Over seven hundred Peace Tree Ambassadors from 13 schools across Toronto gathered at Mel Lastman Square on June 1st to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Peace Tree Day in Toronto presented by Peace Tree International, Harmony Movement, and the Toronto District School Board’s Office of Student and Community Equity and Safe and Caring Schools, proudly supported by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Peace Tree Ambassadors from diverse backgrounds including Asian, Afro-Canadian, South Asian, participated in 19 student-led intercultural/interfaith workshops including African Drumming and Tabla, a play of Harriet Tubman, Fusion Dance, Mehndi Mela, Petals for Peace, Pow Wows, Hana’s Suitcase, Festival of Lights, Bollywood Beats and many other workshops that helped them raise $2,000 for War Child Canada and Pennies for Peace. Workshop presenters included students from Berner Trail Jr. PS, Dr. Marion Hilliard Sr. PS, Winchester Jr. & Sr. PS, Firgrove PS, Rose Avenue PS, Grenoble PS and Humber Summit MS.
A first time and unique experience for the children was to speak to Arab and Jewish children who united in Israel to celebrate Peace Tree Day at the Peres Centre for Peace. Thanks to modern technology, the Toronto Peace Tree Ambassadors from General Brock School were able to connect with the Arab and Jewish children via webcam and Skype to share peace initiatives. The students were intrigued to see their friends in Israel and how similar they are to children in Canada.
To conclude the Toronto Peace Tree Day festival, the Peace Tree Concert highlighted 10 beautiful creations of peace, diversity and fusion of dance and music by children and youth, plus inspirational messages from spoken word artist, Mustafa Ahmed. Kindergarten children from Rawlinson Community School paid a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and were accompanied by students from Don Mills CI and Denlow P.S. who shared a musical dance and fusion piece of Chinese Fan Dance and Bharatnatyam Dance called ‘Celebrating the Peace Tree Spirit!’ to show their respect to the great leader. CW Jeffrey’s had a fabulous Drumline group; Inglewood’s Junior Dance Team shared an Afro-Caribbean Dance fused with Kathak, while Driftwood’s Hip Hop Dancers had the audience dancing on their feet. The St. Andrew’s Choir also sang ‘Imagine’ and the children from Brian P.S. sang ‘We Are the World’ and ‘Wavin’ Flag’, while students from Flemington danced along as the crowd of over 700 students and teachers joined in. The Peace Tree Ambassadors attending the festival left with many ideas to promote peace in their schools and communities including how to create their own Peace Tree, how to set up their Peace Tree Club, Peace Tree Centre and Peace Tree Stand in order to spread peace and diversity initiatives through out the school year.
Seven year old, Alyna Nanji, one of the MCs of the day said, ‘I felt good inside my heart. I felt like I was going all around the world talking about peace. I also felt happy about doing something good in the world together with other children, so we could spread peace. Peace Tree Day is important for everyone because it brings a message of harmony. I was very happy and thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this great day. Jason Gupta, 9, shared, ‘I wish Peace Tree Day was everyday!’
Peace Tree Day was a very inspiring experience for all the children and youth who attended thanks to all the Peace Tree Ambassadors from schools across the TDSB who shared their vision of peace and respect for people of all backgrounds.