by Jennifer Parker
WALSENBURG- Calling all youth!!! Peace Jam is a program headquartered in Colorado that was started over 10 years ago to help youth be influenced by role models for a positive effect on their lives. The role models have included many Nobel Peace Laureates who teach subjects such as peacemaking, leadership skills, and focusing on issues such as violence and oppression. In 2007 the organization even had the Dalai Lama come to Denver!
In January, kids in La Veta and Walsenburg got the privilege of hearing a Peace Jam speaker, Rudy Balles, who is a gang prevention specialist, talk about the benefits of being involved with Peace Jam. At the end of his speech, he announced that Walsenburg would be starting a club affiliation with Peace Jam the next day. About twenty students showed up very interested in getting involved. Club leaders, Annalee Hickey and Sarah Norris, both program directors for Huerfano County Services, were very excited and amazed at how motivated the kids were. Hickey said that she expected the kids would want to meet about twice a month, but to her surprise, they wanted to meet twice a week plus one Friday a month. This is the first year for something like this to be implemented within the school and there are about 10-15 kids who are involved every week with the program.
Hickey said the kids are encouraged to think of a concern about a community and then one thing that they would like to do for that community. The kids were recently asked what they felt were the biggest problems in their own town and they reported that teen pregnancy, drugs, violence, and a lack of motivation were at the top of the list.
Lately the kids have been going around Walsenburg asking for donations for a spaghetti dinner that they will be hosting tonight Thurs. Feb. 28 at 5:30 in the cafeteria at John Mall High School in Walsenburg. The cost is $5 a plate and the proceeds go towards a field trip to Denver that the kids hope to take at the beginning of March to hear Nobel Peace Laureate, Adolfo Perez Esquivel. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his leadership with human rights and democracy for people of Latin America. This is a fantastic opportunity for the community’s youth to witness the impact of change that one person can make. This is an awesome club for the kids to be involved in and they will be having many more fundraisers because the kids are hoping to raise enough money to attend the 2008 Peace Jam International Call to Action Conference in Costa Rica in September.
You can learn more about Peace Jam by going to www.peacejam.org and you can also support the local kids by attending the dinner Thursday night or contacting Annalee Hickey or Sarah Norris through the schools to give donations. Also, anything purchased at www.greenraising.com, will give the kids back 40% of money spent, by selecting “pick an affiliate” and choosing Huerfano County Youth Services. This website was started to help schools with fundraising and items that can be bought include gifts and wrap, coffee, cleaning supplies, and reusable bags.