Building peace, one act at a time
Gregorio Hernandez (left) and Lisa Monette (right) plant trees in Thailand as an act of peace. Photo courtesy Lisa Monette
Lisa Monette knew she wanted to do something for her class project that would have a lasting impact.
Monette, a Rotary World Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University, joined forces with three other peace fellows who were thinking along similar lines. Together, they dreamed up A Million Acts of Peace, an effort they launched online 27 August to encourage one million people to carry out one act of peace each.
"The idea sort of grew out of the thought that people can do little things that may not mean that much," Monette says. "But if you have a million people doing little things, you can have a big impact."
Monette's collaborators include Gregorio Hernandez Jr., a major in the Philippine army; Raseema Alam, a peace-building trainer and consultant from Canada; and Virender Singh Malik, a retired colonel from India. All have now completed the three-month program. In addition to the Web site, the peace fellows created a page on Facebook and are heavily promoting their effort through Twitter.
Their Web site defines an act of peace as "anything you do to further your understanding of another person, place or culture." It can also include efforts that help the vulnerable, outcast, or needy. So far, Monette says the group has tallied about 150 acts of peace, counted as people e-mail them or contact them via Facebook.
"Communication really is the key to preventing conflict. And dialogue is the key to solving conflict," she adds. "If we can get people talking and working together with others, we have achieved our goal."
Monette was sponsored for the Rotary World Peace Fellowships program by the Rotary Club of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She took a short leave from her job as a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, specializing in issues related to Asia and terrorism and security worldwide.
She says her grandfather was a Rotarian, and her father, aunts, and uncles participated in the Rotary Youth Exchange program. As a high school student, she took part in a one-week program sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ottawa that brings students to the Canadian capital to teach them about citizenship and develop their leadership skills.
"I fell in love with Ottawa," says Monette, who attended Carleton University to earn a degree in communications and political science.
She says she and her collaborators hope to hit their mark by the end of the year. But she admits she won't be terribly disappointed if they fall a bit short of their target: "To get so many people thinking about peace to us is the most important thing."
They are taking their message to Rotary clubs and districts to solicit as much help as possible.
"We really think this has a good connection to Rotary," she says. "It fits with Rotary's values. Rotary is all about peace."