Chancellor Robert Muller, UN University for Peace, in Costa Rica, Central America, originated the "Bench of Dreams" and the "Dream Bench Diary" concepts. IHTEC is fostering his concepts through the International School Peace Gardens (ISPG) program. At a conference in Toronto in 1995, for the United Nations 50th Anniversary, Chancellor Muller explained how he used his "Bench of Dreams" to explore local community needs, in preparation for the new Millennium.
The Year 2000 was designated by the United Nations as the "International Year of a Culture of Peace" (a UNESCO focus). Since that time, IHTEC has encouraged schools to develop projects from their ideas gathered on their "Bench of Dreams'. These projects are dedicated by the school, during special Peace Garden ceremonies.
The "Friendship Bench" within the peace garden is a tool supporting friendly ways of resolving conflicts. Students are encouraged to leave their resentments outside of the garden and discuss their concerns on their Friendship Bench. The Benches also give communities a visible place to hold discussions.
Both benches then have a specific purpose, and that is to help the new generation identify what needs improving environmentally, then organizing a program of community service. The students will learn why it is important to care for their current resources, and how to solve the conflicts as they arise when resources become scarce. Resource scarcity is already occurring in many countries, due to population growth and pollution of basic resources, air, soil and water. The ISPG program has already shown that when the whole school uses the benches and peace gardens in this way, that violence and vandalism are reduced.
In Canada, the ISPG program continues to support the Canadian Governments "peace building" strategy, as part of the original concept from the link to the Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa.
Muller's Message for Teachers
"After 40 years in the United Nations I have come to the same conclusion as my master, former Secretary-General U Thant, who was the headmaster of a school in Burma and who often said to me "Robert, there will be no peace on this planet if we do not teach peace to the children". I love the International School Peace Garden's motto, "Nurturing Global Peace through Education". I will place your announcement for the International School Peace Gardens on my bench of dreams, asking God Rasu, the indigenous God of the children, to bless it in its journey around the world, for according to his prophecy a civilization of peace will extend from the hills of the University for Peace to the entire world."