Meet the 2012 Common Ground Awardees: Peace Child International
“First Inform Yourself – then Take Action.” – Peace Child International Slogan
Peace Child’s name comes from a Papua New Guinea tradition in which warring tribes would exchange a child in a symbolic gesture to make peace. The children would grow up as members of the others’ tribe and, when conflict threatened again in the future, the ‘Peace Child’ from each tribe was sent to negotiate a sustained peace. This legend spotlights the important role young people can play in changing the world.
Founded in 1981, Peace Child International began its journey during the Cold War era, working with young people to produce a musical performance to express their wish to end the nuclear stand-off between the USA and the USSR. Each production of the musical “Peace Child” was written and customized by its cast and performed to sell-out crowds across the USA. The performances resulted in the first ever US-Soviet youth exchange in 1986, and its success allowed Peace Child International to expand into a global network encompassing 1000 youth groups, schools and teachers in over 150 countries.
Peace Child premiered in the U.S. at the Kennedy Center in December 1982, co-produced by Search for Common Ground, with a chorus of children, local theatre and gospel stars, and spectacular choreography created by Washington’s School of Performing Arts. Actress Susannah York was the Story Teller.
Peace Child International operates from its international headquarters in Buntingford, England. Focused on empowering young people all over the world, the organization is run by a small management team and supported by volunteer interns from across the globe who take responsibility for all aspects of Peace Child International’s projects. Although the organization still writes and stages musicals, it has branched out into producing publications and educational materials for young people, and offering training programs and workshops on global issues.
Since 2000, Peace Child International has supported and awarded small grants to over 300 youth-implemented projects around the world aimed at community improvement. Its slogan, “First Inform Yourself – then Take Action” is based on self-development and education. Accordingly, its “Be the Change” program established a peer-to-peer teaching dynamic allowing young people to help themselves become true agents of change. In addition, its international Youth Congresses and Eco-Business Challenges have stirred young people to rise up to meet our common problems and develop a new kind of entrepreneurship.
David Woollcombe and Rosey Simonds are co-founders of Peace Child International and have together run the organization for the past 30 years.
The Common Ground Awards will be presented at the Carnegie Institution for Science on November 8, 2012 at 8:00pm in Washington, DC. The Awards are presented annually by Search for Common Ground to honor outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community and peace building. Recipients have made significant contributions toward bridging divides between people, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and providing inspiration and hope where often there was none. Past recipients of the Award include: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, Sesame Workshop, and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
“In a world where adversarial behavior is so prevalent, we honor people who build bridges and resolve conflict” said John Marks, President and Founder of Search for Common Ground. “These are our heroes, and it feels wonderful to celebrate them.”
Other 2012 Common Ground Awardees
Respected TV, radio, and print journalist who integrated the University of Georgia as one of its first two African-American students; author of recently published “To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil rights Movement.”
Ingoma Nshya (“New Era”)
Rwanda’s only female Hutu and Tutsi drumming troupe and the subject of the new documentary film Sweet Dreams.
The Interfaith Award:
Lord George Carey of Clifton, Former Archbishop of Canterbury; Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, Founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), and Imam of Masjid al-Farah in New York City; and Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee,
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens
The late U.S. Ambassador to Libya and career Foreign Service Officer who spent his life steadfastly serving to bridge divides and cultivate understanding between the United States and the Middle East, for a life of transcendence over cultural differences.