Story of the beginning of Be the Peace - Be the Hope written by Karine Parker-Lemoyne with the contribution of Dr. Noël Bezette-Flores.
Be the Peace – Be the Hope
was born from a spirit of hope
and a spirit of concern.
As of 2014, the number of people whom the United Nations classified as displaced by conflict and war totaled over 59 million. A large segment of the displaced population are children. Separated from their homes or families, they are forced to live in refugee camps. Most of these children have little hope for a safe return and receive no education which limits their future opportunities. The number of displaced children in refugee camps increases daily.
Elise Boghossian, a close friend of mine and a physician who created EliseCare, a French non-governmental organization (NGO) serving refugees in war zones, informed me of the tragic circumstances in which so many displaced children in the Middle East and in Africa are living. I felt moved to help them. I am not a doctor, but still I wanted to help. I resolved to do so with the skills that I had- art, creativity, and self-reflection.
This led to create a taskforce and a program to mobilize the talents of Houston-area students, platform that would also give them the opportunity to be the peace, the hope and the love they wished to see in the world. Many school children and students I interacted with locally had informed me of their desire to see more peace, more hope and more love in the world. “Be the Peace – Be the Hope” (BTPBTH ) was born.
In collaboration with Dr. Noël Bezette-Flores, BTPBTH reached out in partnership to many generous organizations. These include the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts, IEDA Relief, FotoFest International Literacy through Photography, Harris County Public Libraries, Houston I.S.D., Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D., the Harris County Public Libraries (HCPL), the Taiwanese Heritage Society, The Post Oak School, The Wide School, Aker Imaging, Let it Fly, David Lynch Foundation and Neighborhood Centers Promise Community Charter School. Noël contacted The United Nations Associations and its chair, Teta Banks, became one of the fervent supporters of the program. The City of Houston even welcomed the program and integrated it as part of the celebration of the 2016 Citizenship Month. Noël and I started building a strong international and multidisciplinary team with the help of many including Shirin Herman and Sarah Howell.
To actually reach people in the camps, BTPBTH owes thanks to Phil Malnuwa, Christine Angelani, Ghislaine Gatho and Thony Ngumbu (Senior Director of Programs at that time) of IEDA Relief, an NGO based in Houston which specializes in Refugee Camp management and humanitarian assistance. They coordinated our work with teams in the Burkina Faso camps and advised BTPBTH to develop an arts education program with a view toward healing the psychological trauma from which many refugee children suffer. Children languishing in the refugee camps are vulnerable to the recruiting methods of extremist organizations such as Boko Haram. They also introduced us to the UNHCR and CONAREF representatives.
From June to September 2016, “Be the Peace - Be the Hope” (BTPBTH) worked with 600 Houston-area students from 36 schools, community centers and public libraries. The ages of the participating students ranged from 8 to 22. They were shown videos about the living conditions of children in refugee camps. They were also taken through an exercise with a tree diagram where they identify their own background (the roots), their values (the trunk) and ways in which they can reach out to others to effect positive change (the branches). Then students were invited to create messages and art as symbols of hope to be sent to the camps in an effort to encourage youth living there. Elise Sheppard, a HCPL librarian, told us, “Many High school and college students didn’t know there were refugee camps around the world. This had been an eye opener for them. Many have said they would like to volunteer and help.” The art teachers we spoke to concurred.
This was a beginning of a life-changing journey. In October 2016, I led a team* of twelve educators, healing artists, facilitators and videographers to Africa where we implemented the educational healing art program I had developed with the support of therapist friends (Virginie Lefevre, Karla Lopold and John Price), in two refugee camps in northern Burkina Faso: Mentao and Goudebou.
The combined population numbered approximately 30,600. The two camps had been established in 2012 to house the thousands of displaced Malians who fled their homes to seek refuge from the violent extremism afflicting many surrounding countries. We worked with up to 600 children, performed 110 evaluations before and after the implementation of the program and trained 20 local teachers to assist in the process and create local sustainability. BTPBTH culminated with the installation of art-quilts on refugee tents, created by combining the Houston and Camp children’s individual art pieces to bring hope to the camps. In Houston, BTPBTH culminated in several exhibitions documenting the journey of Hope in schools, libraries and at the City Hall.
The response to the program was very encouraging. As Jolie Guifayou, a UNHCR program manager stated: “It is a good program, it allows children to know themselves. You are coming with a program that puts children’s lives at the center, it's going to allow these children to imagine, to have hope, to understand that they are not unique in their suffering as refugee children. They will understand that they have value, they will understand that they have roots.”
This journey of hope is bound to continue in Burkina Faso and in many other places as the UNHCR is encouraging us to replicate the program in other camps.
We encourage you to read some of the amazing realizations and testimonials to which Be the Peace – Be the Hope has already given life, including the images and statements presented in ArtHouston Magazine. Feel free to browse through and enjoy our www.BePeaceBeHope.org website where the many contributors are listed. This is only the beginning… Join the movement.
"Everywhere and always, seek tirelessly the remedy that soothes, sow hope, this vivifies and your love can make miracles happen" - Sister Emmanuelle
For more information on how to contribute and support the BTPBTH project, please contact Karine Parker-Lemoyne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The Be the Peace – Be the Hope Team in Burkina Faso included Karine Parker-Lemoyne (Head of the mission) Alicia Campos, Curry Glassell, Eisha Khan, Fadila Kibsgaard, Nishtha Joshi, Leila Kengueleoua, Cecilia Norman, Cynthia Ouedraogo, Naiyolis Palomo, Lex Parker, and Dimitri Pilenko as well as Noel Bezette-Flores, Caroline Edmundson and Britain Venner in Houston.
BE THE PEACE-BE THE HOPE