"Voice of America" Video - Kiev, Ukraine
Initiative against aggression in Ukrainian schools taken by a Ukrainian-American
He participated in the civil rights march in Washington [March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom] in 1963. He stood on the stage with Martin Luther King, when he delivered his "I have a dream" historic speech. He sang in the most popular American folk-band of the sixties, "Peter, Paul and Mary", and holds five Grammy Awards. And his song about the magic dragon knows every child in America. Famous singer Peter Yarrow recently visited Ukraine, where his parents originated. He brought the program here, which he is engaged in the last 10 years - teaching students tolerance and mutual respect through music.
American celebrity Peter Yarrow traveled with concerts all over the world. And now he came to Ukraine. Legendary folk musician was singing for students, parents and teachers in Volodarsk-Volynskiy Secondary School ¹ 1 in Zhytomyr oblast. He brought the local kids a musical message, which he already has sent to the students in Hong Kong and Croatia, South Africa and Canada, Israel and Palestine. "Don’t Laugh At Me." That’s the name of a program aimed at aggression in schools, which the singer created 10 years ago. It is now working in over 22,000 schools in the United States
Adult violence starts with child abuse: bullying, mockery and violence that children suffer from their peers, says Peter. This adult violence includes racial prejudice, hate, wars and the Holocaust. He believes one can build a just world through tolerance in children. And music can do that. Peter is sure the song has a great unifying force. When people stand and sing together, it is very difficult to drive a neighbor away.
Program song, a sort of an anthem of the movement is called "Don’t Laugh At Me":
"This is my first visit to Ukraine, but I feel a strong connection because my parents came from Ukraine. Mother came from the part that was under Russia and father - from one that was under Poland. If I was born here, my name would be Peter Yaroshewych and my mother’s Virochka Bortko. So this trip is also special for me for personal reasons. And the second reason - my program against bullying in schools, which I promote throughout the world. Children see violence in real life and on television. Children are just imitating adults. But children can break this cycle of fear and hatred. And this is my hope. That's why I'm here."
I'm a little boy with glasses
The one they call the geek
A little girl who never smiles
'Cause I've got braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels
To cry myself to sleep
Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me
It looks like the viewers got the message. The grandmother of one of the students of this school, Tatyana Semeniy, says:
"It is a cruel world now we have, cruel children. And it unites them, we need to have more initiatives like this. One’s soul reveals and the heart begins to sing.”
Student of the 9th grade Nastia Pavytska agrees: "Songs by Peter Yarrow united us, and have created such a warm and friendly atmosphere. After singing we gave each other a hug, I really enjoyed it.”
The idea of inviting a famous bard to Ukraine belongs to the U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer - Bob Schlehuber:
"I learned online that Peter’s parents were from Ukraine, and thought that we should invite him to go home.”
U.S. Peace Corps in Ukraine’s Depyty Director Thomas Ross said the organization gladly supported the idea of Peter to present his program against violence in schools in Ukraine.
In Ukraine, Peter Yarrow gave several concerts and recorded a CD with Maria Burmaka. The singer has promised to return again to offer his program to Ukrainian schools: