Look around you. Observe the world you are living in. Can you feel the beating of a thousand desperate hearts? Can you see the fear for tomorrow in the looks of people? Can you hear the cries of a thousand mothers who are losing their children each day?
Now ask yourself, is this the place where you always wanted to live? Is this the place where each child expects to grow up when they open their innocent eyes and see the world for the first time? Are you able to look in the eyes of those children without the feeling of shame for this reality full of evil, which they have to face? Is this what we have prepared for them throughout centuries and years?
We cannot deny the simple truth that we were the ones who have been constantly shaping this reality. But another simple truth is that it is not too late to change something. We can make this world a better place if we try. So why not to create good instead of evil? Why not to make peace instead of war? Why not to spread love and compassion instead of hate and arrogance?
No one is born with evil within. We are born, filled with love towards everyone and everything around us. But instead of just following our hearts full of light, we keep feeding ourselves with darkness over and over again. When did we stop to judge people by their personality and started to consider the color of their skin? What urged us to acknowledge someone as an enemy just because of the place they were born in? Isn't Earth the only place all of us were born in? Are the borders that someone has drawn on the map powerful enough to build in our souls the borders of prejudice, alienating us from each other? Yes, they are! As long as we let them be. As long as we teach our children to let them be powerful enough.
When the world and this life are nearly destroyed by the evil and hate we spread, we would hardly care about the power we have towards others. We would hardly care about the God others are praying for, as long as those prayers can give us a chance to survive. So why won't we stop caring about it right now, at this very moment? Why won't we start making this world a better place by creating peace and compassion? And finally, why won't we earn the right to look at our children's eyes with the feeling of pride for the world we have built for them?
Think about these questions and, no doubt, you will find the answers. Because the answers to those questions are buried deep inside each one of us. And we will discover those answers as soon as we dispel the dust of evil and hate from our hearts...
Find Anush Kostanyan on Twitter @anushkostanyan, Linkedin, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Place, Jacob Belcher, gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS, Chesterfield Co. Public Schools;
Second Place (tie), Sive Lowell, gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools
Second Place (tie), Tiffany Talley, gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS;
Third Place, Medha Majety, gr. 7, Moody MS;
Larry Jia, gr. 7, Midlothian Middle School, Chesterfield Co. Public Schools;
Grace Powers, gr. 7, Moody MS;
Kristen Richbourg, gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS,;
Anna Soffin, gr. 8, Moody MS;
Alison Zeileman, gr. 7, Bull Run MS, Prince William Co. Public Schools
Jacob Belcher, First Place, gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS, Chesterfield Co. Public Schools
Three Qualities of a Peacemaker
For centuries, man has struggled to achieve both dominance and peace. It is the human condition. Can empires be expanded without a cost? And can man coexist in harmony with others? The answer seems to be that our world is a two-sided coin. War, tyranny, and hardship is a reality of life. On the other hand, the Golden Rule of loving our neighbor for the purpose of peace is a challenge that few have achieved. One person who made a difference and made the world better was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, otherwise known as Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa became a world renowned peace-maker but how and why? By looking at her life, those answers become clear. First, she experienced hardship. Next, she felt compelled to make a change. With a clear goal in mind, she convinced others to join her cause at bringing peace to the world.
Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. When she reached the age of twelve, she felt a strong call of God. By the time she was eighteen, she moved away from Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, which is an Irish community with missions in India. There she saw people suffer. She learned that she could be the hands of God to bring comfort and relief to those in need. Mother Teresa eventually created her own organization outside of the convent. That organization was known as The Missionaries of Charity. Through this organization she brought peace to people all over the world.
Perhaps the most important quality of Mother Teresa that made her a peace-maker was that she felt called to missionary work. This type of work is not easy. This means that a person has to put themselves in a position of personal sacrifice. It could mean feeding the hungry, constructing wells, or teaching. However, none of it is easy. In fact, sometimes the work is unrecognized. But that is not why a person does the work; a person does the work because of an obligation to serve God by serving humanity. Peace-makers are called to do something beyond themselves.
Another quality of a peace-maker is that the individual must have a vision and a plan. Mother Teresa believed she could bring comfort to others on a global scale. By forming The Missionaries of Charity, her organization has spread comfort all over the world. They help the poor in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In North America, Europe, and Australia, they have houses to help shut-ins, alcoholics, and AIDS victims. They also provide relief work in the aftermath of natural disasters globally. By forming the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s vision for making the world a better place became a reality. Without vision and a way to achieve it, a peace-maker would not succeed.
