A group of eight Selkirk College students recently showcased their Peace Studies service learning projects that took them from the classroom into the community as leaders promoting peace and making a difference.
Peace Studies Instructor Lori Barkley welcomed the self-directed students home to the Mir Centre for Peace as they shared with their classmates and guests what their outreach studies entailed.
“Each year we have these students out in our communities doing good work and it’s all coming from them,” says Barkley.
Eight students taking the Selkirk College Peace Studies Program course Leadership for Peace took their learning into the community with hopes of creating change for the better. The students gathered earlier this month to showcase their projects.
She explains the emphasis is on the learning process, not the project itself, and what the students can learn by contributing to their community.
“Students learn so much in the process of designing and implementing their projects. They learn what to look for in a mentor, how to think critically not only about what they are doing, but the process by which they are doing it, and what kind of leaders they are,” Barkley says.
As students work through their projects, they do so with the help of a mentor chosen by them. Simran Sandhu worked with retired Selkirk College instructor Madelyn Mackay as she organized a conflict management workshop which took place on the Castlegar Campus.
“She is a true leader. Nothing was possible without her,” says Sandhu.
The student learned about leadership as she worked alongside her mentor toward the goal of helping others achieve inner peace.
“Conflict impacts ability to achieve inner peace, decreases productivity and morale and increases dissatisfaction and stress,” Sandhu says. “People don’t know there are skills to work through conflict. They just think they have to live with it so I wanted to help.”
Education Brings Empowerment
Student Laura Coombs’ project aims to offer Spirit Fit Nutrition Wellness Workshops in First Nations communities in Northern British Columbia to help address chronic disease among the Aboriginal population.
Teaching about macro and micronutrients, gene and environment interplay, portion size and how to incorporate traditional foods, Coombs wants to help those taking her workshop explore and examine how to create a healthy relationship with food.
“For me, this project is about educating and empowering people,” says Coombs. “It’s something people can’t take away from you.”
Using her theatre background, and working with Nelson’s arts community, Kate Meehan aims to explore feminist consciousness through a staged reading of Emma, a play by Howard Zin upcoming on June 17 at the Shambhala Music and Performance Hall in Nelson.
“Emma Goldman teaches us that true emancipation comes from one’s soul,” Meehan says. “That message can help support peace with one’s self.”
The production involves members of the community including Selkirk College’s own Pat Henman. Proceeds will benefit the Nelson & District Women’s Centre where Meehan is the newest board member, an unintended outcome of the project.
Recent L.V. Rogers graduate Maddy Murphy returned to her Nelson high school with a Healthy Relationships and Consent Workshop. Through her community project, she wanted to help students understand consent through open, honest and sometimes overwhelming discussion. Maintaining a peaceful space for learning to occur was important for her as facilitator.
“Young people are extraordinarily vulnerable without education,” Murphy says. “But it’s not just about sex. It’s about every day healthy relationships.”
Spreading Peace, Involving Others
Student Sabine Perathoner organized a collaborative art project with children at Selkirk College Children’s Centre that combined art therapy with environmental awareness and a hope for a better future through the next generation. She plans to auction off the art pieces as a fundraiser for the Sinixt Nation Society.
“We can learn a lot from the Sinixt, especially for our children,” she says.
Linda Munro has been working with Adult Special Education students, under the mentorship of Mac McHenry, toward food security through advocacy and getting her hands straight into the soil. Fresh greens for students living in Kekuli House Residence and thriving planters in The Pit on Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus are her handiwork. She partnered with a number of organizations including Home Hardware, Georama Growers, The Kootenay Food Strategy Society, and others, to both create awareness about food, and to create healthy diets from seeds to plates.
Marley Watt explored ways to connect people to their environment through earth art and Rachel Kartodikromo continued her work started in Suriname in the Caribbean toward LBGTQ equality. She put the stories of Nelson’s LGBTQ community side by side with those from her home country to show how valuable acceptance of all people contributes to peace.
“Canada is setting a good example,” she says. “But back home in the Caribbean, still much needs to be addressed.”
As an instructor, Barkley enjoys this time of year where the students’ achievements are celebrated. She feels their community engagement makes them great ambassadors.
“To have students out in our communities each year, spreading peace, involving others, and being a source of inspiration demonstrates the importance of Selkirk College to the region and how important the community’s involvement is to the College. Although students often experience setbacks, they learn that hard work and perseverance produce results and come out the other end feeling good about what they have accomplished,” says Barkley.