Over the past year myself and fellow Faith in Action volunteer Tobi have taken part in Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Education across England. This is not only formal education for students in schools and their staff and teachers, but also personal educational experiences. These include COP26 in Glasgow, attending a protest outside the arms fair, a silent vigil outside parliament for fossil fuels, a book club reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography and sessions with various organisations including Pax Christi. As well as the wider education aspect I have also sat on the education team as part of the Diocesan Climate Committee and supported Our Shared World, a coalition for SDG 4.7 (education for sustainable development) in England by 2030.
Having done a lot of previous education work, the external challenges, networks and opportunities have stood out the most looking back. Through these experiences I developed many practical skills such as video editing, online streaming and communications and networking. I have connected with faith groups and activists around the globe, and created a tight knit group of friends in the UK who are great to meet up with and feel supported by. The Columban international network has also been a great gift to school children and us volunteers. Being able to skype the Philippines or Pakistan always adds a little something to sessions, whilst in meetings we have had a direct link to countries and Columban work in the poorest and most vulnerable communities. This has been both heart-breaking and life-giving. Looking forward, I wonder whether there are more ways we could utilise the gifts we have at our hands in peace education in the future.
When it comes to school’s work, being given the responsibility of coordinating, scheduling and organising the practicalities for school workshops and sessions was at times daunting but I developed a clear system and organisation tools to help me manage my tasks effectively. I was able to hone my workshop skills and add a little of my own flavour to sessions through teaching dances or creating new activities for groups to do as part of their action element. Most of the school year was filled with primary school groups who are keen to get involved and be active so this always boosted my confidence! Though there was a small part of me that wondered how long these foundation stones might last once they moved on to secondary school or university. Having done few sessions with secondary schools, and none with university it would be interesting to see how these sessions and ideas play out further down the line. Does the role we play continue to echo throughout their school lives? Are the primary education seeds enough?