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Amid the turmoil, pain, and violence around us: we have just learned that ALL of our Palestinian and Israeli youth and staff will be able to participate in Kids4Peace camps this summer.

Participants include 99 youth, 8 counselors, 22 adult staff, joining their counterparts from America.  They will attend summer camps in Seattle, Houston, Vermont and New Hampshire during the month of August.

Kids4Peace camps are part of a six-year year-round program of interfaith dialogue, leadership development and nonviolent action. Youth from Jerusalem and the neighboring areas of the West Bank meet new friends from North America for a two-week summer program, where they learn about each other’s religious traditions, practice dialogue and conflict resolution, develop skills to be peacemakers and form lasting friendships across the barriers that divide their communities.

 

Follow Facebook and Twitter (@Kids4Peace) for daily updates from camp.  Learn more at http://www.k4p.org. Thanks to our community of partners around the world whose prayers and financial support make this possible.

Contact: Josh Thomas (josh@k4p.org) or Meredith Rothbart (meredith@k4p.org).

Here’s a glimpse into the first day of camp:

The energy on the 4-hour bus ride down to the desert felt nothing short of miraculous, as ten Israeli and Palestinian teenagers from Jerusalem took the brave step of joining together for a week of intensive learning, sharing, and growing.

Opening of the day: Fears/Hopes/Expectations:  Youth spoke about their fears in leaving home during this turbulent time, all who had reservations were happy they decided to come. Many felt concerned that their close friends were not attending camp this year, but they saw this challenge as an opportunity to get to know others in the group better. It seemed that the concerns about loneliness were lost on the bus as they felt they came together as a group.

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“Personal Key of Success”: Each participant stated what they could bring to the camp to make it a success and placed a key around their neck.
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Pool time was a great break from the heat. All the youth passed the camp’s swim test with our on-site lifeguard with flying colors, cheered each other on, and enjoyed popsicles and relaxing and hanging out together.
 
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“Desert Solo”:  Night hike under the stars, with guided time for group and individual reflection. This is always a turning point in camp for bonding with each other, and the land we all connect with so deeply. 

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*All donations to Roots Camp 2014 have been matched by actress and K4P supporter Natalie Portman! We are so appreciative to her incredible generosity. We loved meeting Natalie at our offices this past winter, and could not be happier with her support.
 

by Nancy, NH/VT Art Teacher

As we awaken to a new day, we are flooded with mixed emotions, knowing it is our last day.  

That was in the back of our minds yesterday as we played “Touch the person who…..”  Every camper and staff member sat or laid upon the grass under a gorgeous blue sky and tall trees.  Our facilitator Cata tapped the shoulders of a few people who opened their eyes and stood up.  They had several assignments to touch the person who made them laugh, or inspired them. who had helped them, etc.  After a few rounds, they were asked to join the silent circle with closed eyes and another set of people were tapped to stand and and do other rounds of “touch the person who….”  With 36 kids and all the staff and counselors, the time was limited but evereyone had a turn to stand.  At the end of the game, we opened our eyes and reflected on our feelings.  There were mixed emotions of frustration that “we didn’t have enough time to touch all those we wanted to” and that we really felt happy, surprised, “warm and fuzzy”, and “near to tears”.  Someone said this game connected us even more.
 

On Friday, we attended services at the Manchester mosque followed by attendance at a Shabbat service at the Concord synagogue with dinner and an overnight there.  Saturday we had breakfast after a short service, lunch in the nearby park (carrying all the food along the street…quite a sight), games and Abraham’s Tent play practice on the grass, dinner back at the temple and return to camp after sunset for a campfire on our last night.

 
Today, Sunday, is a Christian sharing, followed by dialog time, packing, lunch and swim before a short rehearsal while American parents and special guests arrive for the celebration of Abraham’s Tent.  That performance will start with the kids entering in a parade of posters, kazoos, plaster gauze masks and song; then groups of mixed faiths will present skits about the three faiths.  Followed by the bar-b-que supper, the Americans will depart after saying goodbye to the dear friends they’ve made, adult staff, teen counselors and all the campers.
 
This has been a week of fun, friendship, hugs, games, long talks, and challenges that were solved with peace-making skills.  The staff and kids are AMAZING!  Our time together has changed us all, and deepened our commitment to making this a more caring and peaceful world.
 