Finally, a peace-maker clearly cannot get the work done alone. He has to get other people to join the efforts. Mother Teresa inspired over a million people to serve The Missionaries of Charity. She knew she needed help in providing peace, and she got it.
If we want to make a difference in our world, we only need to take a few moments to look at the life of a peace-maker, such as Mother Teresa. She had a calling to provide peace. She had a vision and a plan. She did not do it alone, she reached out to others and convinced them to join her cause. Even though she died on September 5, 1997, her work continues today. These are the qualities of a leader, a pioneer, a peace-maker.
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Sive Lowell, Second Place (tie), gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools
Although countless international peace-making heroes have been recognized and praised, there is one in particular who stands out to me: Malala Yousafzai. She was the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace prize after campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan. In doing this, she showed numerous admirable qualities. Most of all, learning and reading about her story has given me a new outlook on the world and myself.
Even when Malala was a young girl, she always loved learning and going to school. However, soon Pakistan was taken over the Taliban, who did not believe girls should have the same rights as boys. They issued a law saying that girls could not go to school. In spite of this, Malala continued going to school, not willing to give up her passion. She blogged under a pseudonym about how the Taliban were taking away her basic rights, and gave speeches that soon made her a threat to the Taliban. Through all of this, her school continued to operate under encouragement from her father, the founder of the school.
Eventually, Malala began to receive threats from the Taliban that they would kill her if she did not stop going to school. Amazingly, Malala was not afraid for herself. In her book, I am Malala, she said that she was more concerned for her father, because he was the one who had encouraged her to keep going to school and stand up for what she believed in. At first, she said that if the Taliban came for her, she would throw her shoe at them and then run away. However, she realized that if she did that, she would be just as bad as the Taliban, because she would have hurt people for her own benefit. Later, she said that she would try and simply talk to the Taliban about her point of view, and explain how much education meant to her and the other girls. She realized that the only honorable way to convince someone is not by fear, but reason.
However, when the Taliban did come for her, there was no time for Malala to react. She was on a school bus surrounded by other girls when a strange man with a cloth covering his face asked the bus driver to stop. He then climbed in and asked which one of the girls was Malala. When her friends looked at her, the man drew out a gun and started firing. Malala was shot in the eye, and two other girls were wounded. After extensive care and treatment, Malala woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, England. She and her family were almost 3,000 miles away from the home. She was then nominated for the Nobel Peace prize, being the youngest person ever to be nominated for the award. Unfortunately, she was not chosen for the final prize, but her story inspires people everywhere. Although some people might think Malala would now be quietly retiring from campaigning, she says that she is not done fighting yet. She still has the ambition to become the prime minister of Pakistan, and fix the problems of her country.
All throughout her incredible journey, Malala continued to act bravely and selflessly. Even in the tensest moments, she thought only of others and her cause. She was determined to win her fight, and unafraid, or at least uncaring of the consequences. She wanted girls’ education, and she showed everyone that even a normal schoolgirl can make a powerful political party tremble. After reading Malala’s inspiring story, I have begun to think about how I can stand up for the things that I believe in. Her story showed me that you do not have to be an extremely important society member to make a change. The only real thing that you need is passion for what you are doing and hope to do.
I believe that Malala is an incredible young woman, and we can all learn and benefit through her experiences. What she went through inspires me to appreciate what I have and take for granted that so many others almost die to preserve. It also teaches me that I do not have to wait around for others to change the world. Thanks to Malala, I now see that anyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small. She teaches me that all I need to do to cause change is believe.
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Tiffany Talley, Second Place (tie), gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS.
Step Up to the Plate
“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” –Robert Fulghum.
Many people over the course of human history have attempted to bring us one step closer to world peace, including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malala Yousafzai, yet not a single person has achieved bringing peace to the world. Why? One person can make a difference, but it takes many people to make a huge impact. My family and my social studies teachers have enlightened me over the years and taught me how important it is to be placid. The succor of my family, the positive influence of international peacemakers, and my experiences in my community have led me to better understand how accomplishments, success, and a positive milieu can stem from peace.
