The International Day of Peace was recognized last Wednesday, September 21. It is a United Nations global call for ceasefire and non-violence.
Locally we have seen the call expanded to seek peace in our own community – to bring encouragement to those who have faced challenging situations in life and to allow students the opportunity to consider and express in an artistic way what peace means to them.
HandsOn Jacksonville worked with student bodies from University of North Florida (UNF) and Florida State College of Jacksonville (FSCJ) to mobilize volunteers in projects to honor the spirit of the day.
Project leader Ashley Szczukowski led 75 FSCJ students in the first of a two-part project to bring symbols of peace to homeless women and children. Service Learning and Psychology students expressed themselves in an art form that demonstrated their perspective on what peace means to them as individuals. They spent the day creating beautiful peace tiles. On Family Volunteer Day (November 20) the students will take these tiles to Community Connections where they will be renovating rooms for incoming families. The peace tiles will be used as decorations or as keep sakes for the new families.
The finished products are reflective of the heart and soul the students put into their work. Ashley said the project was amazing. The peace tiles are “beautiful, fun, creative and really brought our group to life”. The group hopes their tiles will be a meaningful gift to the homeless women and children who are beginning new lives at Community Connections and the feeling this gives the volunteers is priceless.
UNF students led by project leaders Richard Apunte and Karen Church engaged about 50 volunteers in a project created to raise awareness about International Day of Peace and to show local Sudanese refuges that there is someone in this city that cares about them. Volunteers created beautiful peace bracelets to offer the refugees a token of peace.
These project leaders believe that promoting peace within our community promotes world peace at large. Says Richard, “It impacts all of humankind”. Karen adds that projects like this create awareness of helping through volunteering. The volunteers expressed so much joy in creating the peace bracelets they are certain Sudanese children will be delighted to receive. They also learned more about the local organization, Bridges to Sudan that helps Sudanese refugees. Volunteers described the experience as heartwarming and really enjoyed this creative opportunity to interact with fellow UNF students.