Peace Studies Coordinator Reflection
Samantha Carwile , May 18, 2011
When considering the 2010-2011 year with MU Peace Studies, I am blown away with the many accomplishments, adventures, and actions that was made possible throughout the year. We had a very busy and emotional year—full of hosting guest speakers, going to conferences or actions, volunteering during service trips, life commemoration of Ken Brown, starting new student campaigns and initiatives, community building through discussion nights, meals, or movie nights, and much more. Experiencing all of these accomplishments has been rewarding and inspiring.
Some of my favorite experiences this year have been leading group service trips. With four big trips, I have been greatly fortunate to travel as much as I did within a year. I coordinated a fall break Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) themed trip where our small group volunteered at a CPT fundraiser gala in Goshen IN, then drove up to Chicago to do work projects at the new CPT office and garage. In our down-time we toured ethnic neighborhoods and the Shedd Aquarium. The trip was a good opportunity to serve, experience something new, and build friendships within the small group.
The next big trip was the School of Americas Watch (SOAW) rally and vigil in Columbus, GA. We had a student-staff-faculty group of eighteen to witness and protest at the gates of Ft. Benning. I led the group that left one day early to experience the workshops, trainings, peace actions, and films, on Friday. I participated in a well-coordinated nonviolence training, involving Barbara Deming’s “two-handed approach” of respectful and vulnerable resistance, hassle lines, and small group discussions. We met up with the rest of the group on Saturday for the festive rally. We, of course, stayed for the Sunday funeral march where we remembered those who had fallen victim to the SOA.
In January, I accompanied Katy Gray Brown’s “Intentional Communities” class where she and I became mini-bus drivers and chaperones of the trip. Driving through busy D.C. all the way to rural Appalachia, that mini-bus got its exercise! We studied nine different intentional communities—all with their own personalities and ways of being such as religious, secular, large, small, egalitarian, agricultural, commodity-producing, living, historic, conscientious, peacemaking, and justice-seeking. We were taken in as guests into some of the communities where we were able to participate in chores and service projects, worship and meals. These communities were ones we appreciated the most. In particular, Little Flower Catholic Worker Farm was a group favorite. The leaders of the farm were religiously conscientious peacemakers that were regularly involved in civil disobedience and even plowshares actions. They were unbelievable, strong, and moving, and I feel lucky to have met them and grow from their inspiring witness.
For the last big trip of the year, I coordinated a spring break service trip working with New Community Project (NCP) in Harrisonburg, VA. We had a small group of eight willing to serve NCP and learn about sustainability and eco-justice. We gardened, renovated their new spring house, which will be turned into office space and an intentional community, fixed bikes at the community bike co-op, prepared meals for low-income and homeless people, and more. We were also able to meet up with Bridgewater College students, tour Eastern Mennonite University, and have workshop sessions. Our sessions were on permaculture gardening, an EMU peace studies lecture, and a local campaign to increase biking and walking space. We took our last day in Virginia to hike High Knob in George Washington National Forest. The trip was inspiring, and I learned a good deal about sustainability, organic gardening, and green living. NCP in Harrisonburg is well-connected, and I learned that if non-profits stick together and support one another, then collaborative and innovative ideas emerge almost naturally. The trip was amazing.
I’ve had the time of my life traveling for MU Peace Studies this year, but I have been just as fortunate to have the many on-campus experiences supporting student ideas and campaigns, hosting guest speakers, and community building through, discussion nights, tea hours in the peace studies lounge, meals, and social justice film nights. MU Peace Studies has become more than a thriving community for me, but a home. If Ken Brown taught me anything, it is that peace begins with community. Ken and Viona’s holy hospitality throughout the years has provided the support and encouragement that I needed to become the peacemaker I am today. While it has been hard to let go of Ken in the physical sense, I will never let go of his lessons and contributions. I am honored to have served Peace Studies in such a unique and amazing role this year, and I hope to keep Ken’s message close to me as I venture into the wider world of peacemaking. May the journey be a blessing.