Named for the disarming nature of peacemaking and the little part we can all play in spreading peace, LFFP was founded in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1981 by MJ and Jerry Park. A teacher and social worker/nurse (respectively) by profession and together parents of six, this dynamic duo decided to teach peace skills part-time to live out their personal convictions. In 1988 they relocated to Mount Rainier, MD, continuing LFFP’s operation in the DC metro area while maintaining national programmatic partnerships with organizations based in Minnesota and El Salvador as well as several other national networks.
In 1999, Little Friends for Peace became a founding organization of the community-initiated Perry School Community Services Center, establishing an inner-city Peace Room and providing peace education for Perry Center, Inc.’s Youth Development Department as well as neighborhood youth. In July, 2006, LFFP was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit, continuing to operate on an as - able basis through dedicated, individual donor support. In 2007, Little Friends for Peace expanded our decade-long partnership with Beacon House of NE Washington, DC. In addition to inviting at-risk Beacon youth to our summer Peace Camp at UUCA of Arlington, we began teaching a weekly onsite peace class as well as offering in-services for Beacon House and Fishing School staffs.
All the while, LFFP continued to expand our reach by conducting several week-long Peace Camps at the home base in Mt. Rainier, infusing peace programming into Perry Center, Inc.’s summer camp, and conducting other Peace Camps across northern Virginia, Maryland and, now, El Salvador. Over the decades, MJ and Jerry’s strong interpersonal skills—including a consistent commitment to meet people where they are, rather than insisting on having “the answers” — have empowered continually expanding communities committed to peacebuilding.
MJ and Jerry were honored as Pax Christi’s 2008 Peace Educators of the Year. The award recognized their impactful peace education work in diverse settings, with participants of all generations, and through a variety of mediums. It is given each year to someone who exemplifies Pope Paul VI’s World Day of Peace message, “To reach peace, teach peace.” Fellow recipients include Dorothy Day, Helen Prejean, Roy Bourgeois, Colman McCarthy, and Kathy Kelly.
MJ explains, “The Teacher of Peace Award gave us the push to do something we’ve been talking about for a long time. …We plan to create an Oasis of Peace, where we will welcome visitors to be nurtured by Mother Earth in their journey.”
In the summer of 2009 this dream became a reality when the Parks purchased a new home in Accokeek, MD. They call it the Peace Oasis. For a comprehensive description of LFFP’s current peace education activities as well as ways you can incorporate our peace education techniques and guidance in your organization, church, or family, see our programs and services page.
Listen to this great interview with Jerry in 2009 for more on the history of LFFP.
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