2020 Oleander Initiative Postponed

The 2020 Oleander Initiative has been postponed until 2021 because of COVID -19. All applications for the 2020 program will automatically be considered for the 2021 program. A call for applications for the 2021 will most likely be announced during the Spring of 2021. 

2020 Oleander Initiative Application Form Now Available

UME is currenty accepting applications for the 2020 Oleander Initiative in Hiroshima, Japan. Please click HERE to apply on our sister site 

2019 Activities Report

2019 Activities Report

During the summer of 2019, UME implemented the fourth edition of the Oleander Initiative, bringing together educators from throughout the United States, six countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and for the first time, from South Korea to Hiroshima, Japan. 

The Oleander Initiative is UME's flagship program that immerses educators in Hiroshima’s extraordinary environment of peace.  After ten life changing days, Oleander teachers emerge deeply committed to work towards a brighter future for their students.

2019 Oleander Educators with Students from Jogakuin High School

In 2019, the Oleander Initiative raised its profile through partnerships with the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo and the prestigious Keio University, the host of our opening ceremony. 


Click HERE to view the full program report of the 2019 Oleander Initiative.

One of the most amazing aspects of the Oleander Initiative is our educators' dedication to transmit their message of peace upon their return to their educational systems. Over the past four years, Oleander educators have trained over 870 additional teachers in the US and MENA region on what they learned in Hiroshima. These additional teachers have the potential to impact over 210,000 students.


Oleander Train the Trainer Workshop in Laayoune, Morocco, April, 2019

With over 50 educators attending the Oleander Initiative over the past 4 years, many of our alumni have seized the opportunity to collaborate and amplify their message for peace.

In November, 2019, 3 Oleander alumni and UME's Executive Director worked together to spread the lessons of Hiroshima to educators at the TAELs Conference in Sousse, Tunisia hosted by the US Embassy of Tunis.  


UME Director with Oleander alumni from Tunisia and the United States with US Embassy Personnel 

2019 also marked a year when UME expanded the geographic reach of the Oleander Initiative.  In June 2019, UME implemented a new Oleander program in Hiroshima for educators and youth workers from throughout the United Kingdom.


UK Educators and Youth Workers at Children's Memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park

This program, implemented in partnership with the Peace Culture Village in Hiroshima and Hope in the Heart, CIC in Plymouth, UK, brought UME's unique peace education programming to the United Kingdom during an especially tumultuous time. 


Peace Culture Village logo + view of PCV facilities in Konu, Japan

2019 Oleander Program Report: Exploring the Complexity of Peace in Hiroshima

During August of this year, 13 educators gathered in Hiroshima, Japan for the fourth edition of UME's groundbreaking Oleander Initiative program.

Oleander educators arrived in Tokyo and were hosted at a warm opening dinner at Keio University, one of the leading universities in Japan. Keynote speakers included Shin Nomoto, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies who recently made an officially recognized nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize committee and Kelsey De Rinaldis, Cultural Affairs Office at the United States Embassy of Tokyo.

Keynote speakers Prof Nomoto from Keio University and Kelsey De Rinaldis from the US Embassy in Tokyo

The following day, the Oleander educators traveled to Hiroshima to discuss, analyze and to be inspired by the city's unique “culture of peace” in order to co-design effective and impactful peace education lesson plans for their students.

Following a week long immersion in Hiroshima's culture of peace, an Oleander educator said:

“Peace is not simple. It’s messy, ugly. Sometimes beautiful, awkward, inconvenient and uncomfortable. I hope my students learn to unpeel the truth as they learn – that they won’t be passive accepters of info but scholars in search of hard truths of history.”

One of the major themes of the Oleander Initiative is the complexity of peace. Throughout the ten day program, Oleander educators experience the meaning of peace from multiple angles and viewpoints that are both universal and unique to the city of Hiroshima.

In 2019, the Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from individuals like:

Mr. Horie Soh, an 82-year-old survivor of the atomic bomb who emphasized the need to learn from the lessons of the past.

Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from:

Youth who were raised in Hiroshima's Peace Education Curriculum, the only educational system in the world that legally requires peace education to be incorporated into every level of instruction. Students from the Jogakuin High School shared their own vision for a hopeful future with the Oleander educators

Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from: an academic perspective. Lectures included "Facets of Hiroshima," "Hiroshima's culture of peace," "Hiroshima, When Sincere Wishes for Peace meet Reality," and "Korean Hibakusha" from some of the city's  leading professors

Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from the grass-roots enthusiasm of thousands of attendees at the World Conference Against A+H Bombs

Oleander educators experienced the complexity of peace from the formal, governmental commemoration of peace at the August 6th Memorial Ceremony

and from local, community-based commemorations of August 6th from Japanese NGOs, schools and community organizations

But the real complexity of peace was generated by the Oleander educators themselves. The Oleander Initiative includes Americans from the north and south, east and west, urban and rural areas, as well as Red and Blue States. They join educators from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa that represent the major communities of the region. It this constellation of diverse viewpoints that enables our educators to gain a deep, nuanced understanding of peace and their role in promoting it in their schools.

