As a teacher who has been “at it” for quite a while I can attest to the fact that many times the students become the teachers and the teacher becomes the student. In 1999, I assigned a project to my art students: design an artwork that would educate the public about a global social justice issue. Little did I know that such a small idea could have such life-changing consequences. I will never forget a student bringing me a binder of information on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and telling me I needed to study it! The statistics were overwhelming: 26,000 A YEAR…a victim every 22 MINUTES. We learned that the ICBL had been actively working on this issue and had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. After listening to a presentation by Vietnam veteran, Dr. Larry Schwab, the students cleverly designed a sculpture of 500 painted shoes with facts about landmines attached. Students soon discovered that art can have an important social message that would engage and educate the public.

The students pushed for a school organization that grew to become PSALM (Proud Students Against Landmines)/WVCBL (West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines). These students had such initiative. We soon met Nobel Laureate, Jody Williams, Landmine Survivors Network founders Ken Rutherford and Jerry White and Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines, Tun Channereth and Sister Denise. PSALM students attended  ICBL conferences in Washington, D.C., where they met with campaigners from the world over, national leaders, members of Congress, Ambassadors, Nobel Laureates and even royalty.  What inspiring role models these folks were! They really went out of their way to educate the students and myself about the issues.

The students not only educated their own families, classmates and school, but have reached out to others nationally and internationally. It is a true testament to the perseverance of children who only want to see a world that is more just and peaceful for all.  When asked by a reporter why they are a member of PSALM, a student replied, “We want a world where ALL children can walk to school and play without the fear that each step may be their last. We want a world where people can gather food and water or build safely”. Students have staged art exhibits dedicated to educating the public for over 10 years.

This year marks 30 years since ICBL was founded and September will mark 25 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted. We acknowledge the legacy of the ICBL and campaigners from all walks of life who have dedicated their lives and work to making the world safer for future generations. Please know that each and every one of you stands as a role model of courage and determination for us. It is an honor to know and work with you all. There is a lot of work ahead of us but don’t forget to savor this special moment in time when the seemingly impossible became possible. Our gratitude and thanks to all of you that “Push for Progress”, work to “Finish the Job” each and every day and make this “Mission Possible”!

Nora D. Sheets Coordinator/WVCBL: West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs/PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs Morgantown, West Virginia 26508 USA