Each year two million people worldwide lose their lives to violence. To this troubling reality, the Non-Violence Project (NVP) has responded by helping people, first of all, imagine a peaceful world.
Brought to the U.S. from Sweden in 1996 by the City of Miami Police Department, the Non-Violence Project USA has become a global movement with program partners in England, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland and South Africa that envisions inspiring, motivating and engaging 100 million young people around the globe to resolve conflicts peacefully. The Non-Violence Project has been a place where advocates, peacemakers and pragmatic thinkers unite.
The Non-Violence Project presents a collection of superstar soccer players and their advices to young people: Jermaine Jenas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Peter Odemwingle, Dieder Drogba, Mamady Sidibe, Mido and Peter Crouch. These ambassadors have chosen to champion the positive message of peace and non-violence.
The U.S. office is headquartered in Miami and serves primarily the Miami-Dade public schools, the fourth largest school district in the country with 65 percent of Hispanic students.
“We completed comprehensive programs at 14 low-performing schools last school year,” Chief Executive Officer Diane Landsberg said in exclusive interview for VOXXI. “We have reached over 750,000 young people with our mission to use non-violence education to prevent youth violence. And we have just become a universal health care provider.”
Chief of Operations Julio Avael has put his expertise in strategic management, economic and management analysis, board governance and personnel resource management to help the project make great strides, Landsberg said.
The project has adopted John Lennon’s “Imagine” lyrics and the knotted gun, sculpted in memorial of the famous Beatle, to spread their word. This unique Non-Violence symbol is featured on more than thirty strategic public locations around the world, including the UN Headquarters in New York, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and the Peace Park in Beijing. Private contributors finance the project.
Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and several Hispanic celebrities have joined as ambassadors of the project, including the young Mexican actor Poncho Herrera, Mexican actor, singer and host, Jaime Camil and Guatemalan singer and songwriter, Gaby Moreno.
Non-violence education through art, design and imagination
Five million students, teachers and sport coaches around the world have been educated during the 19 years of existence of the program by using art, design and imagination. They provide tools for schools and sport clubs to feature violence prevention and peace education programs, appealing to youngsters’ creative senses and opening their minds up in their own individual ways, based on their own, unique experiences.
The program aims at teaching youngsters how to prevent, control and avoid violence; to help them understand why conflict occurs, why you react the way you do, and how to cool down. It looks at issues as anger management, bullying, and effective communication.
Q: When looking at, for example, the massacre in Aurora, CO, I wonder if and why we are becoming a more violent world. When you gather youths to educate them in your main subjects of non-violence, conflict-resolution and self-esteem, what do you see?
A: The youth today are pretty street-smart, but the violence is a big concern. Our country has embarked on a new course with violence at its nucleus. Talk of turbulence now permeates our media outlets, and the threat of violence encroaches upon our personal and business lives. A favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King comes to mind, “It’s not the violence of the few that scares me, it is the silence of the many.”
This recent tragedy in Colorado hopefully will bring awareness to the need to support programs such as the NVP. Funding remains to be the largest hurdle to overcome. Pretty much all federal and state funding has been eliminated. The bad economy has deeply effected private foundations and corporate giving.
NVP has always tried to be pro-active instead of re-active to violence. Working directly with the youth to provide programs that increase self-esteem and self-worth creates the skills for positive self-directed behavior.
The newspapers are stating that James Holmes was a brilliant student and a loner. The preliminary information released about him states that, but I am sure that as the details are put together, we hopefully will learn why this apparently intelligent young man was driven to cause such devastation.
Q: You’re engaging not only youth from schools and sports, but also business and “people with energy.” How do people join the program? What’s their main motivation to join?
A: People join for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because violence has touched their lives or someone close to them. Or they are a parent that wishes to help create a safer world for their children.
Another favorite quote is from Mahatma Gandhi, “If we are to have real peace in the world, we must first begin with children.” Our programs target the youth, but without the engagement of the school, family, friends and community, building a 360-degree circle of protection around them, we will fail.
Q: Tell us a little about this experience of introducing art to educate the youth, and music to draw multitudes to spread your message.
A: Whether it be art, music, sports, we use whatever that will draw youth attention, gather their interest, gives us the opportunity to share the message of peaceful living.
Q: Share with us what it has meant for the project to have Yoko Ono join it recently.
A: The knotted gun sculpture was designed to honor John Lennon. It is exciting that Yoko Ono has become part of the movement that brings awareness and honors John Lennon’s memory and the impact of his music.