It’s not quite the Peace Train that Cat Stevens popularized in music.
But 13 Canadian youths — including an 18-year-old from Red Deer — are riding a Peace Bus across the country to attain the same spirit of harmony and understanding that Stevens alluded to in his 1971 soft-rock anthem.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the young participants of the Children’s International Summer Villages program will get off the Peace Bus in Red Deer to volunteer as tree planters, and to also enjoy some recreational opportunities in Sylvan Lake.
This two-day stop will be a particular highlight for Red Deer participant Cody Mast. The bus that’s travelling from Halifax to Victoria, is pulling up at the communities of each of the Canadian on board in order for the youths to complete a community volunteering project. And Mast suggested tree planting in his hometown’s Maskepetoon Park, as a lasting legacy to our city.
His father, Robert Mast, said the non-profit Children’s International Summer Village program operates with a focus on human rights, sustainability, diversity and conflict resolution. Cody’s choice of tree planting on Wednesday morning fulfills the sustainability pillar.
The Masts, including their older daughter, Heather, have been involved in various Children’s International Summer Village programs for nine years because of the global education and leadership training the program provides.
Heather, now 20 and a volunteer camp councillor in Calgary, was just 11 when she spent a month in Norway with children from 10 countries. She played various games, including ones that showed the disparity between people in wealthy and poor nations. Her mother said she was a changed person when she returned to Canada.
Janice Gerdts, recalled her daughter was so enthralled with the camp and learning about different countries, she was sorry to part from the new friends she made. Cody later attended a his first camp in Guatemala. Both of the children have also travelled with the organization to Quebec, Saskatchewan, Japan and Italy.
“We’ve always believed there’s more to education than what gets taught in the classroom,” said Gerdts, who likes CISV’s philosophy — that world peace can be achieved through global friendship.
Another Peace Bus, loaded with 14- to 16-year-olds, is crossing the country this summer from west to east.
For more information, please visit www.cisv.org.