Having a father that’s in the military, I’m very well acquainted with the tragedy and cataclysm associated with war. My father was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the day of the horrific Al-Qaeda terrorism attacks that bring some to tears to this day, and I easily could have lost him. Hoping they weren’t next, he and his co-workers sat terrified while watching the news on television that morning, only to witness the plane crash into the western side of the building approximately an hour later. My father received a gold coin saying ‘In memory of September 11, 2001,’ and our entire family got to meet Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense at that time.
When he was in Afghanistan, he literally saw some of his colleagues die just several feet away from him because they didn’t duck quickly enough. My father has always told me that he believes the world would be a better place if we could just get along and stop going to war. Battling over trivial matters just isn’t worth the lasting effect on both parties involved.
After seeing all of the appalling events in the Middle East on the news, Malala Yousafzai is a huge inspiration to me as a young teenage girl. In 2009, the Taliban in Pakistan began banning Pakistani girls from going to school and threatened to kill the girls or blow up the school if they continued to attend. The Taliban are extremely sexist and do not allow women to be seen by men (unless the man is a relative), wear heels, have their pictures displayed publically, or to participate in public television and radio. Malala refused to comply to such ridiculous requests and decided to fight for girls everywhere to be able to attend school. She once said, “I speak not for myself but for those without voice…those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” Malala was shot on October 9, 2012, at age 14, the same age I am, for fighting for her rights. She was able to recover from her injuries, and now, at age 16, Malala continues to advocate for students around the world to have an education and narrowly missed being the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Our community can follow in the footsteps of peace advocates by educating our youth, setting good examples, and becoming peacemakers in our own community. Many youth in our community may not know how important peace is, or they may be used to seeing violence. If violence is the only way a person knows how to react to certain situations, that is the only way they will react. I try to encourage my peers to solve their problems by talking it out peacefully. Making a rash decision that won’t solve anything, and they’ll likely regret it later. I plan to volunteer and encourage kids in our community more in the coming years and hope to impact people in a positive way the will leave a lasting effect.
In the words of M. Scott Peck, “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” The only way that peace can be achieved is if everyone makes efforts to move human kind in a positive direction. My family and influential models for peace have made me realize exactly how important peace is. I believe in the saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Violence and anger will never equate to peace and love. This is our generation, and we can’t sit and wait for others to make change for us. I challenge the people of this generation and future generations to start with yourself, raise your voices, and take that first step towards peace.
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Medha Majety, Third Place, gr. 7, Moody MS.
Peacemakers are the ones who will remind us of our goal, for they are the ones who will reach equilibrium among the different. They are the one holding society on their scarred and bruised shoulders. Merriam Webster defines a peacemaker as “A person who helps to prevent or stop an argument, a fight, or a war.” A peace maker is someone who reaches balance between the two conflicting parties, but they are so much more. A peace maker is one who takes society as a whole, instead of dissecting it into religions, genders, and social ranks. A peace maker is one who is willing to get insulted, abused, and looked down upon just so they can make our community, our society better. An example of this would be Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth was not only an abolitionist, but a suffragist as well. During her time period slaves and women were not being treated properly and were lacking basic rights. Sojourner Truth stood up for what she believed in, but she didn’t stop there. She left to begin her journey to educate people about slaves and how cruel they were being treated. Truth said, “The Spirit calls me”. Sojourner also did some memorable actions. She helped recruit men for the Union Army. These men were African Americans. She also tried to get land for African Americans from the Federal Government. Unfortunately, this did not work out. Sojourner Truth is known for her famous speech, “Ain’t I a woman?”
Sojourner Truth ran away with her young daughter, leaving the rest of her children behind, to help with the Emancipation Act. She found out her son had been sold to a slave owner and was being abused. Sojourner took it to court and became the first female African American to win against an American.
Sojourner Truth did not walk on a crystal path. There were often tacks, and coarse rocks stuck in her way. She was born a slave and had to suffer a lot to make her mark on the world. She was sold four times and was beaten severely with iron rods. Her fourth slave owner hit Robert, the boy Sojourner loved. Robert died from the pains later on. However, the pain did not stop there. In the Mob Convention, one of the places Sojourner talked, people were hissing and booing her. Sojourner continued her speech, which showed a great act of perseverance. Perseverance is an important quality for a peacemaker to have. Sometimes we often forget our goal. This can happen to peacemakers as well.
In conclusion, Sojourner Truth was an outstanding peacemaker. She had to overcome a lot of losses to help society. She had some amazing characteristics that we all can learn from. Her perseverance reminded her of her goal. Her communication educated everyone. Her kindness helped her present herself. Her justness helped her win her son back. Most importantly, her commitment helped her become a peacemaker.
