Peace project at St. John the Baptist School in Jefferson Print
Written by Margarete Schels, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, May. 08, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

JEFFERSON -- "Let Peace Begin With Me" is a song with a powerful message of personal responsibility in planting and nurturing the seeds of peace in one's own world.

The fifth and sixth grade classes at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Jefferson, under the guidance of school counselor, Mrs. Joanna Becker, embraced the idea of working towards world peace by bringing it closer to home.

Sadako's story

Mrs. Becker introduced the "Peace Project" by sharing the true story of a young Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was an innocent victim of war as she suffered the effects of deadly radiation after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. She was only two years old on the day of the bombing and died 10 years later as a result of leukemia.

Mrs. Becker read the book, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, to the students as a way of highlighting the concept of peace beginning with one act of kindness.

Over a period of several weeks, the students met to discuss the story of Sadako and the inspiring act of support for her as friends encouraged the girl to continue making the paper cranes that, according to Japanese legend, would grant the maker of the origami cranes a wish by the gods if 1,000 of these birds were created.

Sadly, Sadako died before the required total could be completed. But, through the loving support of her friends, the cranes were finally finished and were buried with Sadako after her death in October of 1955. As a result of her story, a memorial peace park was built to honor Sadako and all victims of war.

Since the exhibit was completed, thousands of school children around the world have sent their set of 1,000 to be displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Completing the project

Mrs. Becker's rationale for introducing this peace project was to develop a long-range project that would require collaboration and teamwork in order to complete it.

The fifth and sixth graders met several times to work together in folding the origami cranes and then developing ideas for a statement that would be sent to Hiroshima along with the 1,000 paper cranes. Their statement reads: “Faith is one way to explain peace. Peace we give you and peace we leave you.”

The Peace Project was a huge success in that the students discovered first hand that one person may not be able to bring about an end to war and conflict around the world, but one person can plant the seeds of understanding within their own community. And with that, the hope is for future generations of leaders to bring about peace on a larger scale.

Finally, the fifth and sixth graders came to realize how important it is to listen and share with respect when working with others.

By letting peace begin with each individual, the dream of world peace and God’s Kingdom on earth can become a reality for all.


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