In The Field…

Jessie and I firmly believe that by educating and uplifting individuals, we can enable them to empower themselves and the communities in which they live. We also acknowledge that it’s really hard to focus on mental, physical, spiritual, and social growth and development when you don’t have clothes to wear or food to eat. That’s why we’ve started the Global Donation Recycling program as Peace Quest’s first initiative. Our model is to give people the things they need right now, simply by taking what we don’t need in this part of the world and geographically relocating it. When people have the things they need – the basic necessities of life – they can start to pay attention to what they truly want. We believe that the one thing that all of us truly want, the one thing we can all agree upon, is a world that works for every human being.

Part of our model for starting Peace Quest is to do everything ourselves from the ground up before we pass any responsibilities on to other people. This not only allows us to more effectively train the people we work with, but it gives us an appreciation for work we are doing through practical, real-life experience. Doing the footwork ourselves also gives us a sense of perspective beyond our own subjective viewpoints; we get to see into the lives of the people whom we are asking for support and get to test our ideas against the facts of reality.

On our first day in the field, going door to door to spread the word about Peace Quest and ask for support, the first thing we confirmed was our theory that practically everybody had stuff laying around that they wanted to get rid of. Not just old, useless junk, but things that people actually were in desperate need of on the other side of the globe: clothes, books, toys, food, electronics, athletic equipment, etc. We also acknowledged another one of our suspicions, which was that people were much more willing to give material donations instead of monetary ones. With all the organizations and charities around asking for money, this did not come as a great surprise to us. That’s one of the reasons that Peace Quest  focuses on sending physical goods to people in third world countries instead of simply donating money; not everybody has money to spare, but the majority of people have things to give that they simply don’t need.

After approximately an hour of canvassing a local neighbourhood (the Atkinson Community Housing Co-Op near Spadina and Dundas, Toronto), we were interrupted by in mid conversation at one person’s home by the sound of gunshots. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! About seven loud shots went off just around the corner from where we were standing, in the same neighbourhood that we were canvassing.

People came out of their homes to see what was going on, talking to each other to try to find out what happened. Two women frantically grabbed their kids and started taking them inside from a walk they were enjoying. Jessie and I went around the block to find police cars, ambulances, and fire-trucks arriving at a corner house in which the shooting occurred. The community was gathered around to observe, many of them clearly upset by what was going on, others simply looking on nonchalantly as if this were a commonplace occurrence. It turned out that two men had been shot (non-fatally) in the house and then the shooters ran into their car and sped down the street.

As we observed what was going on, I took a few pictures on my phone and was struck by the irony of what had happened. Here we were, on our first official day of doing field work for Peace Quest, and there was violence happening just down the street from us. This event reaffirmed to me that the mission we were embarking on was not just to help people on the other side of the world; we were out to make a difference for the entire planet. While we were out there on a quest for peace, there were people out there at the same time on a quest for war. My personal sense of responsibility and the immense importance of Peace Quest took on greater proportions after that day.

Edmund Burke has been quoted saying: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” It takes something to make a difference in the world. While ideas may be the source of actions, they are not the actions themselves. It takes hard work, determination, and perseverance to produce results that have a real impact. And if we aren’t taking actions to build and make a positive difference in the world, we can be sure that those who seek to destroy and manifest negativity in the world will not rest. Peace is not something that just happens on its own in the world of human beings – peace will never exist until we actively create it. Peace is something that we need to quest for, and we need to take this quest very seriously.

“The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation."

–Jonathan Larson

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