Book Review – Peace In My World by Syeda Mleeha Shah

Syeda Mleeha Shah is a gifted artist and writer residing in Virginia, whose mission is to use her talents to spread peace in the world. In her letter to me, she included the following poem, which is also on her website:

Let’s take a journey to the beautiful world of peace!

Let’s all stand beneath the big blue sky.

Let’s all share the land so green.

Let’s all join hands together.

Let’s reach out to those in need.

Syeda says that writing this children’s book Peace In My World, illustrated by Jason Hutton, is another way she is able to engage and join readers of all ages to explore the meaning of peace. The title of her book focuses on peace and cultural diversity, but the story within is also about appreciating our natural world. Syeda’s book is dedicated to displaced children living in refugee camps throughout the world waiting and hoping for peace and for making the world beautiful by being a part of it.

I very much enjoyed reading this large-font, colorfully illustrated, 25-page book aloud to my family. While reading through the book a few times, I was also thinking about the young children I’ve read with at elementary schools and Sunday schools over the years. Other than the use of the word “empathy”*, which needs to be explained to many adults, the book is a fun and engaging introduction for young readers to grasp the concept of peace, especially when read aloud by a teacher or parent. Because the book does not include phonetic helps to pronounce the names of the five countries representing each letter of P-E-A-C-E, the five languages or the five words for “peace” in each language, having an adult reader to share the book with is most helpful, at least the first time through; this is where the free audio version comes in handy….

Along with the book an audio download code is included by Tate Publishing on the back page, so you can go online and get the audio version of Peace In My World for free. This book can also be purchased as an eBook for half the price of the hardcopy book. Either way, the eBook can be read on your computer, PDA, cell phone or a stand-alone reader such as Sony Reader. Note: The download will be available soon.

For Nancy Isanders’ interview Meet Author and Artist Syeda Mleeha Shah!, click here.

To read her blog and check out her links, click here. To view Syeda’s art portfolio, including art for children, click here.

*Empathy is being able to understand another person’s circumstances, point of view, thoughts, and feelings. When you experience empathy, you are capable of understanding someone else’s experiences.

Taking a Year Off to Change the World? By Tori Pintar

“Take a year off to travel, work or volunteer abroad? The “gap year,” typically taken after high school and before university, is a long-held tradition in many European countries, and in Australia and New Zealand. But the tradition is unheard of in the United States. Author and committed traveler Rita Golden Gelman is launching a national movement to change that.

On June 20th, 2009 in Washington, D.C., Gelman held a brainstorming session with over 40 representatives of various organizations with gap year interests to discuss the formation of a national movement called Let’s Get Global. The project’s mission is to make the gap year experience an accepted and established tradition in the United States.

Let’s Get Global focuses specifically on international gap year experiences, with a goal of increasing Americans’ participation in the world community. Let’s Get Global plans to launch a public relations campaign to educate the American public about the benefits of taking a gap year. High school students and their parents will be specifically targeted. A detailed website will contain information about the programs available, the universities that support taking a gap year, testimonials of gap year alumni and their parents as well as information on funding. Integral to Let’s Get Global’s vision is that gap years be available to all high school seniors regardless of financial background. Let’s Get Global wants to find and create funding sources for potential “gappers.”

It appears that the Let’s Get Global project has arisen in a market ripe for change. America’s elite universities from Harvard to Tufts and Princeton already support their accepted students deferring admission to take a gap year. This Fall, Princeton will launch a new program in which 20 students will spend the year in service-oriented work abroad before starting at Princeton in Fall 2010. At the high school level schools have even begun to hold gap year fairs, according to USA Today.

Gelman and Let’s Get Global’s volunteers see themselves as an umbrella organization seeking to unite and intensify the gap year movement in the U.S. They believe that cross-cultural connections are the solution to decreased world conflict because those experiences develop increased respect and understanding of different cultures. “Connecting across cultures changes you, you’ll never be the same,” says Gelman. “When you sit in someone’s home, sit across the table from them and share their food, they’re no longer strangers, foreigner; you realize they’re the same as you. And you can’t drop a bomb on yourself.” For more information, visit Let’s Get Global: Crossing Borders, Sharing Lives.”

Tori Pintar for Ethical Travel News Team – July 2009. Reposted with permission.

To learn more, visit Let’s Get Global a project of US Servas Inc.