The first full day at the Global Institute was an exciting and busy one. Starting the day at the Church of Epiphany, participants were put into groups, each based on a famous activist, and discussed their thoughts and emotions with Kids4Peace Staff. The staff asked questions such as “what do you need to feel supported?” and “when you hear the word ‘leadership’, how does that make you feel?”. Participants had no issue opening up to one another, some sharing that they were at first nervous about going to Washington, D.C. for the Global Institute. They were anxious about making friends and being around people they didn’t know. However, they were able to realize the value of the experience and overcame that anxiety.
Dina and Devorah are a perfect example of how easily friendships were made in the first day of the program. When describing why she decided to join the Global Institute, Dina said that she “grew up in a small town where not a lot of people know about my religion. The Global Institute is a great opportunity to talk to people about it.”
She added that “having this opportunity at our age is amazing; it’s a new generation and change starts with us.” Devorah, on the other hand, explained how she grew up in a very diverse part of Israel. “Kids4Peace has always been a part of my household, but I realize not everyone has opportunities like this”. While listening to Scott Rechler from LearnServe international speak to them about social entrepreneurship, groups of participants were told to think of something that makes them mad, then create a solution to the issue that bothers the entire group the most. They presented their ideas through skits to the rest of the Global Institute.
Next, the participants took a quick trip on the metro to the U.S Department of State. For many, this was their first time riding the D.C. metro. At the State Department, participants were able to listen to Shaun Casey, U.S. Special representative for Religion and Global Affairs, Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and Arsalan Suleman, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, discuss their jobs and how they cared about issues relating to the participants. Participants were then able to ask questions talk about Kids4Peace. Dina later described the visit to the State Department as “an amazing opportunity to hear everyone’s opinions”, while Devorah said that the Officials were “really respecting of and interested in what we had to say”.
Next, the group walked to meet with officials from USAID. When Dave Harden entered the room, participants were filled with joy to see a familiar face; many had seen him recently at an Iftar in Jerusalem. When Harden asked the participants how they are going to change the world, many were eager to answer. Describing the experience, Devorah said, “I learned that a lot of people have different ideas on how to make change, and the other participants are very passionate.” Dina agreed and said that “people kept adding onto one another, and everyone’s ideas made each other’s better.”
Harden wrapped up the meeting by telling the Global Institute that they are very powerful, as proven by how many important people want to meet them, and that they should share their ideas with the officials they meet because they are very influential.
After meeting with USAID, the Global Institute walked back to the Church of Epiphany to eat dinner with New Story Leadership. They were able to have discussions with a group of Israeli and Palestinian activists just 10-years older than themselves. This group was visiting the US in order to share their stories and gain skills to make change. When describing the day Dina said that “everyone was very welcoming, and everyone shares the same goal”. Although the participants are tired after a long and exciting day, they remain optimistic for the days ahead.