Justice & Peace Group

 

In 2005 the RE Dept was approached by a group of S3 pupils who wanted to run an event to support the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign. They had the idea of running a cake and candy to raise some money to send to the campaign. We held a meeting and, in talking through the issues involved, realised that more was needed than just a charity dimension.

 


When the event ran, on December 10th 2005, it included:

  • a cake and candy stall
  • a "taster table" for FairTrade products, gifted from a local supermarket
  • a stall selling small gifts made by pupils
  • an opportunity for pupils to email the local MP (Jo Swinson) and/or the Prime Minister to raise issues of trade justice and the "Drop the Debt" campaign.

Although this event was successful in and of itself, the real benefit of it for our school was that it saw the birth of the Justice and Peace Group who, from this point, totally took on board the ideas behind SoA and ACfE and decided to form a pupil group that would not only raise awareness of issues of social justice, but provide opportunities for other pupils to take action.
Since then, the group has grown to be an active and effective means of allowing the pupils to fulfil the 4 capacities of ACfE. The group received a small grant from the Determined to Succeed Challenge Fund and, with further funding from SoA, used the money to buy in stock for FairTrade Coffee Mornings. From these, the group kept enough money to replenish their stock, and all profits went to The Association of People with Disability in Bangalore, India - an organisation with which we have had links since 2004. The group also bought a colour printer and ink cartridges to allow both the group itself and other charitable groups and organisations in the school to better advertise their events.

 

The group has initiated and been involved in a number of projects, including:

  • Leading pupil assemblies on topics of Trade Justice, nuclear weapons, HIV/AIDS issues in Africa, the link between money and power using the Brandt Report
  • Taking part in the FairTrade Forum in East Dunbartonshire Council
  • Running regular FairTrade coffee mornings
  • Receiving a commendation in the Deutsche Bank Spotlight Awards for young campaigners
  • Involvement in the school's submission for the Scottish Education Awards International Education Award - which the school then won
  • Receiving a commendation for their submission in the HandUp Media competition to raise awareness of trade issues in Malawi
  • Organising and supervising opportunities for staff and pupils to e-mail their MP/MSP on various issues related to justice and peace
  • Sending submissions to MPs on FairTrade/Trade Justice issues.

The most successful campaign, however, was as part of East Dunbartonshire council's efforts to be recognised as a FairTrade Zone. As a part of this, the members of the group campaigned outside the local Tesco, asking customers if, given the option, they be willing to choose FairTrade products over their usual brands. As a result of this, the local Tesco branch increased their FairTrade range by ten items in the first year, and a further 6 in the second.

The group - now seasoned campaigners - continue to work on the issues which are dear to their hearts. They are now involving younger pupils so that the work of the group can continue when they have gone. They are a very visible and vocal sign of the way in which the capacities and values of ACfE have taken off in the school, and have flourished in the conditions and context of SoA. 

 

The group rounded off a busy year last term with two major projects. The first of these involved working with S6 pupils to alert them to the problems generated in the Democratic Republic of Congo through the ongoing conflict and, particularly, the use of rape as a weapon of war. A number of the group attended an open meeting with Douglas Alexander, the Minister for International Development, and asked about the Government’s progress in dealing with this issue. They were also involved in the BBC “Cruncharama” project, where judges were so impressed with their submission that they were invited to take part on a live discussion forum with the BBC Radio World Service and one of their members, Gemma Welsh, was invited to take part in the Global Changemakers Conference in London during the G20 Conference. St Ninian’s was the only Scottish school to take part. Gemma had the opportunity to meet and talk with leading bankers and economists, and was invited to meet with Alistair Darling at 11 Downing Street.


Fairtrade Fortnight
Having submitted our plans to our management team, we were able to secure funding to buy Fairtrade footballs, which we then gave to the PE Department. We made sure all pupils were aware of this by having members of the Justice and Peace Group deliver a presentation to each year group in which they pointed out the aims and benefits of Fairtrade and used the footballs as an example. They highlighted the difference between the money a top footballer gets to kick a football; they money they themselves have to pay to buy a football and the money the worker receives for making the football. In addition, we looked at the conditions a top footballer “endures” because of his work compared to those of the workers who make the balls.

All pupils were therefore aware of this message when the first week ended with our S6 pupils performing a surprise “flash mob” event in the school social area on the Friday interval, dancing to “Waka Waka”, the song released by Shakira for the South African World Cup. Its other title, “This Time for Africa” also helped to underline the Fairtrade message.

The event then continued into the second week of the fortnight. Every class in PE used the Fairtrade footballs to practice football skills by doing penalty shootouts, keepy - up skills and crossbar challenges. This meant that almost every pupil in the school used the footballs. S6 pupils had a Boys v Girls match using the balls which raised £143. All of this built a mood in the school leading to the culmination on the last day of the Fortnight.

On the morning of the Friday Mrs. Hughes and 4 S2 girl footballers went to the local schools’ Fairtrade Event in Cornerstone Church, Cumbernauld, supported by one of our local MPs, Greg McClymont. The girls gave displays of football skills using the Fairtrade balls. 20 S6 pupils surprised and delighted all those present by performing the “flash mob” event again for a new audience. In the afternoon pupils were able to compete in the “finals” of the challenges for the various skills they had practiced in PE, again using the Fairtrade footballs. There were prizes of Fairtrade Easter eggs for the winners. The final event saw a Staff v Pupils game using the Fairtrade balls which almost the whole school was able to come and watch, and donations were collected.

In addition to this, although not “Fairtrade”, the Justice and Peace Group bought in 200 bottles of “One Water” to sell for those taking part in the events. We sold it at the same price as the bottled water from the school vending machine, but encouraged pupils, in keeping with the Fairtrade message, to use their role as responsible consumers and to choose to buy ethically based on their knowledge of a product and a company.

By the end of Fairtrade Fortnight every pupil had seen the Fairtrade presentation, heard the argument for Fairtrade, played with a Fairtrade football and most had given money to charity. All had seen the dance and many took part in fun activities – in the school and in the wider community – to promote the Fairtrade message. In addition, we had raised over £1100. We certainly feel that it was the most successful Fairtrade event we have ever done.


Visit from Greg McClymont MP
In November local MP Greg McClymont came to the school and, as part of his visit, met with the group to discuss their campaigning and their motivation for what they do.


Death of Nelson Mandela
Like so many people around the world, the group was hugely inspired by Nelson Mandela and frequently sought out his words of wisdom when campaigning. In trying to think of a way to mark his death then, it seemed appropriate to turn to his words. A few favourite quotes were selected and put on to posters which were then displayed around the school to remind us of what one person who is committed to justice, peace, love and freedom can achieve.

 

ACAT Christmas Card Campaign
During December the group ran our annual Christmas Card Campaign, where staff and pupils were encouraged to send a Christmas card to someone who is being held in prison or otherwise persecuted for their religious, political or ideological beliefs; because of what they believe rather than because of what they have done. Generally speaking, these are people who have been standing up for religious and/or political freedom or for the human rights of others against repressive governments. Some of them are suffering torture at the hands of their captors.

The group gathered details from Action by Christians Against Torture (see www.acatuk.org.uk) and gave presentations to some classes on the details of the campaign. They then publicised the relevant details and pupils were able to send a card if they wished. Over 80 cards were sent, to countries as diverse as Uzbekistan, United States, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. These cards carry a triple benefit: those prisoners who receive them can be heartened by knowing that they have not been forgotten; their captors know that the rest of the world knows what they are doing, no matter how much they may be trying to hide it, and we know that we are making the message of hope brought by the birth of Christ to our school and to those most in need of it.


Jan. 2014 – Watch This Space!
Jan. 27th – Holocaust Memorial Day
The group has put together a short reflection and prayer to be used in classes on that day. In addition, they are preparing to work with the History dept on any assemblies,etc that may be required.

Feb. 14th – 1 Billion Rising
1 in 3 women in the world will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. That’s 1 billion people. We are beginning to look at ways in which we can mark this world day of action against such a staggering statistic.

Lent 2014
Over the next few years the eyes of the world will be on South America, with the World Cup and the Olympics both on the horizon. This Lent we want to be part of that focus with a campaign centred on Landfill Harmonic (http://www.landfillharmonicmovie.com). We have still to decide exactly what our events will be, but it is hoped that we may be able to look at forging a new partnership with a parish in Brazil.

Any ideas/suggestions will be gratefully received!