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by Jack, American Counselor and Leadership Trainer 

unnamed-6Session Two, Day 1: Our American participants arrived at 12:00 noon and enjoyed some introductions and icebreaker activities to start forming strong relationships. Hassan and I worked alongside the youth in prepping the bedrooms and common areas for when our Jerusalem brothers and sisters would arrive the following night. It was a good start for our young leaders to practice respecting and giving back to their environment. That night we had delicious homemade cheese pizzas and watched the film “Budrus.” The movie provoked much rich discussion about the Palestine-Israel conflict and how the international community plays a role in it. Our American participants have been showing great energy and willingness to learn and understand from those on both sides.
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Day 2: Today we began with some icebreakers and teambuilders to strengthen the bonds initiated yesterday. We all took part in building a canoe rack for Acer Farm as a way to give back to the camp and engage in a practical teambuilding task. Everyone was eager to help and this energy aided the project’s success. Following lunch, we took a nice walk along one of several trails that run across the farm’s rich woods. Along the trail we encountered a large tree that had fallen down. The group proceeded to remove many of the limbs blocking the trail so that horseback riders could continue along their rides. We returned to the farm for a introductory discussion about dignity and its connection to leadership and the global community. Our Jerusalem friends arrived around 9pm and were greeted with open arms from the rest of us at the farm. After some grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, we all headed to bed to catch up on sleep and rest for a very exciting tomorrow.

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by Nancy, Art Teacher at Kids4Peace NH/VT

As a global faith youth movement, Kids4Peace has teen alumni become counselors and adults guide as Faith Advisors, directors, facilitators, etc.  After interviewing some of them here at camp, I’ve learned that our own faith has been strengthened, both by putting it into action and by learning from the wisdom of children.

Through sharing of faith traditions and dialogue/activities that teach peace-making skills, K4P creates a summer camp experience that is  truly unique.  In my sixth year as art teacher, it is a delight to recognize former campers who are now counselors.  And, last year the Staff Development Camp visited teen alumni at the Leadership Camp in Brattleboro, VT; three of them are counselors here.  
 
One of our staff members began as a camper in Jerusalem ten years ago; he is now an adult Faith Advisor.  One sixteen year old JLM counselor wants to continue her work with K4P into college; when friends or teachers make disparaging remarks about her commitment, it only makes her more enthusiastic.
 
In Kids4Peace, children and adults are weaving relationships into a strong tapestry that crosses the barriers of age, religion and geography.  
 
Together Peace is Possible.
 
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by Michal, Jewish advisor from Jerusalem

Wow, it’s been a wonderful week and it’s not even over yet. So this is what happened so far:

Monday — So we finally started our camp schedule. We had K4P dialogue, Mask making with Nancy, Archery, and….. we started working on Abraham’s tent!  Since then the kids have been working really hard on their skits, while learning about each others religions. 
 
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On Tuesday the theme of peace dialogue was FIND INNER PEACE. We discussed peace, truthfulness and trust. We ha  d a lot of trust building activities, such as trust falls and guiding a partner who is blindfolded. At night we had a talent show. Very successful! We saw a lot of amazing talents, including the staff. 
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Wednesday, we had a really really really rainy day! We were inside most of the day, and spent a lot of time working on Abraham’s tent, and having peace dialogue. In peace dialogue today we talked about resolving conflicts and even resolved one of our one within the group!
 
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Today (Thursday) we will have a dress rehearsal for Abraham’s tent. And then Friday we will be off to Concord, stopping at the mosque in Manchester on the way for the Friday prayers. Can’t wait!
 
 
by April, Communications Associate (K4P Seattle)
 
I knew it was true before I attended K4P camp for the first time, but now I can share with certainty that this truly is a special place.
 
I am relatively n ew to the K4P organization, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Camp for a few days.  I had no idea what a memorable few days it would be.
 
My first evening at Camp, I was welcomed with smiles and greetings from a world of people I had never met, but am now so thankful to know.  At dinner I heard the kids discuss their exciting day in Seattle, in which they had visited Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where the Christian kids read prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.  Later in the evening, the kids met with Hannah and Najla, Christian Faith Advisors, to go over thoughts and questions they had about the service.  I also heard excitement at dinner over their “surprise” visit to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most notable landmark.
 
One thing that has become abundantly clear, just in my few days at camp, is how dedicated counselors and staff are to making this experience a truly rich one for each and every Kids4Peace kid.  The dialogue sessions are an excellent example of that.  In these sessions, the kids have an opportunity to explore their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.  They are taught strategies and words to use as tools to equip them to handle the various emotions and feelings that conflict may bring into their lives.
 
