Being a peacemaker

merk4p —  August 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-20-15 (F)The morning started off with mindfulness, a chance to “open your heart” as Itai, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem put it. The group practiced paying attention to their breath, inaudibly counting each intake and release, staying still and silent for a whole five minutes.

Transitioning over to dialogue, four adults performed a skit with a lot of mean bullying and hurt feelings. Sarah and Cata ganged up on Julia, making fun of her hair and friendship bracelets, Julia started crying and Chelsea stepped in to ease the conflict.

After watching the pretend kerfuffle, kids picked which role they would most like to have in real life. Most flocked to Chelsea. Romi, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem, talked about how difficult it can be in the peacemaker’s shoes: “It’s very hard to do what Chelsea did. It’s hard to be the only one trying to stop it. Catie, an American, Christian camper added that: “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for somebody.”

After talking about being the one to step in and intervene, Sarah asked the group a couple of good but hard questions: “How does the buddy feel? What do they need?” Kids brainstormed a ton of different possibilities. They thought maybe it had to with getting attention, wanting to feel good but really feeling insecure, having experienced violence in their own lives and bringing into their interactions with other people, jealousy, boredom, and much more. Whether conscious of it or not, the group collectively showed empathy, understanding and thinking about what it might be like for both the bully and their target.

8-20-15 (J)In the next exercise, the kids divided up into two long lines. In the fictitious scenario, line A, while strolling along, finds line B kicking a grandma! It was up to the kids to decide what to do and how to do it. Some blocked and protected the imaginary grandmas with their bodies, others tried saying stop and talking, while tried moving the bully out of the way.

After switching roles, kids discussed what was like when they were able to help out effectively. One Jerusalem, Christian camper, Karl said: “I felt like superman!” Zelda, who is Jewish and from the US, “felt powerful”.

Using non-violent strategies, asking good questions and figuring out what is going on can be scary, counterintuitive, and hard. That said, when we see people being bullied, if we have the courage to help, we can make a huge difference. We can ask “what’s wrong, how can I help you, what are you angry about? Responding peacefully is a good option, but one that takes practice and courage.

A special guest, New Hampshire Congresswoman, Ann Kuster, spent the morning hearing about Kids4Peace, sharing stories and meeting with staff and kids. It was wonderful to hear her talk about how she uses the same, open minded approach that Kids4Peace tries to cultivate, while working with Representatives with all sorts of different world views.

8-20-15 (I)She also shared about how great it is to see kids connect on an unconscious, visceral level, overcoming differences through shared experiences without even realizing that close friendships are being formed. With only time for a short visit, it was sad to see her go so soon!

The after lunch hours flew by swimming in the lake, making masks, playing soccer, and doing acro-yoga. Before anybody knew it, the time had come for the evening talent show! Fantastic MC’s guided the evening, calling up one great act after another. The celebration continued from individual skits, dances and songs, to one big dance party with songs in different languages, both familiar and new blasting through the space.

Even those campers, who were at first glued to their seats, couldn’t resist for long the temptation to join in. Spirits high, kids walked back their cabins begging for more.

Crossing the line

merk4p —  August 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-19-15 (P)A puzzling picture was presented to the kids when they arrived at dialogue. Some saw an elderly woman, while others found a young woman’s face. After some discussion and lots of explaining, most people were able to see both, but then had the confusing experience of switching back and forth. As a whole group the kids talked about how oftentimes we only see things from one perspective, but if we’re open to looking, we can see something completely different. This talk led into a game. A rope was laid down the middle of the room and the kids were split into two groups. Each group was separately given the same objective: to get all the members of the other group to their side of the rope. Language was intentionally left neutral, winning/losing, your team/their team, etc. was never mentioned.

Kids used different strategies to try and accomplish what they were told to do. Some thought of a good solution but didn’t know how to involve others. Some tried to create a really attractive environment with fun games on their side, so kids from the other side would be excited to join them. Others pleaded, begged, bribed or tried coercing the other kids across. Some tried negotiation and explaining. After about 20 minutes, they all came to the agreement to stand on the centerline, with one foot on each side.