In 2019, UME included two educators from Korea, further adding to the rich dialogue about peace at the program. With eloquence, sensitivity and grace, they added their own perspective within the current context of political tensions and controversial history between Korea and Japan.  Their voices added another level to the complexity of peace at the Oleander Initiative.

During the last two days of the program, Oleander educators applied their understanding about the complexity of peace into the design of student-led peace education projects.

All of us at UME are looking forward to their work and the impact the Oleander participants will make in their classrooms throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. To see examples of Oleander projects from previous years, click HERE.

Many Thanks to the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Otterman Foundation, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, World Religion Foundation, Jubitz Family Foundation, Jogakuin High School, Yano Minami Elementary school, and the Honkawa school, for making this program possible.


100% Project Implementation for the Class of 2016

100% Implementation of Peace Education Projects for the Class of 2016!

Earlier this year, Saleha implemented her “Oleander Peace Museum” project that brought the lessons of Hiroshima to over 200 students in Algeria.

Website of the Oleander Peace Museum

Over three years, Saleha faced stubborn administrative obstacles, complex logistics and funding challenges. However, Saleha was determined to make what she first envisioned in Hiroshima during the summer of 2016 a reality in her classroom in Algeria.

Saleha presenting her initial concept of her project at the Oleander Initiative in 2016

When the Oleander Peace Museum was finally implemented, Saleha helped make UME history. The class of 2016 achieved a 100% implementation rate – the first time that every teacher attending a UME program successfully implemented their peace education activity in their home classrooms.

Oleander Class of 2016

Since 2016, the Oleander Initiative has impacted tens of thousands of students in the United States and the MENA region. Holding our programs in Hiroshima has been a breakthrough in our misson to promote intercultural understanding and peace. It inspires and motivates teachers like Saleha to impart the critical lessons of Hiroshima to young people who will shape the future of their communities – even if it takes years of effort to do so.

The 2019 Oleander Initiative is now accepting applications

UME is now accepting applictions for 2019 Oleander Initiative! This program is open to US and Korean high school and junior high teachers and Middle Eastern/North African alumni of previous UME programs. Click HERE to apply

The Multiplier Effect: Oleander Alumni Implement Teacher Training Workshops around the World

One of the most amazing aspects of the Oleander Initiative is the teachers dedication in transmitting their message of peace throughout the US and the MENA region. Over the past three years, Oleander educators have trained over 780 additional teachers in the US and MENA region. These teachers have the potential to impact well over 180,000 students.

In February, 2018, three Oleander educators from Morocco, Tunisia and the United States banded together to embark on a teacher training tour throughout North Africa. Partially sponsored by the US Embassy of Tunis, they presented peace education lesson plans to over 200 educators.  


Click HERE for more details about this teacher training tour

Throughout 2018, Oleander educators from Beirut, Lebanon to Bennington, Vermont spread the Oleander Initiative's message of peace. 

Aline, a 2017 Oleander alumna training teachers in Brumanna, Lebanon

In September, 2018, Aline trained approximately 100 teachers in Oleander inspired peace education lesson plans in Burmanna, Lebanon. She plans to implement further workshops in 2019. 

Ron, a 2018 Oleander alumnus training teachers at Bennington College in Vermont, USA

IN November, 2018, Ron trained approximately 25 teachers from around the New England area at Bennington College in collaboration with the Five Colleges Consortium Ron's lesson plan entitled:

"Teaching War and Peace Through Photos from Nagasaki and Hiroshima–Joe O’Donnell’s Japan 1945: A U.S. Marine’s Photographs from Ground Zero"

Can downloaded HERE

UME is proud of its alumni for spreading the message of peace from Hiroshima to around the world! 

A Journey into the Heart of Peace Education in Hiroshima: 2018 Oleander Initiative Report

A Journey into the Heart of Peace Education in Hiroshima: 

2018 Oleander Initiative Report

Oleander Initiative Educators at the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, August 6, 2018 

During the last day of the 2018 Oleander Initiative, our teachers from throughout the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region and the United States had the honor of meeting Mr. Shigeaki Mori. Mr. Mori is the hibakusha (atomic bomb victim) who greeted President Obama during his historic visit to Hiroshima in 2016. He is also the subject of the award winning documentary film Paper Lanterns.


