Cheryl Wowk, Peacebuilders program co-ordinator, holds up a flyer for the Peacebuilders youth initiative. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

Peacebuilder program to get Red Deer youths, young adults more involved

Sessions for the program begin in February

An initiative aimed at getting youths and young adults involved in the community is coming to central Alberta.

Peacebuilders, a leadership program run by Burman University in Lacombe and the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights in Edmonton, will launch in Red Deer in 2019.

The goal of the project is to make the community and world a better place, said program co-ordinator Cheryl Wowk.

“I believe some people sell kids short, and I think they sell themselves short,” Wowk said.

“This program isn’t giving these kids wings to fly, they already have wings. It just gives them an opportunity to soar and make a difference.”

The John Humphrey Centre has offered the program in Edmonton for two years.

Wowk, who has been a teacher/guidance counsellor in Red Deer for more than four decades, retired about eight years ago, but has been doing contract work ever since.

She said she wanted to officially retire to help take care of her two-year-old grandson Lennon, but then she was asked to get involved in the Peacebuilders program.

“I was hesitant at first because I’m trying to retire, but it was such a cool project that I jumped on board to get it up and running,” she said.

Wowk said the goal is to have 20 people apply for the program, which is intended for individuals aged 16 to 28.

Participants will take part in six weekly training seminars in a variety of venues in central Alberta, including a Catholic church, a mosque and a synagogue.

“We want inclusion and acceptance to be promoted, because that’s where peace stems from,” Wowk said.

After the training course is complete, participants will get into groups and conduct a needs assessment for the community. The groups will then focus on an issue, create an action plan and propose solutions to an agency or organization.

“In Edmonton, one group focused on youth crime – they did a needs assessment, came up with recommendations … and presented their ideas to the chief of police, who implemented all their suggestions in a few weeks,” she said.

Wowk said she has been visiting schools and youth groups in the city to promote the program – she has spoken with both Red Deer school division superintendents.

“People will learn a lot through the training,” she said. “I think the sky is the limit in terms of what we can do with Peacebuilders in our community.”

Wowk said she hopes other central Alberta communities introduce Peacebuilder programs in the future.

Sessions begin in February. To register, or for more information, visit www.jhcentre.org/peacebuilders-red-deer.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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