Beyond these sessions, counselors and staff are attentive to the various needs of the kids throughout the day.  Since camp is a 24/7 experience for these eleven/twelve year olds, some conflict is bound to happen naturally.  It has been amazing to see how the kids are cared for and listened to throughout it all.  Kids4Peace teaches kids to be with each another and confront conflict in ways that are respectful of one another and of themselves.  I have no doubt that these kids will take these life-lessons back home with them, facing conflict with this approach.  This is the beginning of the building of peace-makers; meeting them where their own hurts and needs are, and working with them to peacefully resolve them.
 
It is also true that the kids themselves are quite remarkable.  I have been in awe of the kindness and generosity they have shown each other in their words and actions.  Even in frustrated moments, they do their best to express themselves with grace toward one another.  It is something I have learned from in my short time here, and something I expect comes from real-life experiences beyond what I may have faced as an eleven/twelve year old.
My second night at Camp, the group participated in “Movie Night.”  The chosen movie was called “Smoke Signals,” and it was about two young men who live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho.  The movie revealed themes of identity and forgiveness, both of which are very important to the K4P mission.  After the movie, the kids shared what came up for them during the film.  On the topic of forgiveness, one camper, Omar, said “You can’t be angry forever.  You have to forgive them sometimes.  What’s the benefit of being angry?”
 
These words, and many others I heard from campers, counselors, and staff, will stick with me for some time to come.  I am truly thankful for the opportunity to experience this very special time and place.
 
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As a global faith youth movement, Kids4Peace has teen alumni become counselors and adults guide as Faith Advisors, directors, facilitators, etc.  After interviewing some of them here at camp, I’ve learned that our own faith has been strengthened, both by putting it into action and by learning from the wisdom of children.

 
Through sharing of faith traditions and dialogue/activities that teach peace-making skills, K4P creates a summer camp experience that is  truly unique.  In my sixth year as art teacher, it is a delight to recognize former campers who are now counselors.  And, last year the Staff Development Camp visited teen alumni at the Leadership Camp in Brattleboro, VT; three of them are counselors here.  
 
One of our staff members began as a camper in Jerusalem ten years ago; he is now an adult Faith Advisor.  One sixteen year old JLM counselor wants to continue her work with K4P into college; when friends or teachers make disparaging remarks about her commitment, it only makes her more enthusiastic.
 
In Kids4Peace, children and adults are weaving relationships into a strong tapestry that crosses the barriers of age, religion and geography.  
 
Together Peace is Possible.
by Jordan, Director of K4P Seattle
 
In today’s dialogue session, Seattle campers learned to be better listeners. First, they went outside and found a place that seemed to be quiet. Dialogue facilitator Pam then asked them to close their eyes for two full minutes and listen for as many different sounds as they could hear. Amazingly, an area that had seemed to be totally silent actually contained a multitude of sounds. Kids heard everything from crickets to a sprinkler to a car on a distant road to the breeze.
 
Later, the group did a series of exercises with a partner, in which one partner said, “Listen to me” while the other partner ignored them by walking away, walking past, or avoiding eye contact. Finally, the first partner said, “Listen to me” while looking directly at the other partner’s eyes.
 
Through these activities, kids learned that they actually have the power to control their listening, to focus in on hearing important things, and to express empathy through their listening. We encourage you to try these exercises at home!
 
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by Nancy, Art teacher for K4P NH/VT
 
Campers created “Treasure Boxes” to hold small, tangible memories of their experience. The covers were decorated with drawings, dried leaves, driftwood, and stones from Lake Champlain that are 3,000,000 years old, all honoring the earth we share.  Some K4P counselors said that they still have their boxes from the time that they were campers in Vermont!
 
The kids are treasures in themselves, sharing wisdom as they see the connection between the Word of the Day to the active games they play that raise the same issue, such as “Practice Non-Violence”.   They discovered that the game of “Human Knot” needed different perspectives to solve the dilemma of straightening out the ‘knot’ and that, as one camper realized, ‘ the goal is different than the purpose”. Also, sometimes the “Observers” didn’t really grasp the situation.   In “Cross Over The Line”, two teams were both given the same simple instruction: “Get the other people to cross to your side.”  Bribery, trickery, and pulling did not work.  Finally a small group talked across the line and realized that they both had the same assignment!  The game ended (so they could go swimming!) when both groups crossed over the rope, peacefully walking to the other side. We heard that it took adults 3 days to reach the same conclusion for resolving the game (Cross the Line)….another example of Kids4Peace creative problem-solving!
 
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