My name is Vyonne Akoth. I am the founder of a local nonprofit organization in Kenya known as Impart Change, as well as a Community Solutions Program (CSP) 2017 Fellow. Community Solutions is a professional development program implemented by the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) and supported by the US Department of State. I have a bachelor’s degree in peace, security, and conflict resolution. A few weeks ago I was delighted to join fellow CSP fellows for a workshop orientation, having being selected among 93 successful applicants out of more than 2500 applications. My immersion into Little Friends for Peace (LFFP), my host organization, began on an exciting and high note: summer Peace Camps!
Never have I had so much fun. The summer Peace Camps provided an opportunity for me to learn about LFFP and see how the lives of children are being impacted and transformed positively from a very young age. What made this so exciting is that it was done on the basis of learning while having fun for both the campers as well as the counsellors, me included. The Peace Camps impacted me on a personal level, seeing how campers are being empowered organically to be peace champions at heart, and carry that peace to their surroundings: their families, friends, neighbours and communities at large. I could see the campers learning how to love and respect each other irrespective of their age, race, religion, and cultural differences.
Fun peace tools were used. They included art, games, talent shows, storytelling, and recess time where campers as well as counsellors had the opportunity to harness their peacebuilding skills. I was really inspired seeing how at a very young age, campers knew how to solve conflicts among themselves using peaceful communication messages that focused on STOP, THINK and ACT. Many thanks to MJ for the excellent work she has done developing these messages over the years! What stood out for me was the phrase, ‘Stop, we can work it out.’ This particular phrase was used by younger campers to address little conflicts among themselves. I was happy to be in a position to see its effectiveness.
As an adult, this was a learning curve for me. Whereas I have always had the knowledge of non-violent communication, LFFP has taught me a new kind of peaceful non-violent communication which I have now adopted in my life. This peaceful non-violent communication has taught me how to work on my communication from a personal level to an interpersonal and intergroup level. I have noticed that this has happened to me unconsciously as a result of working with the campers. The whole world needs peaceful non-violent communication!
My journey with LFFP has just begun. I can’t wait to see where the next months will lead, being part of a visionary organization that has the potential to impact the whole world, using humane, exciting, and interesting peace tools for a much needed change both close to home and globally.