On the 15th June 2019, Dan and I attended the Rotary Peace Centre at International Christian University for the 17th Annual Peace Conference. This also marked the graduation of the class of 16 cohort.
The conference was a chance for graduating fellows of the 16th cohort to share their research findings and reflect on their experiences on the fellowship. It was a great opportunity to hear from experienced fellows and learn about the wide range of topics they have pursued on their fellowship. I came away amazed at the diversity of peace projects and research experiences fellows had engaged with. I was also touched to see the level of support fellows provide their peers; it was heartwarming to see the congratulations and support flowing.
Each fellow stood up to present on their research for 15 minutes with five minutes for a Q and A section. Each fellow presented their research questions, frameworks for analysis, and conclusions. I was intrigued by the research, as some of the fellows had found surprising results in their studies. I took away some new ideas about embracing differences, such as the way indigenous tribes in Columbia select their leaders (through dreams); the importance of having systems in place to support migrants retuning home and how without these systems re-integration is more difficult; and that in Hawaiian schools the work environment does not always directly connect to staff retention. It was a day full of new ideas and learning!
In addition to this, the key note speaker was a lady called Ms. Keiko Ogura. She is an A-Bomb survivor, having witness and experienced the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945. Hearing her story really helped me understand the significance of sharing stories and remembering past conflict. Visual images are powerful too, but they can’t always be matched with the power of words from a survivor. As a history graduate and history teacher, I already have a deep respect for history and the stories that shape it. What I hadn’t realised until hearing Ms. Keiko Ogura‘s story, was just how significant sharing these stories is to the future. As time moves on and people pass on, it could be easy for the world to forget the conflicts of the past. Remembering them and keeping the horrors alive is important; it is how we can learn to fear the consequence of war.
And so to share this story of my experience of the 17th Annual Peace Seminar! Not only was I inspired by fellows, the Rotary Peace Centre staff and Ms. Keiko Ogura, but I was also lucky enough to meet some of the Rotarians who will support me on the next two years. I look forward to a lifelong relationship with all!