In the debrief, kids reflected on the experience. Alexxa, a Christian camper from the US, noted that: “People are thinking about just their goal, without thinking about both groups”. Joseph, a Christian, Jerusalem camper had a related thought: “Nobody thinks about the middle ground”.

Most kids realized that they had been thinking in terms of winning and losing, and assuming that the first side with all the people would win. When asked to explain the purpose of the game, many of them all had good ideas. One said it was to “learn listening” another mentioned “empathy” another wanted to emphasize “seeing things from different perspectives” and another talked about “working together”. They were able see how all these skills fit together to in order to cooperate.

After working hard in dialogue, the kids once again went off to practice and develop their Abraham tent skits.

8-19-15 (C)Down at the waterfront, after lunch, pairs of kids swam around, jumped off the dock, chatted, laughed and splashed. The same afternoon rotations of mask making, sports and games/acro-yoga took place before dinner. At that meal, the much anticipated clean cabin award was presented. Spaces were judged on their cleanliness, as well as the feel and how welcoming they were. One of boys’ cabins had cleaned everything, even the porch, and was thrilled to take home the prize!

The evening was relaxing, watching a movie, Remember the Titans, and drawing backdrops for the Abraham tent play. Cleaning up spilled popcorn after the movie, kids worked together, pausing on the way back to their cabin to admire the stars.

Word of the day: Empathy

merk4p —  August 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 8.46.48 AM8-18-15 (E)
The word of the day was empathizing, which one Muslim camper from Jerusalem, Qais, defined as “feeling somebody else’s pain”. Sarah, who was leading the discussion talked about how when we show empathy, we support the other person.

The kids then split into groups, writing down stories about something that had happened to them. Stories were randomly drawn out and read, followed by everybody else finding good language with which to empathize. One Jewish camper from the US, Isa, felt moved by one story: “I’m really sorry for whoever that happened to, because that sounds terrible.” After dialogue, Abraham tent groups met to start figuring out their skits for Sunday’s big show!

The afternoon was split between swim test and three rotations. Groups either made plaster masks, played sports, or did group games/acro-yoga. For two hours after dinner, preparations were hurriedly made for the upcoming talent show! Cartwheels were practiced, songs were rehearsed, dances were taught and many surprises were devised. The rhythm of camp life is definitely setting in.

8-18-15 (D)

by Jill and Shafiq, Kids4Peace Jerusalem Parents Facilitators
IMG_3952Shafiq and I want to share our enthusiasm, while it is fresh, following tonight’s meeting with the parents. This was the first time ever at K4P that we have created a space for the parents to connect and express their feelings WHILE their children are in the States at camp.
And how that gesture was appreciated! They were so thankful to Kids4Peace and the opportunities as parents to connect, not just with their children. This feels like a sign of true success to hear this much positive feedback from the parents.

As they walked into the room, with phones in hand the parents  began to look at the photos on their phones and identify each other’s children. This brought so much joy into the room….as they laughed over the pictures….and weren’t just looking for THEIR child, but knew the other children’s faces and names! This is clearly connected to the fact that our pilot program gave them the chance over the last many months at the America House as parents to also feel the sense of community. IMG_3957

There clearly was a feeling of familiarity in the room. Not just between the parents in each camp, but also between the camps since they have been seeing each other over the past many months.  It turns out that the parents have remained in constant touch with each other via a group on Whatsapp knowing that they are distant from their kids, but still wanting to be in contact with each other to share the experience.

When Shafiq and I walked out onto the street after summarizing together we were so happily surprised  to see that the  parents were STILL mingling…they just didn’t want to leave each other! Now that was the best form of encouragement –and we hope in the coming year that we can continue to expand the program. we can find new areas to grow and encourage the parents as well to plant their seeds as we all make change in this city which desperately needs our input and leadership modeling!
IMG_3953 IMG_3954 IMG_3955 IMG_3956  IMG_3948 IMG_3949 IMG_3950  IMG_3947

Reaching new heights

merk4p —  August 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-17-15 (H)Mixing things up a bit, Monday was ropes course day! After a few big activities with everyone, the campers went into smaller groups to play cooperative games and meet their ropes course facilitators.