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Grace Powers, Honorable Mention, gr. 7, Moody MS.
Richmond Peace Essay Entry
Throughout history, there have been many people remembered for their courage and struggle to promote peace. Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr. in his fight for rights for African Americans or Nelson Mandela’s leadership in South Africa, we look up to the people who fought peacefully and respectfully. One person out of these peacemakers stands out most to me and that would be Mahatma Gandhi. This man helped people gain the rights they deserved in his home country and beyond without using violent methods.
Gandhi used a philosophy known as Satyagraha. This means that he used nonviolent protests and mass resistance to fight for the causes he believed in. The point of using this philosophy was to show people that violence was not the only way to protest. He proved the importance of Satyagraha in this protests by using large numbers of people and peaceful techniques.
In 1914, Gandhi became a major advocate of the Home Rule Act, an act started in Ireland that allowed a country under the rule of another country to have a bigger say in how it was governed. This was a big part of his position because he was trying to free India from Britain’s rule. He also became a leader for the Indian National Congress in 1914. Through this new job, he was trying to help poor farmers and workers to end the high taxes and discrimination. He also tried to end the poverty in India, give women more equal rights, and abolish crude discrimination. These things all led up to his attempt to free India from the rule of Britain.
After using his world renowned methods of protest, he was able to free India in 1947. However, he was not going to stop there. He went on to promote his non-violent campaign in Bengal with the Hindu-Muslim crisis. He fought hard for this cause, but was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948.
Gandhi was very successful with many of his protests. This was not just because his techniques were effective; it was also because of the type of person he was. If he had lacked some of his major qualities, the world could be a different place today.
One of Gandhi’s qualities that helped him to succeed was his patience. He fought for India’s freedom for almost fifty years, and he never budged. He kept peacefully protesting and giving the people of India hope in the cause until all of his hard work paid off.
Another one of Gandhi’s major qualities was is wisdom. He was able to have so much perspective on all of the issues he faced. Gandhi did not overanalyze the situation, yet he put thought into everything he did. He even passed on his wisdom to future generations.
Gandhi was a giver, as well. He was never obsessed with what was going on with himself but only with the people around him. He never took anything from anybody unless he absolutely needed it. This quality and other qualities mentioned before set an example that all the world should try to follow.
The teachings of Gandhi tell us how we can live in a more peaceful environment. He shows us that in tense situations, we should never turn to violence. He also teaches us that we should do all in our power to keep peace with other people and with our communities.
We can follow his example by forgiving people that have wronged us. Anger and frustration will only lead to conflict. Another way to follow his example is to respect one another. This is a very mature way to handle tough circumstances. By respecting each other, there will be no feelings hurt.
We can also learn to have the perspective that Gandhi had. He always looked at the big picture. Nowadays, everyone focuses on the slight details. If we can all see each other as one community, we can reduce tension and keep peace.
Mahatma Gandhi was very accomplished in the seventy-nine years that he lived. He helped countless groups of people fight for their rights and beliefs. Many looked up to him as a leader, and people today still try to commit themselves to his policy of simple living. The world can only hope that a peacemaker with Mahatma Gandhi’s qualities and abilities will help this world again.
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Larry Jia, Honorable Mention, gr. 7, Midlothian Middle School, Chesterfield Co. Public Schools
Martin Luther King Jr.
Two score and eleven years ago, a great man stood at on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered a speech that will go down in the history books. This lone man, only backed by his mind and mouth, inspired millions of citizens across the country. Martin Luther King Jr. had the unique ability to learn, apply the knowledge and influence the mass. This ability to inspire not only requires knowledge, but further requires oneself to believe in what they are lecturing about. To prove this point, if Mr. King did not believe in his “dream”, the speech would be called the “I Have a Plan”, not the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Martin Luther King Jr., pastor by profession and social rights activist by heart, surprisingly managed to inspire the mass of the United States to rise up against social inequality. He was born with the ability to inspire, teach and lead with such a passion, which was evident in every fiery word he spoke. Through these qualities, Dr. King rose up before the entire United States and changed the course of history after about 200 years of discrimination. His “I Have a Dream” speech is a clear example of his skills. For example, as a pastor, he has the ability to speak before an audience and empower every soul in the room. His experience from public speaking mixed with a passion to succeed was the winning recipe for his leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement.
