In 2019, Traprock formed a new books collaboration with a group in Sierra Leone. This marks the first time that Traprock’s book collaboration program reached beyond the local area, indeed beyond the ocean to another continent. Watch a video of Traprock Director Pat Hynes on WGBY’s Connecting Point, where she discusses the collaboration.
Below you may read about the collaboration with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Sierra Leone, a brief history of Sierra Leone’s wars over blood diamonds, and an editorial on the Traprock books collaboration program.
This article was published in the Greenfield Recorder on August 12, 2019, and was mentioned again in the paper’s August 19 editorial, copied at end of this article.
Traprock Center helping young people build a better world through books
- Published: 8/12/2019 2:00:15 AM
Like 1,000 paper cranes being folded to commemorate the prayers of Hiroshima children for peace, the 100 paperback books that are flying into the hands of young readers in West Africa mark a conviction by Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace & Justice that young people can help build a better world.
The books, with titles like “I Have a Dream,” “Wangari’s Trees for Peace” and “I am Malala” are greeting students at two schools in Freetown, Sierra Leone, after Traprock board member Pat Hynes met Kadie Sesay, president of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Sierra Leone a year ago at the African Women’s Feminist Peace Conference.
Traprock’s Children’s Books Collaborative — which has already placed 100 books about peace and justice in public libraries in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange — caught the attention of Sesay, a former schoolteacher in the West African country. She suggested to Hynes a collaboration with the American organization to get similar books into schools in her country.
Hynes, who’s found test-focused teaching an impediment in getting schools here to accept Traprock’s grants for books with themes of social justice, peace and the environment, welcomed the opportunity to introduce them in a country where equality for women, fostering democracy and lifting the country out of poverty are all key issues.
The degree of women’s equality in a country, Hynes says, is the best predictor of how peaceful or conflict-ridden that country is, according to WomanStats studies of 175 countries. She stresses the importance of encouraging young people to help promote gender equality.
Hynes, a Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom board member, convinced the global organization’s Boston chapter to contribute toward helping the Sierra Leonian chapter acquire computer equipment and other support to help in its work.
It might seem that reading Nicola Davies’ “The Lion Who Stole My Arm” or “I am Malala” — about the Nobel-winning teen who advocated for educating girls in Afghanistan — wouldn’t do much to save a world in which democracies are threatened and the dangers of climate change are ignored. Planting seeds for grassroots community resources to encourage peace also represents a departure from the kinds of citizen demonstrations Traprock was best known for in the 1970s and ’80s.
But Hynes sees ways the book project — like Traprock’s 25-year-old Journey Camp for girls and its Young Peacemakers Awards — can inspire young people to “dream behind their horizons,” in her words. It can open their minds to role models fostering diversity and conflict resolution.
In Sierra Leone, where female genital mutilation persists and there are ongoing efforts to recover from the effects of a decade-long 1990s “Blood Diamond” civil war that left more than 120,000 dead and millions of refugees following mass brutality by children soldiers, the collaborative book project also offers hope, Sesay believes.
Hynes and Sesay hope the African children, ages 4 to 16 and including more than 650 high school students, can become ambassadors for conflict resolution and environmental stewardship, encouraging peers as well as adults “in the community and beyond” to follow the examples of Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King Jr. and Kenyan Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, among others.
There are also tree planting and other environmental education projects planned as part of a broader community outreach.
By finding relevant role models for children, Hynes says, Traprock hopes these books with broad, international themes of diversity and equality can empower young people to become active players in restoring democracy, resolving conflict and fighting income inequality within their societies.
“Books can affect young people in ways to inspire, to dream beyond their horizons,” she says. Especially if they’re read in a classroom or another group setting with a teacher or parent to help them interpret the lessons, she believes, books can serve to enlighten young readers — in our communities as well as in other countries — to move toward a more peaceful future.Richie Davis was a writer and editor for more than 40 years at the Greenfield Recorder. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sierra Leone: Brief history of “blood diamonds” war and consequences
Guerrilla war spilled over from Liberia into Sierra Leone in the early 1990s and devastated the countryside for 9 years with atrocities, abduction of boys and girls as child soldiers and girls abused as temporary wives and sex slaves. Calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front, the guerrillas hardened the child solders by drugging them and having them mutilate, rape and kill family members. The purpose of the war was to gain control of diamond and other valuable mineral mines. How? Enter a village, terrorize villagers who then fled and abandoned the mines, and put boys to work in the mines.
• 1 in 3 people were displaced by the war;
• 50,000 were killed; 100,000 men, women and children were mutilated.
• Sierra Leone replaced Afghanistan as the poorest country in the world with the highest rate of maternal and infant death.
• Women were the greatest victims, suffering all the atrocities as men and also rape, sex slavery, and children born of rape. (300,000)
• The sexual assault of women and, especially, girls that exploded during the war continued after the war.
• Pregnant girls have to leave school and are stigmatized in the family and society.
• Many war widows with children have had no means to support themselves.
• Female genital mutilation (FGM) has remained taboo to criticize.
• Many former child soldiers and ex-combatants have not been rehabilitated back into society, posing a threat to community peace.
Sierra Leone was a key departure point during the African slave trade and also a place of refuge for returning former slaves from the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Monday shorts: August 19, 2019
Here are brief thoughts on some of the events taking place around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area.
Harnessing the power of the written word
There’s a reason that people say “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
The written word is a powerful thing. It can educate, communicate, change opinions and, perhaps most significantly, inspire.
That’s exactly what the Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace & Justice is trying to do by sending books about peace and justice to students in West Africa.
It might seem like reading “The Lion Who Stole My Arm” or “I am Malala” w o u l d n’t do much to save a world facing climate change and threats to democracy. But Traprock board member Pat Hynes sees ways the book project can inspire young people to “dream behind their horizons” by opening their minds to role models fostering diversity and conflict resolution.
We couldn’t agree more.
Indeed, the book project is a small gesture with a big potential impact. In the same way that books can open doors to other worlds, they can also open doors to a better reality.