Pupils win prize for promoting peace of mind

Alize Sheehan and Aoibhe Jones, two of the peace advocates at Coláiste Pobail Naomh Mhuire, Buttevant, Co Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Five young pupils in Coláiste Mhuire in Buttevant have scooped the first Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award for their work tackling difficulties affecting fellow students.

The students — David Higgins, Paul O’ Keeffe, Eoin O’ Brien, Zoe Crowley, and Aoibhe Jones — who are peace advocates with the Cork Education and Training Board, surveyed all pupils in their school to find out what concerned them and discovered students needed support in areas such as online safety, phone and gaming overuse leading to sleep deprivation, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.

They raised the survey’s results with school principal Donal O’Sullivan, who organised workshops with a forensic psychologist, carrying out sessions with students and parents.

The group is now in the process of training all second-year students and their teachers with the aim to have all students in the school trained to be fully qualified peace advocates by 2020. 

They are also organising a Pride Day at the school where pupils can celebrate their diversity, taking pride in their uniqueness, diverse cultures and sporting communities.

Mallow Rotary Club was so impressed with the work of the Peace Advocacy Group that it put them forward for the Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award. 

The new Award reflects Rotary’s area of focus on peace and conflict prevention and resolution.

Aoibhe said the win was an honour for all 157 peace advocates in the school.

“Our peace programme, founded by Jean Best, focuses on one’s quality of life, in our communities, our homes, our schools and in ourselves,” said Aoibhe. 

“We use the skills of purposeful listening and collaborative conversation to recognise, enable and empower our fellow students and ourselves to believe in the expertise of the young to help each other and resolve conflict.

“We want to sincerely thank Mallow Rotary Club for introducing the Peace Programme to Ireland. 

"We also want to thank Gail Gyves, our co-ordinating teacher, who has worked with us on the project, and our principal, Donal O’ Sullivan, and our deputy principal, Carol O’ Mahony, who have supported and encouraged our peace advocacy endeavours.

“Their support enables us to embed a culture of student voice and student empowerment in our school and this has ensured the Peace Programme has started to flourish”.

The president of Rotary in Britain and Ireland, Debbie Hodge, described the peace advocates as “a real inspiration to us all with the important work they are carrying out”.

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