It has been a while since the recent military conflict commenced between Russia and Ukraine. Thousands of people from both sides have been the victims of this current war. This conflict not only has an impact on the threat of a regional crisis, but it can potentially be a disaster for the world that will cause many casualties among civilians and children.

Although, Russia’s war with Ukraine has become a hot topic of conversation around the world there are many other ongoing wars currently taking place, but only a few have caught the world’s attention. Most of these wars are in the Middle East, North West Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also a major ongoing drug war in Mexico.

Amidst those ongoing conflicts in the world, the NSW Teachers Federation has recently announced the winner of the 2021 Sam Lewis Peace Award.  This award is to educate students and create awareness in society about the importance of keeping peace and saving children as victims of war and terror.

The Grand Prize Winner

Cut Adzra (read: Tjoot Azra), an year 6 student from Gosford Public School has been chosen as the grand prize winner for the 2021 Sam Lewis Peace Award. Sam Lewis Peace Award honours Sam Lewis, the former Federation President and activist for peace and public education.

In an exclusive interview, the grand prize winner, Adzra (what she liked to be called) showed her drawing named the runaway balloons depicting a little girl who does not have much belonging trying to escape the conflict from her village by hanging on the helium balloons hoping that the balloons will take her away to somewhere safe. In the background, the village was portrayed as being bombarded, destroying houses.

Cut Adzra held her drawing accompanied by her mother Mrs. Hayati during the interview.

Adzra stated emphatically that the goal of her artwork is to remind adults that whenever they choose to fight, children will always be the unavoidable victims.

A similar message was also eloquently remarked by  Sam Lewis at a UNESCO summit for peace many decades ago that the children are always the first casualties of conflict and war.

Adzra has successfully expressed her deep and meaningful feeling in this drawing.

According to Mrs Hayati (Adzra`s mother) who accompanied her during the interview, Adzra is known as a cheerful and caring young kid among her friends.

Adzra is an active part of the community at the Ashabul Kahfi Islamic Centre and the Gosford Islamic Society, having grown up in a Muslim family and being surrounded by a diverse culture, she has a strong loving concern for others.

Sam Lewis Peace Award

Runaway Balloons by Cut Adzra.

The 2021 Sam Lewis Peace Award has a Grand Prize of $500 and other prizes from a $4000 pool which is open to students in NSW public schools and post-school educational sites. Carrying a competition theme “How is peace important for our future.” Students in public education settings including all public schools, TAFE colleges, and other post-school sites are eligible to enter.

According to Mr Theo Bougatsas, the coordinator of the Sam Lewis Peace Award, the objective of this competition is to allow students in public schools to present their thoughts on peace in various artistic mediums promoting peace and friendship.

Mr Bougatsas said that the criteria to win this award is based on the individual’s work who best articulates the criteria of the competition in the most captivating, artistic way, capturing the audience’s attention and embracing the theme.

“This award’s selection committees were made up of elected members who represent teachers’ union members from all around NSW. There were over 80 submissions for the 2021 entry, and sadly, COVID and school closures played role in reducing capacity to advertise the competition for more students to participate,” said Mr Bougatsas during the interview.

The 2021 Sam Lewis Peace Award submission entry was closed in May of last year. Due to a lengthy selection procedure and numerous health constraints, the grand prize winner was only notified earlier this year.

Same’ s daughter was supposed to continue presenting this award to each winner. However, with a challenging series of lockdowns and health restrictions in NSW, the award was only handed to the school.

Well done Adzra! We hope that a wonderful message from your drawing will inspire people all across the world.