Kroc School Student Reports on Summer Internship With Peacebuilding Organization in Northern Ireland
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Corrymeela, much like the Kroc Scool, believes that people can learn to live and work well together. Founded by a pacifist and ex-prisoner of war in 1965, The Northern Ireland reconciliation and peacebuilding organization believes “that there is strength in gathering and that, when we can be with each other in commitment, no difference is great enough to break us.” (Corrymeela – Our History)
A typical day looks different for different people. But symbolically and intentionally, there are aspects of each day that are always the same. Small “rituals” that Corrymeela’s community members who are scattered around the country can count on sharing, despite their physical distance.
At 8:55 a.m. every day, the bell in the forest rings, which signals the beginning of our 9 a.m. worship. Morning worships consist of 25 minutes of silence, and five minutes of prayer. Anyone participating in this practice reads from a prayer book prepared by our community's leader, so that on each day of each month, Corrymeela community members and friends near and far say the same prayer for the same people.
At 1 p.m. each day, we gather for lunch. At 6 p.m., we gather for dinner. And with every meal, we take a moment of silence to give thanks for the food and the hands that have prepared it. We are offered the opportunity to volunteer for dish duty and kitchen cleanup, which is suggested to be some of the most transformative work that takes place. It’s in the power of human connection and everyday encounters that we learn the most about ourselves, the people around us, and the ways in which we can interact with purpose, with love, and with peace.
I have had conversations about religion, race, class, political ideologies, and more. I have met seasoned peacebuilders and future peacebuilders. Young folks, old folks, religious, and non. People with different abilities and people with unique abilities. People who have written books, and people who are still learning to write. There is a place for respite, a space for learning, and a platform for reflecting.
A recent highlight was co-facilitating my first visiting group of almost 30 young students from an integrated primary school. Getting to see myself in action with three other volunteers who have already spent seven months engaging in this work was a challenge and a thrill. In the three days we worked together (for 12 hours a day), I identified some of my biggest strengths and weaknesses. I saw room for self-improvement and room for self-appreciation, and I will get to see more next week when my second group arrives.
Like facilitating, living in community has also been a challenge and a thrill. Sharing the most intimate spaces and moments with 25 other people proves to be where much peacebuilding and facilitating gets put into practice — where holding space, engaging in dialogue, and promoting courageous conversation takes organic form. I am one-third of the way through my time here, and I am already grieving the end. But I am excited and encouraged, and looking forward to what the next two months will bring before returning to the Kroc School in the fall.
This summer, 35 Kroc School students who are part of the MA in Peace and Justice (MAPJ) program have internships working with peacebuilding organizations around the United States and around the world. Before they concluded their school year, they were asked to share updates from their internship experience, and the previous post is a contribution from MAPJ student Sophie Thompson. Stay tuned for more updates from these students this summer.