Web exclusive: Peace games teach children to be non-violent

By Samantha Egan

Teaching children about peace and a sense of the community was the message of Eric Dawson, president of the non-profit organization Peace Games, last week.

In the event sponsored by Northeastern’s recently established student group Social Change Through Peace Games in Shillman Hall, Dawson answered questions from the audience about the organization and spoke about his journey with the group.

One in 10 six-year-olds have witnessed violence, Dawson said. He combined this statistic, which was based on a study conducted in the early 1990s, with another that stated 2.3 million handguns are in circulation in the United States. Dawson said in the last 40 years, children have started becoming violent at earlier ages.

This is what Peace Games is battling.

The organization works in city schools to teach children how to be peace makers. Typically, student teachers will visit classrooms for an hour a week. The student teachers educate the children through their peace-making curriculum with games for the first half of the program. The second half is based on a peacekeeping project done by the children, teaching them that they have the power to make change.

One project Dawson mentioned is a barbeque organized by Roxbury kids to raise money to build a playground in their neighborhood.

Dawson said he experienced violence as a child and as a result was an “angry kid.” Angry people can deal with their emotions in three ways, said Dawson: hurting other people, hurting themselves and making bad decisions.

Dawson, however, chose none of these paths and instead started working against violence at the age of 12 , which earned him a scholarship to Harvard University.

At Harvard, Dawson said he got involved in Peace Games after Dr. Francelia Bulter, the founder of the organization’s vision, chose the university to sponsor her work in 1992. Dawson’s experience working with children taught him that “kids aren’t born violent, they learn violence.”

“If we teach violence, we can teach peace,” Dawson said. “And if we teach peace we can also teach hope.”

Schools, Dawson said, are where kids learn how to get along with others, solve problems and be members of their community.

“School wasn’t designed so [kids] can pass the MCATs,” Dawson said. “It was made so they can be thoughtful engaged citizens.”

It was important for Peace Games to visit the elementary schools in the middle of the day, rather than after school, so peace-making appeared as important as math, science and social studies, Dawson said.

Alex Alvanos, a middler international affairs major, recently founded the Northeastern student group Social Change Through Peace Games. He said he learned about the organization while looking for a co-op job.

Creating the student group “has been an adventure to say the least,” Alvanos said.

However, he said they have big plans and are already active. Currently, the group is working with Maurice J. Tobin School in Roxbury.

Alvanos said one of their future projects is to team up with Northeastern’s other socially conscious student groups to “get the word out that Northeastern cares about the world.”

Janelle Canway, a middler Spanish major, said she thought the talk was great and very informative.

“I’d like to get involved,” she said. “But I don’t have the time, unfortunately.”

Anthony Totire said he also enjoyed Dawson’s lecture.

“He’s a very interesting speaker, very informative,” he said. He also said he was interested in becoming involved in the student group.

Sophmore biology major Kimmie Banks became involved in Peace Games last fall.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It’s inspirational for someone who started teaching.”

She said the program helped her to understand the effect teachers have on their students.

“Sometimes you lose your sense of purpose,” she said. “This gives you hope and validation.”

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