Peace Messaging at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, 2253 Main Street in Buffalo, was the heart of Camp Peaceprints 2014! In our 7th year, we focused on communication, and got a real lesson in how the impulse to connect is a powerful force.
Sixty-five children and youth communicated the desire for peace to each other and to other groups – both across the world (to the Afghan Peace Volunteers during their Global Day of Listening Skype session) and across the span of being differently abled, that is the children with hearing impairment who attend St. Mary’s.
When we were in the playground and the like-aged (8-13 year old) children’s class came by, both groups of children immediately tried to communicate with each other. Over the course of inviting the children to join us – to teach us some signing, attend to our speakers (with their teacher interpreting), do an art project – the urge to communicate was very apparent. The difficulty in doing so only increased the intensity and importance of the communication.
The first time St. Mary’s students joined us for a session, Karima Amin was storytelling – children without hearing impairment were watching the teacher sign, while the children with hearing impairment couldn’t take their eyes off Karima! All were moved, and all communicated.
We also explored also Peace Messaging through sessions with:
· City Comptroller and signer Mark Schroeder;
· Women-Against-Violence-Everywhere Chair and Veteran for Peace Marilyn Gibson;
· Yoga instructor Uli Carlino-Macdonald;
· Yagwoneest Jill Clause, Tuskarora, through Indigenous Sustainable Peace Ways;
· Spoken Word Artist, Rapper and Poet Quadir Lateef of The Street Council;
· Musician and Rapper My-Rap-Name-is-Alex-and-My-Real-Name-is-Alex (Mead); and
· Drummer and Teacher Carolyn Zimmerman, “The Drum Lady” and Drum For Health.
Our field trips included:
· A visit with our Mayor Brown, where he fielded the campers’ intelligent and serious questions;
· City Hall exploration including a guided tour of Buffalo from the Observation deck by volunteer Paul Kochmanski (psychologist and WNYPC member), and hospitality from the staff;
· Lunch in the courtyard of one of the oldest churches in Buffalo, St. Anthony of Padua;
· Ice cream, games, and lounging at the Marina and Canalside;
· Viewing the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, with a Vietnam Veteran sharing his experiences in the Navy and losing his brother in the war;
· Three trips to go swimming at Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center, where the children learned from each other and conquered their fears;
· All kinds of information and feelings about the various animals we saw at the Buffalo Zoo; and
· Trips to Delaware Park as well as the playgrounds and open fields of St. Mary’s – on the last day we had our own “Fly Kites Not Drones” event with a dozen kites in the air at once!
We couldn’t hold Camp Peaceprints without the generous support of:
· The Network of Religious Communities via the Riefler Foundation Grant;
· The Presbytery of WNY and their Peacemaking Grant (We were also privileged to have a wonderful visit with Dr. Elena Delgado at Camp);
· Joan A. Droit Scholarships through the Peace Education Fund;
· St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, always kind, hospitable, and eager to collaborate;
· St. Columba-Brigid RCC, for their thoughtful provision of their van;
· Our volunteers:
o Heros and Veterans for Peace Russell Brown and Frank Gage, and Cece Huff who transported children;
o Jan Burns, our Art Teacher and ever-peaceful presence;
o Ellen Moomaw, Kate Mang, and Latanya Jacob who kept things running smoothly;
o Young Neighbors in Action teams from the Roman Catholic Church’s Center for Ministry Development, who brought their commitment and caring to share freely;
o Young women from Teach and Restore Youth (TRY) who served as youth assistants; and
· Supportive members of collaborating organizations: the Interfaith Peace Network, the SSJ Sr. Karen Center for Nonviolence, and the WNY Peace Center.
All together, Camp Peaceprints is a vigorous exercise in Peace Messaging. We work to be the change we want to see, and to send the message that we can all leave peaceprints everywhere, as we reach out and create community. Camp Peaceprints provides the inspiration to love and care for each other more, and the tools to communicate that intention. The tears at the end of Camp and the relationships built say we made good progress toward that goal.