Pupils from Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston receive their PeaceJam awards from Pat Webb, past president of Harleston Rotary Club, and the club's district governor of District 1080, Trevor Sayer. Photograph Simon Parker

Harleston pupils learn to be peace ambassadors

Friday, December 21, 2012
3.19 PM

Eight Norfolk pupils have been trained to be ambassadors for peace as part of an international programme involving Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

Fran Cox, Alex Scott, Tom Bacon, Shanice Homer, Harvey Miller, Ben Schofield, Iain Symon and Izzy Sieveking were presented with their certificates at a celebration assembly at Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston yesterday.

Members of Harleston Rotary Club have been training the youngsters to become ambassadors for PeaceJam – an international education programme which aims to increase young people’s awareness of global issues around violence, racism, war and peace, and develops their problem solving and conflict resolution skills to bring about more peace in their schools, communities and the world.

Assistant headteacher Rob Connelly said: “We became involved with PeaceJam as it is an opportunity to widen and increase our students’ understanding of conflict and conflict resolution within society and the importance of addressing these issues.

“It’s fantastic the students have given up so much of their own time for such a worthwhile project and their ongoing commitment demonstrates the strong sense of community within the school.”

Archbishop Sancroft is the first state school in England to have this link with PeaceJam through the Rotary Club. Eventually the Harleston youngsters will train others to become peace ambassadors.

Pat Webb, the Rotary Club’s PeaceJam co-ordinator for the district, has been training them since September and from next term they will be honing their skills and looking at projects they can get involved in, which could be in the school or outside the country.

“When they leave school, hopefully the skills they have learned will help them in the wider world,” said Mrs Webb.

She said they had learned about listening to people, being impartial, watching what they say so they don’t inflame a situation and body language, so they’re in the middle sorting out conflicts without taking sides and so they know what to do if they are in a situation where a mediator is needed.

“They’ve given up their lunchtimes to do this and worked very hard, because it’s not easy, and we’re very proud of them for what they have achieved,” she added.

PeaceJam came about after Ivan Suvanjieff, an artist and musician, had been talking with gang members in North Denver, USA. He discovered that these young men with guns admired Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his non-violent efforts toward social change, and realized that Nobel Peace Laureates could act as alternative role models for disaffected youngsters. His colleague, Dawn Engle, helped him contact the Dalai Lama, who loved their idea and helped them set up PeaceJam in 1996 to enable his fellow Laureates to teach young people the art of peace.