Since its inception in 2012 and with two cohorts (2012-2014, 2014-2019) of participants that passed through it, the Roots Peace Work Institute (PWI) sought to enroll young leaders of different backgrounds from across Europe, young people who were and are a voice and not an echo – eager to learn, to try, to grow… Like raw diamonds to shine after the grind.
And we believe that most of these 48 Alumni managed to develop both personally and professionally as they journeyed through PWI.
Today we share with you the story of Rachel, a brave and beautiful peace-worker from England.
Rachel joined YMCA Tees Valley in March 2010 where she fell in love with the organisation and is yet to leave it.
She has recently returned to her role as Operations Manager of YMCA Teesdale after having her baby daughter in November 2020. YMCA Teesdale is part of YMCA North Tyneside, a local YMCA in North East England. They work with rural young people and communities to provide opportunities and experiences that they would otherwise not have.
Rachel studied Psychology and Counselling with the desire to go into Children and young people’s bereavement counselling. But when it comes to peace-work, there is another journey.
Before the Roots, she attended Bangladesh Dialogue in Diversity in 2011 and 2012 and spent 4 months in India as part of the School of Peace, partially funded by APAY (The Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs ).
When she returned from India she was passionate about getting involved in more local partnerships. Then Rachel got the invitation to participate in Roots…
“Not only did it provide me with an opportunity to visit and learn about the Balkans and Caucasus, an area I had barely heard of – but it gave me the opportunity to further develop my understanding of the issues young people face, ways in which we can break down these barriers and opened me up to life-changing experiences. It provided me with opportunities to learn about myself and leadership training which I now use in my daily life.
It helped me to learn about different approaches to peace and reconciliation, project design (another tool I use on a daily basis in my job).
It also introduced me to some of my favourite people, people I am privileged to call friends and colleagues. It introduced me to people who have had a massive influence on my life and for that, I will be eternally grateful to Roots. It helped me understand the world around me and the world I am part of.
Roots changed my perspective – I am no longer British (from a military family this was a big part of my identity), but I now identify as European thanks to my affinity to those stories I have been honoured to hear and see through my experiences in Roots” says Rachel.
As Rachel says, this experience helped her develop many skills in a variety of areas which helped her to get the job she now has.
She has always been a peaceful person, someone who seeks out reconciliation.
“But this project, with the School of Peace, helped me to formulate this into action on a much grander scale. Within my work, the work we deliver at YMCA and in my personal life. There are so many unforgettable moments I will never forget. It would be hard to name all of them, the people and places I have been blessed to visit and meet always stick with me.
Being in European Youth Centres with the Leadership team; walking the streets of Istanbul with dear friends leading to an English Tea Party later that evening which became something we recreated with a tea party with a twist at following PWI (Peace Work Institute) meetings; developing new projects out of the friendships made within the PWI. There is not one unforgettable moment, there are a LOT of unforgettable people that make those moments truly special” shares Rachel.
As an Alumni of Peace Work Institute, Rachel kept supporting the scheme as she volunteered to share her experience and skills with the next cohort as a facilitator and planning team member.
“I am not from a conflict region but the transformation I myself went through, the transformation I saw others go through as part of this project is truly special”
Since 2007 and ever growing, from the South to the North, from the East to the West of Europe – the Roots has always been there for those striving to make this world a better and safer place, a peaceful home for all. We go where the need is, responding quickly to the emerging issues with the legacy and mandate, capacity and adaptability gained for all these years.
By donating to the Roots, you invest in youth opinion leaders from all corners of Europe – varied by age, ethnicity, religion, race or wealth, but united with one strong conviction – Peace is the only way!