When Peace Camp began I welcomed the Peace Campers to the beginning of the rest of their lives! Little did they know what a life altering experience they would share! Each of them is a part of the Peace Camp Puzzle! We needed the unique qualities of each student and leader to make the puzzle complete! The different pieces reflected our various cultures, families, religions, education, and life experiences that helped define the shapes in the puzzle. We began to understand the importance and interconnectedness of each individual and how our similarities and differences helped create a global picture. The puzzle we created was critical to our understanding of the world. I like to compare the Peace Camp participants to a wonderful buffet! We each brought something different to the table, but what a delicious "meal" of individual tastes, flavors, textures and aromas we created!
I shared with them the familiar saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But my version is, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But when life gives you opportunity, make a difference!" Each Peace Camper has been given the opportunity to make a difference and impact their communities and the world around them! I believe in the power of one! They learned that one person is powerful enough to effect change. They have been given the daunting task to help improve the world, one person at a time!
As a delegation leader, the greatest gift I receive is to watch the students learn and grow. I saw them develop into mature, independent, responsible, wonderful, young adults. At the beginning of Peace Camp, many of them found themselves relying on leaders, family, and friends. But by the end of the journey, they realized one must ultimately depend on themselves, and the strength, character, and good judgment that has been instilled in them throughout their life. As teenagers, they did something most adults only dream about. They should be proud of their accomplishments. Each of them, in their own way, contributed to the tapestry that wove our delegation together. We've all learned, Peace Camp isn't a place you visit, it's a place in your heart! These 48 students from 27 countries exemplified what President Eisenhower's dream is all about! With Mary Jean Eisenhower leading the way, People to People International's mission to promote Peace through Understanding has been realized!
I left the Peace Campers with the following words that Arum Gandhi shared at PTPI's Global Youth Forum in 2007.
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors.
Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
Everyone involved in Peace Camp will always have a special place in my heart!
Peace Camp leader
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, NY