Even for older campers, K4P is an experience not to be soon forgotten.

heyimdro —  June 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

If it wasn’t for K4P I might have just grown up with the idea of hatred in my mind, and without the idea of being peacefully active.

Hailing originally out of East Jerusalem, Sami Qumri was a Kids4Peace camper in the early years, way back in 2004. Originally, he just wanted to make friends and learn about different cultures. What he discovered he gained in the process was a different mindset, one that believes in peace and looks for opportunities to pursue it.

Sami comes from a Christian background, “Not super religious, but enough to be a good Christian,” he says. He’s currently studying graphic and web design at Brevard College, with a minor in business marketing. He balances school with working as a bartender and DJ.

Having participated so long ago, before social media became the prevalent force it is today, Sami unfortunately had a tough time maintaining relationships with the friends he made. That’s one of the main reasons he’s reached out to K4P, he’d like to be involved as a leader and reconnect with the K4P community.

Sami was very generous in taking the time to tell me more about his story:

sami qumri“I joined K4P in high school. We started by forming meetings at St. George’s college. Our families would come and organize various activities. That went on for a few weeks, then we prepared for our trip to Houston. Having traveled to the states before, I didn’t encounter many surprises—I had a little feel for it.

I remember Camp Allen very well. We spent a week there getting acquainted with the American campers. It was just like having fun with my friends at home: learning, building connections, and bonding across cultures. It’s been 7 years, but that’s the most significant thing I remember, how good that felt. That was what I liked. Being Christian didn’t make it difficult at all to connect or feel included.

I always grew up with an understanding of the conflict and what was going on. But I also had the mentality that people just don’t get along and are full of hatred. I was caught off guard by K4P, I wasn’t expecting to make new friends, or even get along. Bonding over all the different activities there helped me to make some very good friends—I loved it so much. It stays in my heart, it changed me, my view. If it wasn’t for K4P I might have just grown up with the idea of hatred in my mind, and without the idea of being peacefully active.

Whenever I think of K4P there’s always one memory that pops into my head, a picture of my classmate and another friend, arm in arm. It was a very good memory, a great image that really touched me and totally demonstrated exactly what K4P is all about.

After participating, I talked a lot about the experience. My whole family was engaged, and so were my classmates, one of whom had also participated. A lot of our friends did not have the chance to travel so it was very exciting for them to hear about. They were so interested, they loved it. Some of my classmates and neighbors actually went and applied to participate.

For two or three years after participating, the other participants and I all remained close. It was easy because we were still in high school, and the K4P staff would help organize reunions to help maintain our connection. After we graduated, it became much more difficult.

Being here isolates the day to day stuff going on back home. I’m more free to move without checkpoints and soldiers checking IDs. I try to keep up with the news, and if it wasn’t for family I wouldn’t know what’s really going on. The media is so different, there’s always two sides to the story. At this point, I’ve sort of gotten used to being away, having spent so much time here.

I’ve been interested in raising awareness here at Brevard. I often meet people who don’t know about the conflict, or don’t even know what Jerusalem is, crazy as that can be. On the other hand there are some faculty at school who have traveled to Jerusalem and are more aware. I had a good talk with one faculty member in particular, which led to me doing a series of powerpoint presentations, talking about the conflict and what it’s like for people there. Students were engaged and it raised a lot of questions for them.

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