As a middle school student, I can only wonder in amazement and pure bewilderment at how this incredible man become so incredible. Of course it took an amazing talent and out-of-the-box thinking to be such a unique person, but it also took countless hours of poring over history, civics and humanities textbooks to be a man of such knowledge. So, the one thing that Martin Luther King Jr. has inspired me above all others, is the aspiration to be great. The aspiration to do great things, not just sit by and watch the important events of the world unfold, but to take part in them, and to change the course of history. This, the power and determination that Martin Luther King Jr. has managed to express during his lifetime is the driving force of his success, which I plan to follow.
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Kristen Richbourg, Honorable Mention, gr. 8, Elizabeth Davis MS
Peacemaker Woodrow Wilson was a highly eulogized man in history. He claimed many triumphs throughout his years. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, was ranked number 47 in the list of Time Magazine’s most significant people, served as Governor of New Jersey, and President of the United States. He was a true humanitarian, with a mind set on peace, and took heroic actions to make this possible. I admire this man for his courage, and one day I hope to become all that he has taught us to be.
What got Wilson so far in life? It all started with his challenging early life. Wilson could not read for the first ten years of his life thus causing a difficult road to college. I cannot fabricate the mental pain he must have been put through. With the self-punishment of not learning well, it must have been difficult especially for a boy who had so much potential! In the end, he persevered, made it to college, and eventually became the first President to receive a doctorate degree. Imagine a small unheard of boy struggling with school becoming one of the most inspirational men in history. It is baffling to see all that can be accomplished with effort, dedication, and guidance. Wilson was rewarded for his efforts by being invited back to Princeton University, to become president of the college. Hard work and drudgery pushed Wilson vigilantly through life.
Bang! A shot was heard around the world! This one shot at Archduke Ferdinand is what lit the world on fire and began the tragedy that was World War I (WWI). Woodrow Wilson was wondrous in withholding the USA from World War I for so long. In his second term, he did bring the United States into this war though. This was due to the threats against the United States being too great to neglect. Everyone was ready to endure the war as long as it showed promise of world peace as a result. After war, came the League of Nations which is credited to Wilson. This is an organization that was made to preserve world peace. Although Wilson pushed for the USA to be a part of it, Congress did not indulge him. Due to this, other countries did not feel the need to be involved which caused the League to dissolve over the years. Because he fought so hard for us to be a part of this peace organization, he did win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919.
The footstep into foreign relations was also created by Wilson. I can imagine this was one of the harder steps he took in life! Before him, the United States was a very isolated country, but he brought us into the growing world around us. One must keep in mind that this had never been done before, so it took great courage to place himself in such an unknowing position. We needed the allies, protection, and support that came with peaceful world relations, so he took us there. With his encouragement of world relations, he was the first president to cross the Atlantic Ocean proving his belief in travel. Picture a world that did not work together. There would be war after war and knowledge would lack greatly. We would not want to share our ideas causing all countries to be on their own and lost. The world would be in ruins and full of misery.
Most have realized how truly great Woodrow Wilson was, but how can we follow his example? Not all of us will be President, but there is nothing stopping the rise of peace in the world. There is no need to start off big, such as guiding a country through a war; but what we can do from a day to day basis is to not promote violence. Students need to begin by focusing on their school work and getting along with others. School work is vital in gaining critical knowledge on the world around us. Getting along with others is a valuable life lesson that could prevent war. If there is a fight at school, one should try to stop it. By doing this, it might encourage the fighter to think differently about fighting; the fighter may learn to better deal with violence in the future.
Due to many motivating actions, Woodrow Wilson was an inspiring individual. I look up to his promotion of world peace, and I feel more protected just knowing that there are men out there like him waiting to show their power. He guided America through war and helped develop the country of today. Without his leadership, the world would be a more violent and frightful one. Woodrow Wilson stood as a powerful hero for peace and his bright flame of knowledge will be remembered forever.
