Young people (ages 13-20) who would like to meet and interact with a Nobel Peace Laureate will have that opportunity when Betty Williams comes to mid-Missouri this month for the Heartland PeaceJam Youth Conference.
Previous involvement with a PeaceJam group has been a prerequisite for attendance in the past, but this year the conference has been expanded to allow individuals to attend without being part of a group.
Williams, known for her efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland, will be speaking during the conference, Nov. 14-15 on the William Woods University campus. Community solutions to violence will be the topic for discussion.
Williams got involved in community activism when she witnessed a family torn apart because of the senseless violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, and she will share her life-changing experiences. She will also address her current work with child refugees around the world.
The conference will bring 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 will be mentored in these experiences by college students.
PeaceJam 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 will construct a mock refugee camp. The camp, which will remain intact for the remainder of the week for the general public to tour, will bring to life the conditions of children living in refugee camps in Rwanda.
All proceeds raised from tours of the camp will go towards the Callaway to Kibungo community partnership to continue efforts to build a medical clinic in Kibungo, Rwanda.
During the PeaceJam weekend, students will also take part in team-building activities with young people from other schools and organizations and become engaged in workshops promoting leadership skills and alternatives to violence. The main feature of the conference will be a discussion with Williams.
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 during the troubles of 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.
Past laureates who have attended PeaceJam events at William Woods University include Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Jody Williams, both of whom received honorary degrees from William Woods.
Young people who may be interested in attending PeaceJam should contact Scott Miniea, director of Heartland PeaceJam, at (573) 592-1633 or Scott.Miniea@WilliamWoods.edu.