• JIS News

    The Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) has launched its ‘Callaloo for Peace’ initiative in the nation’s schools, as part of its activities to observe Peace Month (February 6 to March 4).
    Under the initiative, schools across the nation will be provided with callaloo seeds, which will be planted and nourished. Upon maturation, the school will be required to use the callaloo as part of ‘run-a-boat’ festivities for peace.
    According to Chairman of the VPA, Dr. Elizabeth Ward, research has shown that involving children in agriculture and teaching them how to care for things while instilling the value of doing so, in terms of nurturing, can be successfully transferred to the human condition to foster peace.
    “This is one of the ways of teaching peace building. This works by caring for plants and animals and looking at how you can nurture,” she told JIS News in an interview.
    For those skeptical about the initiative, Dr. Ward cited as an example, a similar initiative implemented in one of the larger Children’s Homes in the country, whereby agriculture was used as a means of keeping the peace.
    “It was reported that when they [Home] introduced a backyard garden and also chicken rearing, the behaviour of the boys improved dramatically. In fact, the home put the most difficult boys in charge of the projects, which subsequently thrived under their watch,” she explained.
    “Peace was maintained within the home and there was a whole change around, not because of additional rules, regulations and the police, but because the home had introduced caring and nurturing activities that helped to build peace and understanding about how to work together as a team and keep the peace in the home,” Dr. Ward added.
    Commenting on the selection of callaloo as a symbol of peace, Chairman of the Steering Committee for the VPA, Professor Barry Chevannes said the choice was an easy one.
    “It is one of the easiest plants to grow in subsistence farming and it is also a cash crop that grows within a few weeks with watering and nurturing. It is highly nutritious, as you know. rich in iron and other vitamins and it can grow anywhere,” he pointed out.
    The VPA has also enlisted the assistance of the 4-H Club movement, which will oversee the planting of callaloo for peace in 70 of its participating schools. Judging of their activities will take place on National Achievement Days.
    While there will be emphasis on these schools, callaloo seeds will also be distributed to other schools and prizes will be awarded on the International Day of Peace on September 21.
    As for the ‘run-a-boat’ activity following the reaping of the callaloo, Professor Chevannes said this would also be seen as a gesture of peace. ‘Run-a-boat’ is a popular activity among the youth, particularly among the male youth whereby they get together, contribute food and cook in one pot.
    “It is a kind of spontaneous way for friends and peer groups to come together to have a little feast. When you do this following the reaping of the callaloo, it will signify a time for peace building and symbolize friendship,” he informed.
    “If you are in a school and there is a community nearby that is experiencing some trouble, then invite some of the leaders from those communities to come and ‘run-a-boat’. Invite your pastor and the mayor to come. anybody to come and sit with you around this food that you have all cooked and then discuss how you can really build peace for that day and onwards,” he implored.
    The entire process, from the planting and reaping of the callaloo to ‘run-a-boat’, Professor Chevannes said, signified a set of negotiations which exemplified the call for peace in the nation. “It should signify an end to all hostilities that have separated is a symbolic act of breaking bread,” he added.
    Dr. Ward also disclosed that several organizations were keen on being a part of the initiative. The probation officers from St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann, she informed, have offered to support several of the schools within the community who will host ‘run-a-boats’.
    “Food for the Poor said that in their schools they will find extra food as many will need something to spice up the callaloo. The idea is that everybody will have to bring along something and put into that boat to build on the symbolism, thereby creating a level of trust to eat out of the same common pot,” she noted.
    The VPA hopes that the activities will offer a sense of hope at a time when the nation requires it. “We know that we cannot bring about peace by having one month of peace activities, but it is a start on what we need to do and also derive the kind of strength from it for the rest of the year,” Dr. Ward pointed out.
    The VPA was launched in 2004. Initially under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, the VPA, because of its multi-dimensional nature of composition, became a non-governmental organization in 2006 and is located at the University of the West Indies, Mona. It is an alliance trying to bring together all the key stakeholders in Jamaica that have an input in violence prevention.
    Its annual Peace March, slated for March 4, will be held under the theme: ‘Peace for Prosperity’, which sends a strong message to all Jamaicans to invest in children for a prosperous country.

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