New Zealand: Marion Hancock

You only realize how far you have come when you lie in bed at night and rethink the journey. I just cannot recall whether it was a village wag who quipped: from small acorns to mighty oaks."

— Marion Hancock

In 1980, as a new mother listening to the news, Marion Hancock thought: "I should be doing something about this." "This" was nuclear disarmament and she went on to play a significant role in making New Zealand nuclear free. As director of the Foundation for Peace Studies, Aotearoa/New Zealand, her work broadened into peace work at an interpersonal level. It includes peace education in schools, violence prevention, and media work. Acutely aware of the increase in global violence, Marion is passionate about children growing to live peacefully together and realize their full potential.

The first magic moment took place in 1990 during Marion Hancock’s involvement with the Votes for Peace campaign. This focused on persuading the political parties in New Zealand to adopt a nuclear-free policy. Years after New Zealand effectively became nuclear-free under a Labour government, Marion was still working with Votes for Peace. An election was looming and the National Party was saying it was going to reverse the policy. One evening, Marion received a phone call from a friend asking if she had seen the five o’clock news. National had changed its mind and adopted the nuclear-free New Zealand policy! It was what Marion had been working on for all that time and it came completely out of the blue. Fifteen years later, she still remembers that moment, and the elation she felt, as clear as day. The second moment took place in 2004 when the Peace Foundation helped a Kenyan organization working on peace education in schools. In January, the director of the Kenyan organization sent an email out into the blue talking about their work, and their lack of equipment and funding. Could anybody please help? Marion received it at a time when she was not particularly busy and so she started communicating with him. Before long, her office floor was blanketed in computers, printers and all sorts of things to be sent out. When everything had arrived in Kenya, Marion received such a wonderful email from the director saying it was like all his Christmases had come at once: "Marion, I am so happy - kabisa (absolutely). Just need to sit for a day and take stock of all this." Such a clear indication, says Marion, of how easy it is for people in Western countries, relatively rich countries by comparison, to do what seems a little thing but to make such a huge difference for an organization in Africa.

Foundation for Peace Studies