Ananya Murali, junior attended the ninth International Youth Peace Ambassador Training in Phoenix, Arizona from August 21-26. The training consisted of over 52 youth from over 40 different countries. She was one of two people to attend the training from the US.
“It was a great opportunity for her to develop her leadership skills,” said Lalitha Murali, parent.
Every year the conference has a different theme and location. This was the first year it was held in the US. This year was about the impact of peace in indigenous cultures. During the training, they visited different Native American reservations to learn about their culture and what they are doing with their youth.
“We made plans for how to have more peace and for people to be more appreciative of each other,” Murali said.
In these plans, the student’s training incorporated the Native American views on place as well as their own.
These tribes are very involved in the community.
“They are trying to get their parents and others to discover what it is to be Native American,” Murali said.
At the conference, she also taught an original peace song to all of the participants. She was invited to present her project and teach her song to Native American students in both the Navajo Nation and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Reservations.
Murali is planning on using her training to help receive her Girl Scout gold award, which is the highest award a girl scout can receive. To receive the award, participants have to do an act that displays community service.
Her project is an anti-bullying peace camp for middle school girls.
“I think this is really prevalent to the community because in the North Shore there have been at least four suicides related to bullying,” Murali said.
“She is a very motivated person. If she wants something to happen, it will happen,” said Maria Stahl, junior, one of Murali’s closest friends.
“This was a life-changing event in Ananya’s life and she has received a $1,000 grant to conduct her peace camp from the Youth Service of America,” Lalitha said.
Murali is planning to apply for more grants to make her project more sustainable in the future.
According to Murali, she chose middle school girls because of their identity struggles. They often have lots of confused emotions and typically end up hurting other people’s feelings without realizing it.
“After the conference, I felt empowered to do my project because it is a problem all over the world,” Murali said. “The people there from the UN were all really impressed with our projects.”
Other projects included thinking about the Olympics as a peace truce, the importance of remembering a country’s culture and environmental projects.
“Being a global citizen helps you care about other people too,” Murali said.
Murali’s experiences with peace started at a very young age, after she moved from India to Montana in 2001, following 9/11. People thought her family and the few other Indian families that had just moved there were terrorists. People started slashing their car tires and telling them they were unwanted. This was because of the lack of diversity in Montana. This scared and shocked the immigrant families, who were under the impression that the US was “the land of the free.”
They decided to set up a booth, during a monthly community fest, to help the people learn about Indian culture and traditions. They made and sold Indian food, tied saris and taught traditional songs and dances.
At the end of the day they raised $1,000, which they donated to public schools. This fundraiser went well for the families; afterwards they were more accepted by the community.
“We just wanted a place to better ourselves,” Murali said.
She and her sister came up with the peace song, which combines Indian and American culture and figures.
“I am also planning on teaching the song at my peace camp,” Murali said. “Peace can be achieved through different kinds of mediums.”
by Martha Dix