Eventually everyone headed off to the woods, working with the low ropes, logs, swings, and platforms. At lunch Talia, a Muslim camper from Jerusalem, reported her experience: “When I first went on the rope I felt like I was in a video, I felt like I was flying!” She also shared her thoughts on what the afternoon with the high ropes would be like: “I’m afraid of heights so I’m a little nervous. But I also like adventures! This will be my adventure.”

Sure enough, everybody’s toes where high in air that afternoon. Kids perched on top of log, called the catwalk, strolled across a bridge made of just a single wire, clambered up a climbing wall, and scrambled up a vertical playground of obstacles. On the walk back to the cabins, another Muslim Jerusalem camper, Mona, shared her experience. “It was fun! I was a little nervous but then it turned out to be so easy!”

After dinner, campers crowded around a new project, writing appreciation and encouragement cards for their friends. As notes were written and delivered, kids shyly peeked into their bags, seeing if anybody had left them a little something and having a hard time resisting the temptation to read them. Nancy, the art teacher, made it very clear that notes can only be read on the way home. It’s going to be hard to wait.

The evening consisted of a huge soccer game, with almost everybody playing, topped off with a good old campfire, songs and s’mores. Even though everyone was tired, it was hard to tear them away from the fire and fun and take them to bed. It’s only been a day, but this new site is already feeling like home.

8-17-15 (G) 8-17-15 (F)

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-16-15 (A)The day started early, finishing up packing before breakfast and getting dressed for church. It was a struggle to get all the luggage packed into the bus, but somehow everybody and everything made it in time to the Cathedral.

Bishop Tom, a well-known face from the previous days and the ice cream social, preached, giving special attention to Kids4Peace. Christian campers were able to participate in the service, lecturing and alter serving. During the homily, the entire group performed the Kids4Peace chant as well as taught the congregation a song called Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

Afterwards, the Bishop answered questions about the church, his vestments, and Christianity as well as demonstrated the rather complicated way of putting on his hat. When he finished, there was a line nearly out the door to try it on!

8-16-15 (C)After that, it was back on the bus for a short ride to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory! Two tour groups made up of campers and staff, marveled at the big machinery and sampled a delicious cup of caramel swirl chip in the flavor room. Respects were paid at the Flavor Graveyard, mourning the loss of some delectable blends.

The next several hours were spent on the bus. Tired, hot and full of people, it was ride that tested everyone’s tenacity and tolerance. It took a bit longer than expected, but everyone arrived safety to New Hampshire. After a good dinner, the kids settled into their cabins for the night, eager to see their new surroundings in the daylight.8-16-15 (B)8-16-15 (G)

Finding a group rhythm

merk4p —  August 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-15-15 (A)Knowing how to ask for a translation is one thing, but getting someone to listen to you in something else entirely. Without listening, there is no way to hold attention or communicate ideas. With three languages, the voices of thirty kids, and hundreds of ideas, it’s a big jumble and there’s no way to untangle it.

In dialogue, campers practiced their listening, walking around, following each other, asking for other kids to give them attention, and feeling what it’s like to be ignored. They reflected on the experience and how to actively listen, even if they can’t understand.

The afternoon involved their first swim, in the beautiful waters of Lake Champlain, and a much-anticipated ice cream social. Supporters, alumni and families of Kids4Peace all gathered, listening to the Founder, the Bishop of Vermont, and the Board President as they shared remarks, before eagerly digging into five different flavors of Ben & Jerry’s euphoric ice cream.

In the evening, the kids had some free time to play and pack for the big move to New Hampshire. Maybe it was the listening work in the morning, maybe it was having spent a couple of days together, or maybe it was the magic of Ben and Jerry’s, but there was a palpable shift in the group dynamic. Games started and ended without any difficulty, groups grew, shrunk and shifted without anyone feeling left out, and invitations to play were extended. It was as if the jumble of crossed communication had eased, and a group rhythm was found.8-15-15 (D)

by Kids4Peace youth at Boston camp

8-10-15 (E)Ariel: It’s important to be friends with different people because you get to learn different things from that friendship instead of just being friends with the same people and staying the same.