After Mr. Mori's powerful testimonial and the emotional discussion that followed, one of the teachers declared:

"Today, I have become a Peace Educator in both my head and my heart"

Mr. Mori with Oleander participants 

Why is the Oleander Initiative such a transformational experience? How does the iconic city of Hiroshima inspire such powerful commitments toward peace from our teachers?  

What is the Journey of a Teacher Attending the Oleander Initiative?

The journey of the teachers and UME staff at the Oleander Initiative began on August 1, 2018. Upon our arrival in Tokyo, we were warmly welcomed at an opening dinner at Seisen University by faculty and students, as well as members of the Tokyo peace education community. 

Oleander educators and staff with Seisen University faculty, students and leaders of peace focused NGOs at the opening dinner

We arrived the next day in Hiroshima, the "City of Peace," just as it geared up for the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing. 

Panoramic view of modern day Hiroshima city 

Our first activity in Hiroshima was to visit the Peace Memorial Museum. 


On display at the museum: Pocket watch frozen at the time of the bombing, photo of Hiroshima City during August, 1945  

There, we had our first glimpse of the terrible humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons on the people of Hiroshima. 

Our guide, Michiko Yamane of the World Friendship Center, with the tricycle of a 3 year old victim of the atomic bombing

The Oleander Initiative goes beyond the tragedy of the atomic bombing itself. From the starting point of the museum, the Oleander educators proceed to explore deeper themes resulting from the atomic bombing such as resilience, forgiveness, and the need to look towards the future

The challenge for the Oleander educators is to transform these "lessons of Hiroshima" into peace education projects that are relevant, powerful, and resonate deeply within the students of their home communities. 

Students at the Honkawa School shortly after the atomic bombing

On August 3rd, Oleander educators visited the Honkawa elementary school, the school closest to ground zero that lost over 400 students and teachers to the atomic bombing. In an incredible display of resilience, the Honkawa school re-opened its doors for classes less than six months after the bombing. 

The theme of resilience was further reinforced when the Honkawa students participated in an extrarodinary art exchange with American youth in 1947. Despite what the Japanese students endured just two years earlier, they produced no pictures of sadness, trauma or fear. The surprisingly cheerful and optimistic artwork was a symbol of hope and rebuilding from children living in a devastated city. The inspiring story of the Honkawa art exchange can be viewed in a documentary entited Pictures from a Hiroshima School yard.  

Artwork produced by Honkawa students in 1947. Mr. Ishida's drawing is at the bottom right corner

Now a museum, the Honkawa school houses the original drawings from the students, artifacts from the atomic bombing, as well as a scale model replica of Hiroshima city shortly after August 6, 1945.  Mr. Toshimi Ishida, a hibakusha and also one of the students who participated in the 1947 art exchange led our group on the tour of the museum. 


Mr. Ishida denoting the movements of his family on the scale model map of Hiroshima on the day of the atomic bombing 

When asked his thoughts about the atomic bombing, Mr. Ishida told the Oleander educators the following:

"My grandparents were killed by the A-bomb and I burned with anger for many years afterwards. It was only when my children were born that I understood that I needed to let the past, no matter how painful, "flow down the river."

"Instead of being trapped by a painful past and what happened to my grandparents, I made a choice to direct my energies towards the future and my children. I vowed to do everything I could to create a peaceful future where they will never have to experience what my family did in Hiroshima."  

Mr. Ishida's perspective about the past and future was one of the numerous "lessons of Hiroshima" that came in many forms to the Oleander educators. 

Oleander educators explored the "lessons of Hiroshima" 




Classes included: "The Facets of Hiroshima," Peace ELT Practices," "Empathy through connection in the classroom," "Hiroshima Peace Culture: When Sincere Wishes for Peace meets Reality."

Oleander educators explored the "lessons of Hiroshima" 

Artistically and Emotionally:

The Heart of Hiroshima art and music exhibition. held at the former Bank of Japan, a building 

famous for the “human shadow” that was etched on its steps by the heat of the atomic blast


Hiroshima boy's choir at Heart of Hiroshima

Oleander educators and staff folding paper cranes - the symbol of peace in Hiroshima


Debrief exercise using modeling clay to express thoughts and emotions regarding the August 6th memorial ceremony

Oleander educators explored the "lessons of Hiroshima" 

Through Nature:


Oleander educators with Tomoko Watanabe of ANT and Green Legacy Hiroshima, an NGO that sends seeds from A-bombed "survivor" trees around the world to promote peace and awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons

Oleander educators explored the "lessons of Hiroshima" 

Through Hiroshima's peace education curriculum 

Pre-schoolers at the Motomachi Elementary school singing "What is Peace?"

