What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?
In my community there are many higher income families and pockets of low-income families who live "together but separate". The realities of struggling families are very complex (finances, immigration, adapting to cultural differences, education, new language etc). I am the director of a small community centre for vulnerable youth and their families. The preliminary intervention is to support the family in linking them with resources to meet immediate needs (food banks, emergency shelter, support for victims of abuse, health care etc.). Youth are involved in programming to accompany them to learn skills and build community and eventually become agents of change through steps of critical questioning and developing initiatives to better their community. Especially in this moment (during the COVID-19 epidemic), work is challenging. Vulnerable families are even more isolated than before. The youth are examples of resilience, and their determination in the face of personal and systemic barriers is the motivation during difficult moments.
What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?
There are many stories of "failures"; youth are often in trouble with the police, the youth protection systems often don't respond adequately to new immigrant families, kids drop-out, voices are not heard and families' struggles worsen. The most striking moments, on the positive side, are when children and youth become significant actors in speaking out against this, and in finding solutions for themselves or others in their communities. These include a delegation of teens who have an ongoing dialogue with the elected officials of our borough, youth who volunteer to share their skills with younger children, isolated families who develop a network of people on whom they can count on and a community that is slowly building a vision for a future that will include all actors.
How and why did you start working in peace education?
My intention was to be an elementary school teacher in Montreal, but I was frustrated at the limits imposed by the public school system and felt that I could not be as hands-on as I wanted when doing interventions with individual families. Through a lot of searching I found peace education and felt that this field most closely matched my vision of how I wanted to work and influence the community.