Young co-operators from Woodcraft Folk attend PeaceCommunicators programme

‘The peace education training seminar felt extremely poignant at a severe point of international political distress’

Members of the Woodcraft Folk have attended an international PeaceCommunicators seminar, part of a programme centred around peace education. It aims to provide a space for young people aged 16-30 to “develop the skills, attitudes, values and knowledge to help them build sustainable, just and supportive societies”. 

The Woodcraft Folk is a co-operative educational movement for children and young people which emphasises equality, friendship, peace and co-operation. It operates 300 volunteer-led groups for young people across England, Wales and Scotland. 

“Woodcraft Folk promotes positive alternatives to violence with their young supporters and we were proud to have some of their members selected for the PeaceCommunicators, representing the organisation and working hard for peace,” said the organisation, adding that the PeaceCommunicators project aligns with its aims and values of “building a more peaceful world, where all enjoy freedom from war and want”. 

The PeaceCommunicators project has three phases; phase one took place on 21-27 February in Belgium under the theme ‘Critical Peace Educators’, which aimed to develop participants’ knowledge, capacities, and skills on peace education, non-violent conflict resolution, conflict mediation, and conflict prevention. Woodcraft Folk members Iolo Walker and Robyn Brown attended the event, along with member Bethan Manton-Roseblade supporting the training team. 

“The peace education training seminar felt extremely poignant at a severe point of international political distress,” said Mr Walker. “We worked through the week identifying what peace means on the individual, interpersonal and global scales and developed strategies on reducing harm in our daily lives and the wider world. Creating global definitions of peace and violence was extremely eye-opening as they are both so contextual. 

“I felt very fortunate to have been born in a country where most of the violence I encounter is second hand. There were participants in the seminar who came from countries at the whim of violent occupational projects such as Palestine and Ukraine. Creating international networks through participating in the seminar forms possibilities for exchange and support.”

The workshop focused on critical peace education in the context of group work. Participants also learnt skills to develop online and offline training sessions on peace education for young people from their local groups. The seminar was led by Aggie Taylor, European Solidarity Co-ops volunteer with the International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International (IFM-SEI), who is on placement from Woodcraft Folk.

“The aim of the week was to take youth workers from around the world and together, develop knowledge and competencies on Peace Education in order for them to become Critical Peace Communicators,” she said. “We looked deeply into emotions and the role they play in understanding peace and conflict, we tried out various methods of non-violent communication and we looked at how conflicts are affected by structural and cultural violence.”

Ms Taylor added that an emergency session was planned in response to the outbreak of the war in Ukraine where the participants had a chance to recognise and reflect on their emotional responses to the war and to make plans and deliver some concrete action which included writing the official IFM-SEI statement. 

“We finished the week looking at mechanisms behind violence, including propaganda, and returning to planning a peaceful world. The participants will now go forward as peace communicators and plan their own sessions in their local communities, funded and supported by the project.”

Woodcraft Folk has recently released a range of educational resources and activities on peace for a range of ages in response to the Ukraine war. “With the war raising lots of questions for young people and affecting their mental health, the charity wanted to create resources to support youngsters and youth leaders as well as the charity groups providing safe spaces for members to talk about the war and what they may have seen in the news,” it said.