Check out Rotary's resources here.
Check out Reem's interview with Julia Phelps, a Rotary Foundation Trustee, former educator, and RYLA advocate on this episode of Together for Peace.
Rotary Empowers Young Professionals
Rotaract Clubs The Rotaract movement started in 1968 with the Charlotte North Rotary Club as a means for young men and women aged 18 and over to develop leadership skills and professional experience within their communities. Since then, Rotaract has grown to over 10,904 cubs, with over 203,000 members in 180 nations around the globe while having fun through service. As of July, 2020, Rotaract Clubs have been distinguished as an equal member to Rotary as Rotary Clubs and members. Rotaract Clubs may individually decide to place upper age limits in accordance with the club's bylaws. Rotaract Clubs can exist on their own, or may be sponsored by another Rotary or Rotaract Club(s).
Rotaract Club of Barbados send Eruption relief
On April 9, 2021, the La Soufriere volcano in the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines experience the first of a continued series of explosive eruptions. Approximately 16,000 people had evacuated the area the day prior due to a red alert declaration after increased seismic activity. The Rotaract Club of Barbados responded with a 3-pronged approach to relief efforts for the evacuees.
The first phase focused on the donation of clothing and clean water to evacuees with the partnership with Vincentians, Oxygen Mas Band, Rotaract Club of UWI Cave Hill, and the Rotaract Club of Barbados West. Over 450 items were donated through the clothing drive and over 500 bottles of water. The second phase involved the "Pink Box Project." The Rotaract Club of Barbados donated six cases of sanitary napkins, 11 dozen tampons, six cases of diapers in assorted sizes, four cases of baby wipes, three cases of antibacterial wipes, and four cases of plasters. The final phase of the project was a monetary donation of BDS $2,000 to the Rotary District 7030 Disaster Relief Fund through their sponsor club, the Rotary Club of Barbados.
The Rotary Peace Fellowship Program is one of Rotary International's most prized program for Peace. Through academic training, practice, and global networking opportunities, the Rotary Peace Fellowship Program develops the capacity and development of professionals to become experienced and effective catalysts for peace. The fellowships cover tuition and fees, room and board, round-trip transportation, and all internship and field-study expenses. Each year, Rotary awards up to 130 fully funded fellowships for dedicated peace leaders from around the world to study at one of the seven Rotary Peace Centers:
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
University of Bradford, Bradford, England
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Uppsala University, Sweden.
Chulalongkorn and Makerere University offer a Fellowship Graduate certificates, whereas the other Peace Centers offer Masters Programs. Learn more about the graduate certificate program by watching the video below.
Learn more about Makerere and Chulalongkorn University's Peace & Conflict Graduate Certificate Program.
Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centers have trained more than 1,400 fellows who now work in more than 115 countries around the world. Peace Fellows serve as leaders in NGOs, governments, education, law enforcement, and international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. Listen to what Peace Fellow Alumni have to say about their experience studying at one of the Rotary Peace Centers.
Learn more about Makerere and Chulalongkorn University's Peace & Conflict Graduate Certificate Program.
Get Involved The Rotary Peace Fellowship application for 2022-2023 just ended, but that does not mean that you can't start planning a strong application for the following year. Check out the Peace Fellow eligibility restrictions and the program curriculum at each of the Rotary Peace Centers to see if the Peace Fellowship program is right for you. Districts must submit their endorsement decisions to the Rotary Foundation by July 1, 2021. You can review the endorsement instructions here.
If your club wants to get involved with Peace Fellow recruitment in your district, start recruiting strong candidates in your community and support them on the application process. Follow the full step-by-step process on the Rotarian's role in the Peace Fellowship selection process on Rotary's website.
The Rotary Peace Fellow Alumni Association presents: Global Peace Conference 24 hours of peace talks, skills-based workshops, and networking
Join Rotary Peace Fellows in a conference dedicated to peacebuilding on June 19, 2021. Together, we will explore what it means to weave peace principles into business, politics, technology and our everyday lives.
Registration is free and open to anyone who wants to learn about peace.
Rotaractors Plant Trees Rotaract District 9110 in Nigeria carried our a tree planting exercise in Lagos and Ogun state in conjunction with the presidents of various Rotaract Clubs in the area. Learn more.
Interact Club Runs Computer Center Interact Club RCD-Shikshalaya in India provide computer training to students of underprivileged families. This Interact Club wants to improve literacy and vocational skills to youth to help in their future academic and professional careers. Learn more.
Rotaract Club builds Peace During Ramadan Youth in the Rotaract Wave Club in Alaexandria, Egypt partnered with the Alexandria Kitchen to provide meals daily during the holy month of Ramadan. This was an effort to bring food, goodwill, and understanding during the celebration between Rotaract and Interact Clubs, as well as the community as a whole.
Rotary Club Empowers Young Professionals through Entrepreneurship For more than 30 years, the Rotary Club of Portland has given local high school students the chance to learn about the entrepreneurship and business through the Enterprise Academy. This is an annual weekend retreat for students to interact with successful business people and participate in a highly informative and enjoyable team project. The students are split into teams and have advisors and Rotarian mentors to guide them through their enterprise project. Each team will work through simulated business learning modules and use the key concepts to build their own business. Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Enterprise Academy will be taking place virtually. Watch their informational video with teen testimonies on their website. Learn more
We want your Peace Projects!
Peace requires our collective action. Share your next peace project with RAGFP by using our Projects Page. Your peace project will be posted on ourwebsite and may have the opportunity to be shared on our social media and newsletter channels.
If you're not a RAGFP member,join us today to share your Peace Project on our website.
Celebrate Youth Peacebuilders at the 2021 Peace Dove Gala. We will be honoring Peacebuilders in several categories, including Peace Fellows and Rotaractors. Join us, and invite the future Peacebuilders in your life to be inspired by youth service in peace action.
We are honored to host the inaugural 2021 Peace Dove Gala to celebrate you, our peacebuilders, and the impact of your global peace work.