Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Center for Peace Education First International Volunteer’s Reflection

Justin E. Ralston
The most valuable natural resource anyplace has is its youth. The youth have the potential to determine the future of Liberia. My experience has left me with no question that the young people are ready to learn, eager to serve their communities, and striving to make life better for themselves, their families, communities, and country. The challenge for Liberia and the rest of the world is how to best mobilize resources and implement programs that can develop these precious resources.
Organizations like the Center for Peace Education can help facilitate this process. The vision is clear—a peaceful Liberia. Its mission is based around working with the young people of Liberia. The combination of a clear vision and mission can help promote peace education, prepare people with the tools necessary to serve their communities in a nonviolent, peaceful way that will ultimately help develop themselves, their families, communities, and country.

There is no question that Liberia has a dark history. A quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. is given in every workshop conducted by the Center of Peace Education that states, “Darkness cannot drives out darkness, only light can do that.” There are flickers of light across this country waiting to push out the darkness. One of the starkest illustrations of this is seeing a 15-year old child stand proudly, looking at his notebook and sounding out words. This is the first time he has ever been able to make sounds out of letters. Five years ago he had a gun strapped around his neck with ammunition draped around his shoulders. Now he is standing prouder than ever. There is hope. There is light—a lot of it.
I thank Mainlehwon Ebenezer VONHM and the Center for Peace Education for allowing me to volunteer within the organization. It has been a powerful experience that I will not forget. I promise to share the hope and potential that I have seen within the Liberian people as I continue to work in the United States in East Africa.
Justin’s Biography
Justin Ralston is from Angola, Indiana, USA and a 2006 graduate of Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education and a certificate from the University of Amsterdam in peace and conflict studies. After teaching middle school for one year Justin moved to Washington, DC to earn a Master of Social Work degree at Howard University specializing in refugees and displaced populations in 2009. Justin met Mainlehwon Ebenezer Vohm while interning at the Refugee Center in Washington, DC during the 2008/2009 school year.

Justin has traveled to East Africa six times serving as a teacher in Kenya, a volunteer with the Uganda Red Cross Society, and most recently to establish an NGO that works on promoting literacy in refugee resettlement camps and former conflict/war areas. Volunteering with the Center for Peace Education is Justin’s first experience in West Africa.

In August 2009 Justin will begin to work as a high school special education teacher in Prince George’s County Public School in Maryland, USA. He looks forward to connecting and empowering students from both the United States and around the world.


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