Teaching children about empathy and peace in a time of conflict. Emmanuella Ikomon


SI4DEV partners in the Makurdi location, supported by the Spring Development Initiative joined forces with Students Rebuild, Seattle USA, and children worldwide to participate in the ‘Facing Difference Challenge’. They wanted to advocate for peace in the area and provide tools for local students to work through their trauma in a healthy way.
Benue State, Nigeria, has in recent months been the locus of incessant attacks of rural villages by unidentified cattle herdsmen, leading to hundreds of deaths in local communities and the destruction of farmland and other properties. Many men, women and children have been forced away from their homes and have had to settle in ill-equipped Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps, suffering loss and grief and probably nursing distrust, hate and revenge against their perceived enemies.
The facing difference challenge is an opportunity for young people to be empowered with knowledge that will help them advocate for peace even with people different from them. They also get to express their creativity and talent through an art project that involves drawing a portrait of their own face.
The Facing Difference activity took place on 3rd May 2018 and was coordinated by SI4DEV Partners who engaged students from Trinity Model Academy in Makurdi, Benue State. Through the Facing Difference Challenge, SI4DEV provided a platform and a time for the children who participated to reflect and understand the concepts of empathy, forgiveness and peace.
Emmanuella Ikomon, lead partner in Makurdi, and coordinator of the challenge revealed that the students also learned about identity and about global peers who were taking part in the challenge. At the end of the project, a total of 26 meaningful self-portraits were produced that reflect the artist’s sense of who they are as peace advocates. These portraits were submitted to Students Rebuild and have contributed the sum of $78 (each multiplied by $3) to help support peacebuilding programs all over the world.
The Facing Difference Challenge is aimed at engaging young people for peace while raising money for NGOs working in areas that have conflict, Nigeria included. The funding for the portraits submitted from around the world comes from the Bezos Foundation—up to $600,000. Selected portraits will also be exhibited in museums and several high-profile locations around the world.
One week before the end of the challenge, Students Rebuild announced that more than 780 teams in 34 countries had registered to participate and over 120,000 portraits had been submitted thereby generating at least $360,000.
It is noteworthy that some of the funds raised will go to Search for Common Ground, which is working in Nigeria to bring together boys and girls from different faiths to train them in leadership, diversity and conflict resolution.

SI4DEV is committed to empowering community leaders who are working towards a future where everyone has fair access to the resources and opportunities needed to achieve their full potential. SI4DEV has partners in 25 states in Nigeria, who execute projects to bring about Enhanced Care, Quality Education, Economic Development and Good Governance. SI4DEV is an affiliate organization of the Spring Development Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the United States.


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