Program Report: Rotary Peace Fellows – Cristel Greiner Butchart

The Rotary Foundation was in the spotlight at today’s meeting.  Nancy Marks honored two brothers and their wives  with Paul Harris Fellow  Awards.    Thanks to a generous contribution by David and Carmen Durack and other District Rotarians a $1.5 million Rotary Peace Fellows Fund has been founded.  Peace Scholars at the Duke-UNC Center benefitting from this endowment will be named District 7710 Peace Scholars.

Giving a personal insight into the influence of the Rotary Peace Scholars program, Cristel Greiner Butchart, a Rotary Peace Scholar sponsored by our club, spoke about her experiences as a scholar and how that experience weaves its way into her current professional work.

Prior to beginning the application process a few years ago, she had already formulated a personal philosophy that emphasized conflict resolution in personal as well as international relations.  As a school teacher she had worked on curriculum development to promote safer schools.  She also worked in Myanmar on children’s rights and preventing child trafficking.  Even with all that experience behind her, she conceded that the grilling she got from the club’s Peace Fellow interview committee—B.C. Dash, Vandana Dake, Newman Aguiar and Arthur Rogers—was really rigorous!

Having successfully navigated the selection process, Cristel went Down Under where she studied as a Peace Fellow in Class XI (2013-14) at the University of Queensland in Melbourne, Australia.  In addition to her academic work, Cristel participated in peace education projects in Melbourne.

Returning to Durham, Cristel resumed teaching at Carolina Friends’ School, a Quaker pre-K through 12 school where she has taught for twelve years.  While one expects classrooms to be safe environments, free from conflict, that is often not the case.  Bullying, harassment, discrimination, and fights are not uncommon.  Teachers often do not have the tools needed to prevent, de-escalate or resolve conflict.  She has worked to empower teachers to deal with these situations and to educate students about conflict resolution.  The key to teaching peace education to students requires a change in mindset.

A course on Conflict Resolution is required of all students at Carolina Friends School.  In order to speak at Rotary, she had to leave class a little early.  She asked the class what it would like her to tell Rotarians.  The students pointed to the blackboard and said to tell us that it was filled with their ideas about conflict and peace—how conflicts can develop and escalate but how can be peacefully resolved.

With strong support from Carolina Friends School, Cristel has been instrumental in the creation of Peaceful Schools North Carolina that encourages other schools to develop curriculums that incorporate conflict resolution.  Peaceful Schools NC is presenting a program at Duke on October 28 titled “School to Peace Pipeline.”  Everyone is welcome.

Cristel is an outstanding example of the practical benefit and influence of Rotary’s Peace Scholar Fellowship Program.  Our club can take pride in having sponsored her as a Peace Scholar.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg          

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