This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Madeline Hyde from Concordia College.
Yesterday, the Peace Scholars and students from the Western Balkans had our final meeting with Steinar Bryn, director of the Nansen Dialogue Network. As we face our final week as students at the International Summer School, we find ourselves left with the challenge of deciding how we can make an impact back at home. During this final meeting we were all asked by Steinar to give a brief reflection of our time at ISS and to look forward to how we can create an impact back at our home universities. This is a bit overwhelming to reflect upon while we are still here in Oslo. It is also a large task to be asked to “make an impact” as a young student, so I look to a Nobel Peace Prize winner for inspiration.
Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner from 2004, provides me with great encouragement as my fellow Peace Scholars and I face this task of making an impact upon return. In the 1970s, Maathai created a grassroots campaign to stop deforestation in Kenya. She began with planting trees with women in her community and it soon grew into the planting of thirty million trees across Africa. She used this simple activity to achieve the broader goals of environmental restoration, women’s rights, and democracy – discussing these topics while people planted trees together. Her actions grew until they mobilized into a grassroots movement called the “Green Belt Movement” across Africa. The Nobel Peace Prize website describes her as a woman of “firsts”. It reads, “[she was] the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to take a doctorate (in biology), and the first female professor ever in her home country of Kenya.” If anyone can offer Peace Scholars encouragement during our task to make an impact that reaches beyond this summer, it is Wangari Maathai. She is proof that that even a small action can grow into something that impacts the world.
It is hard to know that my time in Norway is ending, but I am extremely satisfied with what I have done here. The friendships I have formed are genuine, long-lasting, and are certainly what I will miss the most upon return to the United States. I am leaving Norway more motivated and with a new outlook on what peacemaking looks like in practice and in theory. I hope I am able to apply this when I am studying in India this fall and when I return to my campus and community in January. I will leave you with a beautifully illustrated video narrated by Wangari Waathai. Although it may feel a bit cliche, she gives us the message of how you can make an impact even if you are as small as a hummingbird. She says, “I will be a hummingbird. I will do the best I can.”