“It’s up to us to teach the children about peace,” was a lesson that middle school teacher Betsy Sawyer took to heart. As leader of an after-school program, she and eight ambitious fifth-graders came up with the plan for a giant book about peace that they hoped would make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. While they did not reach their original goal, they were able to achieve something much more impressive.
The group received more than 3,500 letters from peace leaders, politicians, veterans and other students and teachers from around the world during the creation process. The book is a work of art that represents years of intergenerational learning and teamwork on a global scale. Contributions found in the pages are from some of the world’s most notable peace leaders, including: Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Mother Teresa, and Maya Angelou.
After ten years of work, the book they created was displayed at the John F. Kennedy National Library in Boston. The Big Book went on to be featured at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to encourage future generations and today’s leaders to actively promote peace.
The Bookmakers and Dreamers club now has over 400 students and volunteers, far from the eight students involved during its humble beginnings as an after school program. Growing up with the project inspired many of Ms. Sawyer’s students to pursue careers that help promote peace and understanding. The Big Book has reached countless people internationally, but more significantly in the Northern Massachusetts community that helped it grow. From the project’s sponsors and donors to the students’ parents, more people are thinking about what they can do to spread peace in their community and around the world.