September 2019: Bringing the Archives to Life

Peaceful Schools International has a rich history that began long before it got its current name and initiatives. This month we will delve into the living history of Peaceful Schools: why it was created and how it continues to thrive today.

In the mid 1990s The League of Peaceful Schools was founded by Hetty van Gurp’ a couple years after a tragic act of bullying took the life of her young son. Hetty wanted to create a network of schools whose staff and students supported each other to create cultures of peace in their schools. The League of Peaceful Schools connected many schools in Nova Scotia at the time.

Read the full story of Hetty and the League of Peaceful Schools here.

After working abroad Hetty found other educators around the world who were eager to learn and implement her methods for peace education. In 2001 the League of Peaceful Schools became Peaceful Schools International with a mandate to provide peace education resources for any educator around the who wanted them.

As it entered its third year, PSI was becoming increasingly active on the international front. Hetty was establishing projects and networks in places where peace at school was not only a matter of trying to eliminate bullying, but also working to overcome cultural divides and the influence of violence at the societal level.

During this same time period, the Holy Cross school Dispute was also taking place in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Young girls walking to school were subjected to sectarian violence as one community protested the use of the school by the other. You can read more about the History of the Holy Cross school here.

Hetty reached out Holy Cross school and others in the area to help; this began PSI’s extensive relationship and involvement in Belfast primary schools. Every year for the last 15 years, PSI has partnered with Saint Mary’s University to take students to facilitate peace education workshops for primary school children in the city. The program continues to be one of the most successful PSI projects.

Learn more about the program, and how to get involved here.

Students and teachers all over the world, now take peace pledges and participate in PSI initiatives and workshops.

The Halifax’s Youth Committee is one of the newest PSI initiatives. Their books series were featured in the July month feature. The purpose and spirit of PSI is embodied in these young people as they carry forward their goals of creating Peaceful Schools. We are excited to see what else they create!

Three of Hetty van Gurp grandsons at the last Young Consultancy Meeting in June, 2019.

This year, history has come full circle, as Hetty van Gurp’s grandsons joined the Youth Committee to help brainstorm the next kids books.

July 2019: Peace Education Books; by kids, for kids

About two years ago PSI decided it was time for new children’s books to help teach young people about conflict resolution. We quickly decided the best way to engage children was to have books written by someone like themselves. We enlisted the help of local young authors and illustrators to write three books that help kids navigate their conflict.

The first books were launch in October of 2018: Check out the Article about the Launch

The books were written by Amelia and illustrated by her friends Ruby and Marin, all of whom attend school in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Check out this article from CBC News about their work!

Each book is has a unique story designed for different age groups. Click each book below to read them!

The books have been distributed to elementary schools and libraries in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Belfast, Northern Ireland, as well as other places! They are also being translated into several languages including French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Irish, Arabic, and many more. Saint Mary’s University students are completing the initial translations and faculty members will review and edit. Thank you to all involved! Once complete all translations will be available on our website!

Don’t see your language listed? Help us make these books more inclusive! Contact us and we can work together on more translations!

What’s Next?

Our young team of authors and illustrators has grown and they are planning a new series of books! They are working with PSI Junior Consultants in Halifax now to brainstorm new ideas with new characters! Stay tuned for a new book launch in Fall 2019!

We would like to thank the Saint Mary’s community who continue to support these young people’s work:

June 2019: Dr. Padraig O’Malley

Dr. O’Malley was born in Dublin, Ireland,and is an award-winning author and expert on democratic transitions and divided societies, with special expertise on Northern Ireland, South Africa, Iraq, Israel and Palestine. O’Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston. Read the rest of his Biography from the Saint Mary’s media release here:

Dr. Padraig O’Malley recieved an Honary Degree from Saint Mary’s University on May 17, 2019.

Dr. O’Malley has been a supporter and friend of PSI for many years. We had the privilege of spending time together discussing his work in peace and conflict, and the future of Northern Ireland.

To learn more about Dr. Padraig O’Malley’s career and life check out the documentary The Peace Maker here: