Nobel Laureate Betty Williams challenged about 150 teenagers and college students attending the Heartland PeaceJam Youth Conference at William Woods University Saturday and Sunday to get involved in humanitarian efforts around the world.
The students responded by building a refugee camp to create awareness and donations for a humanitarian effort with ties to mid-Missouri.
As a fundraiser for the Rwanda Community Partnership, this week (Nov. 16 – 20) community members can tour the mock refugee camp that the students built on the William Woods campus. The WWU Multicultural Affairs Club is collaborating with the Heartland PeaceJam Youth Conference to sponsor this enlightening experience.
Known for her efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland, Williams spoke about community solutions to violence during the conference. She got involved in community activism when she witnessed a family torn apart because of the senseless violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.
Williams won the Nobel Peace prize jointly with Máiread Corrigan-Maguire in 1976 for their creation of Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to promoting an end to violence in Northern Ireland. She continues to work today as president of World Centre of Compassion for Children, as well as with the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
During the PeaceJam Youth Conference, Williams shared her life-changing experiences and addressed her current work with child refugees around the world.
The conference brought together youth from across the Heartland region (Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Iowa) to share their experiences in service, attend workshops pertaining to violence and refugees around the world and discuss reactions to Williams’ talk. The high school youth were mentored in these experiences by college students.
PeaceJam, which Williams helped found, is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody. Its goal is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves and the world.
As part of the conference, the youth, along with volunteers from across Missouri and the Humanity for Children/Rwanda Community Partnership constructed the mock refugee camp, which will remain intact for the remainder of the week for the general public to tour.
The camp has nine stations, including a hut, a school, a hospital, a cholera clinic, water source, cooking facilities, a cemetery and a latrine. Club members will lead tours of the camp and explain each of the stations. Tour participants will be given an “identity” and the opportunity to experience the life situation of an individual refugee.
Families in refugee camps are often driven from their homes by violence, genocide and other conflicts. They make do with inadequate housing, sanitation, schools, hospitals and other aspects of life for extended periods of time.
The mock refugee camp will be located on the William Woods campus behind the Helen Stephens Sports Complex. To schedule a tour, contact Cassie Davis at (573) 592-1198 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Small group tours may be scheduled between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
A donation to Callaway County’s Rwanda Community Partnership would be appreciated. The partnership of organizations, churches, schools and government in Callaway County is raising funds to build a women and children’s health clinic and provide other assistance in a remote area of Rwanda. It is country in East Africa recovering from a genocide 15 years ago when nearly a million people were slaughtered in 100 days.
William Woods University vice presidents Dr. Michael Westerfield (left) and Scott Gallagher welcome Nobel Laureate Betty Williams to the Heartland PeaceJam Youth Conference at WWU.
Jessica Bargate of Jefferson City and other students work to build a structure for the mock refugee camp. Bargate is president of the William Woods University Multicultural Affairs Club, which is providing public tours of the camp this week.
A Heartland PeaceJam Youth Conference participant digs a grave in the mock refugee camp cemetery.
Representatives of the Rwanda Community Partnership Mike Beahon and Nancy McCue thank Nobel Laureate Betty Williams (center) for helping to promote their humanitarian efforts.