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Shuswap Rotarian aims to build peace through pizza and storytelling

‘If we want there to be peace in the community we need to understand people in the community’
Mike Boudreau, the Shuswap Rotary Club’s Peace Building Committee Chair, points to the Peace Pole in Salmon Arm’s Marine Peace Park on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Written in Japanese, Secwépemc, French and English, the message reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Storytelling can be a means to connect strangers and in the process foster empathy and kindness.

While there is science behind this, Mike Boudreau understands how through sharing stories, and listening to the stories of others, one can build connections with their community and through these connections a path to peace.

“If we want there to be peace in the community we need to understand people in the community,” said Boudreau. “How do you do that? You have to sit down and tell them your story, and then listen.”

A practising Buddhist who offers meditation sessions, Boudreau is also the Peace Building Committee Chair with the Shuswap Rotary Club.

This year, Shuswap Rotary became a Peacebuilder Club, a club mandated to play a vital role in “sparking passion and a direction for peace within their own club, districts and communities.”

“A lot of people think about peace building as international, like resolving conflict between countries and stuff like that,” said Boudreau. “And really, we need to be peace building right in here (pointing to his heart), and then our family, and then our community and our country – it kind of works out from that.

“That’s the approach our club has been taking. What can we do to help people become not just peace advocates, but peace builders, have an interest in it and do something about it, because a lot of people feel there’s nothing they can do. They turn on the TV and see what’s going on in Gaza and Ukraine and feel helpless.”

One way to be a peace builder, Boudreau explained, is through acts of kindness. In February, the club reached out to people in the community seeking stories of acts of kindness, about things people did for others or were done for them. The club later shared some of these stories publicly for Pink Shirt Day.

Wanting to keep the momentum going, the club set up a QR-code accessible database at, where one can find suggestions for acts of kindness to do for others. It also welcomes suggestions for acts of kindness, and invites people to share personal stories/experiences involving acts of kindness.

“We’re working with a number of groups throughout the Okanagan right now who think this is really cool and wish to adopt it,” said Boudreau. “You can also report kindnesses that have been done to you and we’ll publish those.”


Another of the club’s peace-building initiatives will begin in the summer in partnership with Rev. Jenny Carter at First Community (Salmon Arm’s First United Church).

“The third Friday of each month, starting in June, we’re hosting Peace and Pizza,” said Boudreau. “This is by donation so it’s accessible to everybody, and what we’re going to do is have a fireside chat.”

The first speaker will be Neskonlith knowledge-sharer Louis Thomas.

“Louis and I will sit in front of an audience and I’ll say, ‘Louis, tell me your story,’ and then let him tell his story, and then I’ll have a list of questions to kind of probe the corners and depths.”

Boudreau pointed out it can be easy to simply label a person instead of taking the time to listen to and understand them.

“Simplifying creates polarization and division, and it’s the wrong way to grow because society is fracturing around us with all of this division so we need to do the opposite, we need to start listening to each other,” said Boudreau. “We need to listen to each other’s story. That’s what we’re going to do with this Peace and Pizza. We’ll teach everybody how to be curious about other people’s stories… and after people will go away with the skill of learning other people’s world view.

“Learning somebody else’s world view does not mean you have to agree with them, but it does require you to develop some understanding of them. When you understand someone else’s world view, you’re less likely to be polarized and labelling and that sort of thing.”

Boudreau noted the Peace and Pizza chats may not bring people at “polar extremes” together. However, they may still be reached through a ripple effect.

“If we get enough people saying, ‘hey, do you understand that person’s story?’ that will spread,” said Boudreau. “Sociologically there’s six degrees of separation. That means six ripples and you’ve got everybody in the world. So if you’ve got one person doing the right things that’s going to ripple… we just need to influence enough people to say ‘hey, what’s your story?’”

The Shuswap Rotary club is also looking for ideas, other ways people/groups are encouraging acts of kindness and/or steps towards peace.

“Anybody that has a peace building idea in the community or is already doing something along those lines, we would like to know about it, about them and what they’re doing and if they need help or whatever.”

The first Peace and Pizza event will be at First Community, 5:30 p.m. on June 21. To learn more about upcoming events, and to share or report acts of kindness, visit For more information about the Shuswap Rotary Club, visit

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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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