Talia: So we can have friends with other perspectives and see where they’re coming from. And to be nice to people who are different from you so you can peaceful with them.

Zayn: It feels a little weird and confusing. Since it would be hard to pick a thing to do. In the end you might end up liking an activity/game/sport that they had fun doing and you used to not have fun with. You can still get a long but it may be a little more difficult. So a way to help make it go faster is see everything in their perspective.

Emma: You may not have a lot of things in common, so you will have to accept each other’s differences. But, you can also learn a lot from your differences and similarities, which will help you and your friend become good friends.

Ali: Weird, hard, funny. You can learn to like the differences.

Victoria: It’s fun but kind of weird at the same time like you don’t really know what to talk about but you learn why they like and maybe you even start to like it too. In a few words: fun, awkward, interesting, cool, scary. You learn a new perspective like I may love soccer and basketball but they may hate it so you can see why they hate it and make them like it or maybe you may start hating it.

Yuval: not different

Nur: I think it’s very good because you meet new friends that they different, and learn a new things from them. I think that in this way we can do the peace and to meet new difference peoples.

Yovel: You learn a lot of different words from a lot of different languages.

Filling up in NH/VT

merk4p —  August 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-14-15 (B)The second full day of camp started off learning how to ask for a translation. Sarah, the dialogue facilitator, and Chelsea, the interfaith advisor, demonstrated with a little bit of frantic Spanish. In the next activity, kids stepped into the circle, telling the group something about themselves, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes Hebrew, oftentimes English. The room was always full of voices sharing and translating.

Next, the kids split into peace groups to draw maps of what is most important to them. For many that included their family, their friends, their faith, their pets, and a few of their favorite things to do. After completing their maps, the groups shared among themselves, looking at the similarities and differences in each one.

When the dialogue session came to an end, there was a scurry of activity as the girls helped each other put on headscarves, and everybody climbed onto the bus and headed out to visit a mosque. Upon arrival, a delicious homemade feast was waiting. Walking around the space, one American camper Will, who is Christian said, “This place is really cool! It’s so different from my church but its got the same nice feeling. If I were Muslim, I think I’d really like coming here every week.”

For the service, the girls went upstairs where they could see what was happening on a screen. The Christian and Jewish campers sat in an arc around the space, observing the prayers. Afterwards, the group met with the imam, and learned about the special carpet design for praying, and much more about the mosque as well as the traditions and beliefs of Islam.

The afternoon was spent shopping on Church Street, Burlington’s famous pedestrian walkway. The Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the most popular places to visit.

A little tired out, groups then walked to the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue to meet with the Rabbi. Her chat went right into the Friday evening Shabbat service welcoming in the Jewish day of rest. After blessing and sharing grape juice and challah, the entire group walked back to Rock Point, singing the Kids4Peace chant and chatting among themselves. It was a full day in every way possible.

8-14-15 (H) 8-14-15 (G)

Houston camp visits NASA

merk4p —  August 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Dala, Muslim Counselor, K4P Jerusalem

unnamedIt was our last day at Camp Allen, so we ate breakfast and headed to NASA and now we’re spending this one night at the Clear Lake Islamic Center. Our big adventure of the day began in NASA. We ate lunch there and we had a slideshow about the background and current events of NASA.

Brian Duffy is a famous astronaut that we met today at NASA, who told us multiple stories of his experiences; some were happy and some were about difficulties he’s had during missions.

Each group went with one NASA staff member to have a guided tour all around the NASA museum, and the kids were amazed by each different step they were guided. We even saw what astronauts eat during their journey to the moon and what their restrooms look like.

We arrived at the Islamic center in time for dinner; then we will be leaving in the morning for the Cathedral church tomorrow.

The next mission for the astronauts is to land on Mars, so we’re hoping in the near future that Mars will have human footprints on it, just like the moon.

Everything is possible, if you BELEIVE.

“I am very happy I had the chance to visit NASA today. I got to see things I have never seen before in my life.” -Shahd, 13, Muslim

“We spend our time today with the astronauts it was an amazing time. We also watched a movie on a huge screen. It was a great time to be spent at.” -Cleo, 13, Christian