As PSALM (PROUD STUDENTS AGAINST LANDMINES AND CLUSTER BOMBS) coordinator, I was most honored to receive a formal diplomatic invitation to represent the PSALM students as a delegate from the United States at the Fifteenth Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Santiago, Chile. At this meeting, States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty met to give progress updates on implementing their treaty obligations. Countries that have not yet signed the Treaty were also present to give updates on steps they are taking towards joining. As members of the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines (as is the Conference of Catholic Bishops), I met with the representatives from the U.S State Department to inform them of the work of our students.
I had the opportunity to meet with the Vatican official from the Holy See, Monsignor Veceslav Tumir of Croatia. I presented him with artwork and a PSALM shirt on behalf of the PSALM students. He commended students for their work for “the most vulnerable” of the world. Monsignor Tumir gave a statement at the plenary meeting where he stated, “The motivation that has led us here is the centrality of the human person and his/her dignity”.
As part of the ICBL delegation, I was able to meet with the Ambassador to Austria and with the Cambodian delegation to discuss victim assistance and mine clearance. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines delegation is comprised of experts grassroots campaigners like ourselves and landmine survivors from all over the world. With an official observer status, the ICBL/USCBL delivered statements in the plenary room, met with international delegates and organized side events. An important facet of our mission of educating others is to document the key issues. This allows PSALM students and our community/country to not only see the effects of landmines and cluster munitions, but more importantly it shows the children that they have a voice and their actions can have a positive impact on others… an invaluable lesson in hope and perseverance of our Gospel values. In the past I have represented PSALM students in Bosnia, Kenya, Croatia, Jordan, Colombia, Laos, Cambodia and at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. While in Chile, I had the opportunity to connect with other campaigners/survivors and in general, spread the word of our students and their commitment to “serve, not be served”.
We have had an amazing past year of PSALM in which students have been involved with campaigns with Pax Christi and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. PSALM students have been honored internationally by the Geneva Bureau of Peace, nationally with the NCEA “Catholic Schools of Tomorrow Award/Catholic Identity”, funded 3 water wells in Cambodia, sponsored mine-detection dogs in Bosnia and helped purchase prosthetic devices for young landmine and cluster bomb victims, met with Vatican Ambassadors (Archbishop Sambi and Vigano and have been invited to meet the new Nuncio,Christophe Pierre in the spring) and members of the U.S. Congress, were recipients of 2 WV House of Representatives Resolutions honoring their work, celebrated the 17th year anniversary of our founding by students, staged 6 public Art/Photo Exhibits, were included in a book with 8 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, have been commended and recognized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, were the subject of numerous print and televised media events and received 3 Morgantown City Proclamations for their work, I can only imagine what they will accomplish in the future and indeed have seen the amazing impact our work has had!
Students are now preparing for our upcoming art exhibit to be held at the MONONGALIA ARTS CENTER on February 10th from 5:30-7:30 pm. Please join us for our “WE ARE ALL ARE CONNECTED” EXHIBIT!
On behalf of the PSALM students, I want to thank the SFCC school community for your support. YOU make our “mission possible”!