Hiroshima city is the only educational system in the world that requires all class levels - from pre-school to high school graduation - to include a peace education component in its curriculum. Oleander educators received a comprehensive view of this unique educational system by visiting the Motomachi Elementary and Elementary schools and Jogakuin High School in Hiroshima. 


 Presentation about the curriculum at Jogakuin High school and students leading a tour of Hiroshima Peace Park

Oleander educators explored the "lessons of Hiroshima" 

Through events that memorialized those who were lost on August 6, 1945:

Japanese Prime Minster  Shinzo Abe speaking at the August 6th Memorial Ceremony 


Oleander Educators placing flowers at the Peace Park Cenotaph memorializing the victims of the atomic bomb 

UME Executive Director dedicating paper cranes created by Oleander educators at the Honkawa school memorial ceremony 

Immediately after the memorial ceremony, the Oleander educators attended a raucous festival honoring the dead and celebrating life 

Throughout the program, Oleander educators focused on understanding the most essential "lessons of Hiroshima" and what aspects of these lessons could be adapted to inspire their own students.

As with all UME programs, Oleander educators engaged in numerous cross cultural collaborations to help make meaning of their experiences in Hiroshima. 

American and MENA educators worked in pairs: 

Collaborated in multinational groups: 

Exchanged peace education methodologies with Japanese educators

Oleander educators with teachers at the Motomachi Elementary school 

Exchanged messages of peace with students: 

and joined over 10,000 peace-minded people from around the world at the World Conference Against A and H Bombs


The World Conference against A+H bombs was first established in 1955 and is often credited for giving voice to the hibakusha. This conference regularly draws over 10,000 participants from around the world every year.  

On the night of August 6th, Oleander educators joined over 50,000 people at the floating lantern ceremony in the center of Hiroshima City 


Oleander educators writing thier wishes for peace on paper lanterns   

They released their wishes for peace down the Motoyasu river along with thousands of others 


Inspired, the Oleander educators worked to adapt what they learned in Hiroshima into fine tuned peace education lesson plans for their students.  



Oleander educators presenting thier Hiroshima - inspired peace education lesson plans to their colleagues 

On August 9th, the Oleander educators completed their journey into the heart of peace education in Hiroshima. 

Oleander educators receiving their certificates at the closing dinner

At the start of the new school year, the Oleander educators will transmit their lessons of Hiroshima to classrooms throughout the United States, Middle East and North Africa... 


Inspiring thousands of students to launch their own journeys to create a more peaceful world

Congressman McGovern Endorses Oleander Initiative

UME is proud to announce that MA Congressman James McGovern, one of the leading US political figures in peace promotion and human rights, has endorsed the Oleander Initiative. Please click HERE to see his full bio. 

Image result for james mcgovern

Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts (2nd District)

His letter praising the Oleander Initiative can be found below. 



Oleander Alumni on Tour in North Africa: Spreading Hiroshima's Message of Peace

Spreading Hiroshima's Message of Peace: Oleander Alumni on Tour in North Africa

I just returned to Boston from an inspiring week in North Africa with Oleander Initiative alumni - Eric from the US, Layla from Tunisia and Samia from Morocco.  Together, we presented Oleander inspired peace education lesson plans to over 200 educators and university students in Tunisia and Morocco.

Our first stop was the US Embassy in Tunis where we presented to over 40 Tunisian Ministry of Education administrators and secondary school teachers.

Oleander alumni with US embassy personnel

Hosted by the US embassy, this all day study day included lectures and interactive presentations on key Oleander topics. To view the full schedule at the embassy website, click HERE.

Eric presenting "Resources for Developing Global Consciousness in Students"

Tunisian educators designing theoretical peace education projects for their schools

From Tunisia, the group traveled together to Casablanca, Morocco and presented to over 100 students in the fields of education, cultural studies and English at Ben M'Sik University.

Group Photo at Ben M'Sik University in Casablanca


Layla leading "untangling conflicts" activity

Our last stop was Universite' Internationale de Rabat (UIR), where we joined UIR faculty for a one day academic seminar for faculty, administrators and students.

UIR Seminar Poster

Samia presenting "Empathy in EFL Contact Zones" at the UIR Seminar

Oleander alumni and UIR faculty group photo

Special thanks to Abdelmajid Bouziane at Ben M'Sik University, Abdesslame Jebli at UIR and Moustapha Mohibe of the AMA for their invaluable assistance in Casablanca and Rabat.

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