Peacemakers and Problem Solvers: Uniting Students in the U.S. and Abroad for Virtual Exchange
In 2018, MLI initiated a Leadership Development program called Peacemakers and Problem Solvers (PMPS). Through this program, MLI equips educators with tools and resources to implement a curriculum in their classrooms that focuses on leadership development and problem solving skills, and connects students in North America with students in conflict-affected countries so young people can work together to identify humanitarian issues and collaborate on a solution. Through PMPS, young leaders learn to identify a purpose for a humanitarian project, explore possible options, debate the issues from different perspectives, determine how to effectively utilize resources, and set goals to establish a course of action for the project. Students are encouraged to think critically about the world around them and gain real-life experience in conversing and brainstorming solutions to problems with peers in countries like Colombia.
In its inaugural year, MLI paired a school in Poolesville, MD with a school in Chigorodó, Colombia. The 24 youth participating in PMPS met on Skype and Google Hangouts twice a month during the school year, and once a month during the summer, in addition to regular meetings with a trained PMPS teacher who is guiding them through the structured leadership development curriculum. The students have become great friends, practicing their English and Spanish on a daily basis as they chat on WhatsApp and learn about each other’s cultures. Through this process, the students have jointly chosen to focus on preventing bullying and violence among younger youth in both Colombia and the U.S., as it is an issue that affects children in both communities, and are currently building their project plans so they can implement them in the fall.
Download the Peacemakers and Problem Solvers booklet here.
PMPS in Poolesville High School, Maryland, and Colegio Diocesano Laura Montoya, Chigorodo, Colombia
Poolesville High School in Poolesville, Maryland and Colegio Diocesano Laura Montoya in Chigorodo, Colombia are the current PMPS program schools. In the 2018/2019 school year, the wonderful and dedicated American and Colombian students in these two schools worked together and:
learned the Peacemakers and Problem Solvers curriculum, specially developed and delivered by MLI educator partner Anne Wooleyhand from Glenelg Country School,
got to know each other through regular video calls, while also conducting Peacemakers activities,
designed and implemented service learning projects in their individual communities, which were focused on delivering messages of peace education to elementary-school aged students.
Colombian PMPS students lead an anti-violence education session for elementary school students
Poolesville PMPS students lead a teamwork exercise with elementary school students
In September 2019, the PMPS clubs in Colombia and the US resumed their video calls to begin year 2 of this valuable program, and MLI has incorporated discussions of the Sustainable Development Goals into the PMPS curriculum. The PMPS students in Colombia and the US have decided to focus their service learning projects for the 2019/2020 school year on addressing mental health stigmas present in their communities. MLI looks forward to continuing this valuable program and working closely with the students over the coming months to help them realize their projects!
The program has been meaningful to both the American and Colombian students.
Poolesville High School:
Statements from PMPS Students at Poolesville High School and Laura Montoya Diocesano School
Sabrina Edwards, 12th grade
PMPS is a way for me to hear different perspectives from around the world. We're often in our own little bubble and forget about how other people would address some of the problems we see or face in our lives. PMPS really is an excellent way to branch out and connect with new people that are different from us.
Divya Mathur - 11th grade
PMPS connects us with students our age so we can identify common problems within our communities and do our part in solving them. It is a way for us to strengthen our international society and work toward common goals to make the world a better place.
Surya Padmanabhan, 12th grade, PMPS Student Leader at Poolesville
Peace Makers and Problem Solvers has been the most impactful activity of my life so far. From teaching kids conflict resolution and leadership skills at the local elementary school to getting on weekly video calls with the Diocesano school in Colombia, PMPS has widened my perspective and given me different ways to improve both my community and the world.
Poolesville High School PMPS students
PMPS students at Laura Montoya
Colegio Diocesano Laura Montoya:
Vianny Salazar, senior
PMPS has changed my life, my problems, my confidence, self-knowledge, to develop my knowledge, to explore my ideas and thoughts, to trust people and above all to value others.
Daniela Mejia, senior
I hope that each one of the people who are here will never stop, we can take every opportunity that life gives us and get ahead in the best way.
Laura Aleman, senior
In Peace Makers I have learned to trust myself and learn skills to put in the service of others.
Peacemakers and Problem Solvers in fall 2019 – a Snapshot
MLI’s Program Manager in Colombia, Luz Angela Guzman, visited Laura Montoya Diocesano School on November 14th to lead PMPS activities, along with Natalia Ramos Gaviria and Laura Duarte, the PMPS teachers at the school. They are pictured here with the PMPS club in the school’s new Peace Corner. Earlier this year, the PMPS students applied for and won a public tender to fund this peace corner, which is a place for students to come and learn about peace and conflict resolution.
Members of the Poolesville PMPS club attended MLI’s Clearing the Path Gala in October.
MLI extends a warm thank you to:
Anne Wooleyhand, long-term MLI partner and creator of the PMPS curriculum;
Marcia Snavely, Poolesville HS PMPS club sponsor and leader;
Natalia Ramos Gaviria, Laura Duarte and Cintia Pao, past and present Laura Montoya Diocesano PMPS leaders;
the PMPS Student Leaders at Poolesville HS and Laura Montoya Diocesano school;
Luz Angela Guzman, MLI’s Colombia Program Manager;
the leadership at Laura Montoya Diocesano School and Poolesville HS for their ongoing support for this program;
and of course all the PMPS students!