Penning this on 9/21/2022, the 41st International Day of Peace; also officially known as World Peace Day as a United Nations-sanctioned holiday, I am honored to contribute my I humbled experiences as a volunteer in the 44th Peace Day Chicago events on 9/19/2022.
By Renee Clarke
The non-profit I work for, Greenheart International, embraced the opportunity to volunteer at this amazing day focused on connecting all of the world thru our actions in Chicago. The 2022 event marked the 44th anniversary of Peace Day Chicago….yep, it started right here in sweet home Chicago! The Peace School is a Chicago staple!
The goal to celebrate unity and diversity in our city and world was clearly at the heart of each element of what volunteers, supporters, attendees, and presenters experienced! Close to 200 students across Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were directly involved in festivities, with hundreds more keeping the energy high in the audience! The speakers, dignitaries, performers, honorary guests, online viewers, and passersby each contributed to being united in the message of PEACE! This connection was a natural synergy to Greenheart’s mission of Connecting People and the Planet to create Global leaders.
Behind the scenes the thrill-seeking volunteers moved the program along by thru staffing community tables, serving as point persons for diverse groups represented, functional setup, and much more!
My personal role in the event was to help lead a small group of the 194 flags [for each 193 of the UN Member States + 1 Earth Flag] which executed my favorite part of the presentation. The CPS students and Counselor representatives proudly held their flags high during the presentations and symbolically connected to the country for the moment they raised that flag in front of the crowd.
The morning started with such excitement and nervousness of the students…when handing out “name tags” for the flags they would carry, quite a few scrambled to look up a few facts about the respective country. My group’s part of the alphabet [Liberia to Montenegro] was representative of the overall atmosphere of the event! The students fell back on the pre-event training they received from the Peach School. Those efforts paid off as the young future leaders respected the flags, asked great questions and embraced their moment on stage as the crowd of close to 1000 which echoed “Peace in….” naming the country of the flag they carried.
The diversity of the participants truly reflected the diversity of Chicago.
Speeches naturally echoed the UN’s 2022 International Day of Peace theme of “End racism. Build peace.” Although we had some fun, hectic moments moving 200+ people on and off the stage in Daley Plaza, the amazing Peace School coordination of buses, trainings, labeling of flags and attention to each detail made the celebration appear flawless!
As an avid volunteer, I’m looking forward to being part of the message of peace in the 45th celebration in September 2023!!!
Renee Clarke, based in Chicago, IL. Renee currently serves within cultural exchange as the Senior Business Development Manager for Greenheart Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to connecting people and planet. As an avid volunteer and Scout Leader, Renee enjoys encouraging young people to build connections through their own efforts in service to their community and our shared planet.