South Wales Evening Post – April 7, 2007
A Swansea teacher’s plea for tolerance in the wake of the September 11 attacks is now being heard worldwide, as KAY BYRNE reports.
Religious studies teacher Pam Evans was only trying to help stop some of her Muslim pupils from being bullied after the 2001 terror attacks on New York. She came up with the idea of a bracelet of coloured beads – each one symbolising a major world faith – and a simple message: “Treat others how you would wish to be treated yourself.”
Little did she realise then that the Peace Mala, as she named the bracelet, would end up being worn by children and adults all over the globe.
Peace Mala has now grown from a little group of pupils in Coedcae Comprehensive School in Llanelli to an organisation respected worldwide and endorsed by religious leaders like the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It has just become registered as a charity too and has won a £25,000 grant from the Community Development Foundation.
“Being a registered charity will help us access more funding,” said Pam, who has so far run the organisation with only the help of volunteers from her base in Morriston.
“As we get busier we need more professional help. This grant will enable us to employ a part-time administrator and co-ordinator, and that is something we desperately need.
“The money will also help fund the training of around 60 more volunteers to run workshops and help spread the word.”
Pam, of Morriston, has retired from teaching and has been busy taking the Peace Mala message of religious tolerance out to schools and community groups all over Britain.
“The enthusiasm is tremendous, particularly in ethnic communities. The children always come up to me afterwards and thank me for pointing out the true meaning of their faiths.
“Adults love it too. I had an email from a couple in Scotland who were getting married and planning to give away a hundred Peace Malas to their guests.”
The Peace Mala message will soon be reaching an even larger audience, thanks to another grant of nearly £5,000 to produce a DVD showing schools and other organisations how they can get involved.
The bracelet is now being used as a teaching aid in schools all over the UK.
It has even inspired a London interfaith forum to launch an interfaith football team, and all the players wear one of the bracelets.
The charity’s website is also winning Pam fans from all over the world.
“When we launched the annual Peace Mala youth awards last year we had entries mainly from South Wales,” she said.
“For this year’s awards in September we have already received entries from all over the UK and even from as far afield as America.”
Peace Mala will also reach a global audience when it takes part in the Llangollen International Eisteddfod this summer.
“Llangollen was set up after the Second World War as a gesture of friendship from the people of that town to the people of Europe,” said Pam.
“It has grown and grown and is a wonderful eisteddfod, sending out messages of peace and goodwill through dance, drama and song.
“Peace Mala is doing the same sort of work but in a different way and we have been invited to have a presence on the field on International Children’s Day and International Family Day.”
Pam’s vision, and her determination to see it through, was recognised recently when she was presented with an award at the launch of the Swansea Interfaith Forum.
The Noble Soul Award for 2006 was presented by Racial Attacks & Harassment Monitoring Association in recognition of Pam’s outstanding contribution to challenging Islamaphobia in schools.
“Midway through the ceremony, I was called on stage and presented with the award. It was completely unexpected. I was honoured and humbled and absolutely thrilled.
“But what pleases me most of all is the way Peace Mala is growing. Something that I started for my own students is now helping marginalised youngsters all over the world.”