Nine months ago, Breakthrough’s partner Michael McGill, PhD moved his family to Kampala, Uganda. Their goal? Be near the center of the youngest and most conflicted region of the world in order to further the work of the Young Peacebuilders Initiative.
Armed with the knowledge that impoverished countries with young populations are more prone to conflict, Dr. McGill and YPI work to prevent or stop cycles of violence. By viewing children and youth as an asset, YPI works to equip, nurture and give skills to young people so that they may become peacebuilding participants in their society. The YPI peacebuilding skills and passion offers children and youth an alternative to the decades of corruption, destruction and exploitation they have viewed in their countries.
Take “Billy” for example. Billy lives in Burundi in a community well known to military fascists active in his border region. Billy’s community has been a part of YPI training, so both at school and at church, he has received peacebuilding training. He has learned to be a civic participant in his community and has even served on a local child peacebuilding board. When Billy was 14, the rebel soldiers first knocked on his door to recruit him. However, Billy knew he had other options. He was set on a different path than the military groups and so were the other youth in his community. Through peacebuilding training, YPI strives to teach and provide alternatives to cycles of violence in countries worldwide. Young people play a vital role in a country’s future of violence or peace, and because children younger than 14 are still developing their moral framework, YPI focuses toward children under 14.
As a researcher who recently completed his PhD in intercultural studies with a child peacebuilding focus, McGill is driven by a desire to measure the impact of investing in child peacemakers instead of focusing on armed intervention as the primary answer to conflict. For this reason, each YPI partnership is paired with a local university so that peacebuilding indicators may be closely tracked to show the peacebuilding impact of YPI education and training on the community. By gaining evidence of the impact of mobilizing young peacebuilders, Breakthrough and YPI hope to catalyze replication of the YPI process worldwide.
Stay tuned as we explore what the YPI process looks like on the ground in Burundi!