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Anna Soffin, Honorable Mention, gr. 8, Moody MS
Peace Essay Contest
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important leaders of the Civil Rights movement, was so much more than just a leader. He was a person that not many people can even imagine being like. He was not only a strong leader, but a pastor, humanitarian, husband, and most importantly a peacemaker. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s father and grandfather had both been pastors and he followed in their footsteps. He quickly became involved with the Civil Rights movement when he was elected to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. From there, he went on to lead more and more movements within the bigger goal of gaining rights for African Americans. Dr. King was someone who was a good person inside and out. He truly wanted to see a change in the way African Americans lived their life and he brought it upon himself to make that change. He was assassinated on April 4th, 1968, the day after he gave a speech. In this speech he said, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
The “I Have a Dream” speech is arguably, one of the most important speeches of all time. That speech was a huge factor in Dr. King’s ability to achieve as much as he did. This is an example of one of his spectacular qualities that made him who he was. He was able to simply say a few carefully thought out words, and with those few words, change the world. He pulled people in to what he was saying. He was persuasive and inspiring, and once people heard him, they knew that he was who they had been looking for to change their world. Dr. King was kind, caring, understanding, and he truly wanted to better the world not only for his own generation but for all of the generations to come for the rest of the world’s existence.
So many individuals in the world assume that they couldn’t possibly be someone who helps their community or the world around them. They are just one person, right? Wrong. What if everyone stopped thinking that way and everyone started acting? If all of the individuals who originally thought they couldn’t make any change started helping just a little bit, that’s a lot of people doing just a little bit. Down the road, that little bit, adds up to a lot. Not only can we follow the example of the peacemakers that came before us, we need to follow their example. Imagine how much different our world would be if you gave an extra slice of pizza to a man sitting on a sidewalk, or bought a young boy a sandwich who was hungry. These things that don’t mean anything to us, sure do mean a lot to the desperate people that just received a meal. Let’s follow Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s example. Let’s make a change. Let’s be peacemakers.
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Alison Zeileman, Honorable Mention, Bull Run MS, gr. 7 Prince William Co. Public Schools
Dr. Hawa Abdi: Somali Hero
Dr. Hawa Abdi, or Mama Hawa, as her country calls her, is by far one of the greatest peacemakers this world may ever see. She may not be as famous as Gandhi, but she has made a huge difference in the African country of Somalia. There, a fierce civil war rages, one between clan leaders and warlords, all fighting each other ruthlessly, leaving the people of Somalia to starve. She could easily flee the country and never look back, but she doesn’t. She stays and takes care of her people, even as the war rages on around her.
Hawa was born in a rich family and received a good education. She was even able to get a medical degree, despite being a woman in a country where women are considered only good for cooking and taking care of children. When she came back to Somalia after college, she opened up a hospital on her family’s land offering good healthcare to poor women and children, who would not be able to afford it otherwise. Hundreds of people flocked from all over Somalia to receive medical care.
When the civil war erupted in 1991, she did not flee to safety. Instead, she threw her doors wide open, helping anyone in need. She sold parts of her land, pieces of jewelry, anything to keep her hospital afloat. She turned her land into a refugee camp and a hospital for 90,000 people. There they received clean water, food, healthcare, and shelter. Many of them would have starved otherwise.
There were many people in Somalia who did not appreciate her work. Over the past two decades, she has fended off many attempts to wrench the hospital from her grasp. In May, 2010, 750 armed fighters tried to take the hospital. They pounded on her front door, demanding that she sign the hospital over to them.
“You are old and a woman!” they shouted. “You should not be allowed to run this place!”
She came outside, unarmed and unimpressed by their guns and told them, “Yes, I am an old woman, but I have been serving my country for twenty years. What have you done?”
They did not take this kindly. They looted her camp, injuring many refugees, and held her at gunpoint, demanding that she sign the papers to give her hospital to them. She refused, telling them to leave her land. Her followers stood with her, risking their lives for her. Eventually, people from all over the world started to take notice of Mama Hawa’s brave stand. Even clan leaders that had been at war with each other for years agreed that she should be saved. The fighters, pressured on all sides, tried and failed to make deals with Mama Hawa. She refused each time, and demanded a written apology from their leader and the prompt departure of the fighters. Their leader, a person who had actually been linked to terrorist group, complied. The whole world watched, mesmerized, as one 64 year old woman stood down hundreds of armed rebels.
Not only did she rescue 90,000 starving, homeless refugees, but she was able to keep her hospital away from the violent, war crazed people who tried to take it away from her. To this day, she is still there, saving lives every day in the midst of the war ravaged country she calls home. She created peace within chaos, all with the strength of her own conviction.
We can all follow the example Mama Hawa has set. The most important thing to remember is to stick to your values. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Do what you know is right. If you persevere long enough, if you take a stand against the things that are wrong, you will succeed. You don’t have to resort to violence or aggression. There is nothing more powerful than a peaceful no.
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