April 24, 2008 by A.C. Rhodes
Here’s a fun exercise in self-reflection. What can you say that you have accomplished in the past eight days let alone eight years? If thoughts of petty drug running, job loss and failed relationships came to mind you’re not alone, but for the sake of being adverse let’s take a look at one of ‘us’ who got back what he put forth with great effort.
Ivan Suvanjieff, as some recall as former Detroit Creemster, Mark J. Norton, has spent the past dozen years doing what some only see on Oprah: Dedicating himself to becoming an agent of positive social change. That is to say, Suvanjieff, after having the fortune of meeting some young people who had had a rough time of it, was so inspired to develop a mulit-dimentional program aimed at such a population.
The product was PeaceJam, an organization set up to empower youth by inspiring them to take an active interest in their environment, whether it be family, school, neighborhood our outer community, conducive to change. The PeaceJam organization is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the strength, spirit and skills they employ. The goal of PeaceJam is to create a new generation of peacemakers through educational outreach who will transform themselves, their communities and the world. Since the program was launched 12 years ago, in March of 1996, almost 40,000 teenagers worldwide have had the opportunity to participate.
And now it’s hit the big screen. PeaceJam, the documentary, follows the lives of five teens over a six year period as they face harsh realities of growing up in contemporary America, and as they work together with leading Nobel Peace Prize Laureates – including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Oscar Arias, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and the Dalai Lama, – to learn about peaceful solutions for leadership in their communities. Taken from over 500 hours of filmed interviews and field work, this documentary records their transformation into young people of purpose and conviction.
PeaceJam, which wrapped in 2003, contains footage of eleven leading Nobel Peace Prize Laureates working with youth in the USA, India, South Africa, Mezzo-America, and Costa Rica, with rare footage from inside Columbine High School both during and after the shootings.
The film, also in book form, has received accolades from Andrei Codrescu to Michael Moore and if that wan’t enough, Suvanjieff – along with his partner and wife, Dawn Engel, – has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by six of the eight laureates he acquired for his series. To find out more, visit the website and check back for an inevitable interview.