YMCA Peace Medal

A Look at Our Past Peace Medal Winners

From November 13-20, during YMCA Peace Week, the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce, together with YMCAs across Canada, are celebrating the presence of peace in our communities, and reflecting on the peace building work that happens all year both inside and outside the YMCA.

A special highlight of this week is the presentation of the YMCA Peace Medal to an individual or group who, without any special resources, demonstrates a commitment to peace through individual contributions made within their local, national, or global community. The 2021 Peace Medal Winner will be announced Thursday, November 18.

We reached out to the past Peace Medal winners with 3 questions as a special highlight for Peace Week.

  1. What does the word “Peace” mean to you?
  2. What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?
  3. Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of Peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

Click here to see a full list of past winners

2012 Peace Medal Winner

Ann Vos

Ann Vos, YMCA Peace Medal WinnerWhat does the word “Peace” mean to you?

To me, peace means safety, rest and no fear.

What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?

Winning the Peace Medal meant and still means the world to me. I lived during the 2nd World War as a child and suffered fear, hunger, cold, and never feeling safe.

Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

I speak up against violence of any kind. I try to live by being “loving and kind”, asking “How can I help?”. I have served on many boards and always ask myself  “how can I help to make the world a safer place?” Now I bake cookies for my friends and neighbours. I try to live by: “The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”

2014 Peace Medal Winner

Joan Beecroft

What does the word “Peace” mean to you?

To me, ‘peace’ is something internal. It’s a feeling of being good with who I am and what I do. I despair of the planet ever achieving a state of world peace unless everyone works at finding their own inner peace. I don’t believe we have to achieve inner peace before being a peace-maker; these can happen simultaneously. For me, it’s something to strive for.

What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?

I was stunned to be nominated and even more so to be selected to stand alongside Don Willmott, who has been a peace-maker his entire adult life. I was honoured and humbled to be selected that year. 

I don’t like to say I ‘won’ this medal, because I don’t like to think of waging peace as a competitive event. Instead, I would challenge you to do one thing each day to make your world a more peaceful place.

Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

Since that year, I’ve encouraged LGBTQ2S people who are ready, to relate their recollections in written form. Two collections were published: one is mostly younger writers talking about growing up in the area; the other is a collection of pieces by senior LGBTQ2S writers looking back on their lives here. Many of the writers have said this opportunity provided them with some closure, and many allies have said reading the books led them to a greater understanding—both of these, I believe, are part of living in peace.

As well, I continue to facilitate a local PFLAG group, hoping people who attend a meeting leave with a greater understanding and acceptance of their LGBTQ2S friends and family members. Acceptance and trying to understand are attitudes that spread, and in doing so, they spread and encourage peace.

2015 Peace Medal Winner

Colleen Purdon

What does the word “Peace” mean to you?

Living in a way that addresses conflicts in a non violent way and contributing to equity, wholeness and opportunities for everyone.

What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?

Very moving and appreciated for me personally and important to highlight the importance of work for our community on violence against women and women’s poverty.

Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

I continue to work in the community as a volunteer on projects and initiatives that support justice, equity and inclusion in our region. I have learned so much from others and seen a great deal of positive change over the years.  This work is affirming and challenging.

2017 Peace Medal Winners

The Ambassador Group

The Ambassador Group

Christina Beirnes (pictured second from right)

What does the word “Peace” mean to you?

Peace to me means working towards a common goal with mutual respect, care and commitment. Acting peaceable towards others and in everyday life. Also a huge part of that for me means giving and helping others in anyway I can. 

What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?

Winning the Peace Medal as part of The Ambassador Group, for me, was humbling and was also a wonderful way to realize all my hard work was appreciated. It honestly meant the world to me and I do my very best to truly bring peace into my day-to-day life and the lives of those around me, as well as my work in community.

Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

Since we were awarded the Peace Medal, I’ve done a lot of work with my church over the years to promote peace in our community. The words I wish to share with the community are simply to do your best to care about your fellow human being. I genuinely believe that if we treated others as we want to be treated the world would be a much better place to live in.

Gavan Menzies (pictured third from right)

What does the word “Peace” mean to you?

For me it personally means, to connect with my fellow peers in a positive matter, help empower and advocate for those who are under represented, and engage with communities in a progressive way to bring needed change.

What did winning the Peace Medal mean to you?

Winning the Peace Medal as part of The Ambassador Group helped validate the growth I’ve achieved in being a better part of my community. Also the hard work you put forth does not go unnoticed, that it’s always worth bringing good into the world. Whether or not you get rewarded physically, you are making a difference in someone’s life for the better. A better community is a reward for all.

Since winning your Peace Medal is there any other acts of peace you have done or any inspirational words you wish to share with the community?

I think it’s been a hard couple of years with COVID-19. I find it hard to remain level-minded, and I have gotten in arguments over what I feel is right collectively with friends.
 
Though I need to remind myself, we dig ourselves deep in our own beliefs, and sometimes the best leadership is leading by example. If you feel you are right, just lead yourself down that path. It not worth arguing over its merit. If it has value, people will follow in time. A leader doesn’t crave followers, a leader leads himself to salvation.
 
On the topic of peace, I’ll say find peace within yourself. Find your own spiritual connection, to connect yourself with your community, engage with it, empower your peers, and advocate for the change you want to bring forth.
 
Life is better when we give back. We all have the power to bring something positive into this world, so I urge all who may read this to never underestimate your value in this world.
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