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Speech given by Alex, a 9th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

My name is Alex. I am a 9th grade Christian, and am in my 4th year at Kids4Peace.

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Alex and Monica during our Fall Retreat.

I joined Kids4Peace because I was going to a Christian private school in a primarily white neighborhood. I saw a lack of diversity in my life, but once I joined Kids4Peace I saw kids my age with different views and backgrounds together. Kids4Peace is important to me because I can see change happening, I can make change happen. Since I have joined Kids4Peace, I have taken detours from days at the mall to protest in the airport, taught world religion lessons to the kids at my sister’s middle school, pulled weeds in immigrant farmer’s fields, and met kids who live on the other side of the world.

Half of these things I did not even do within Kids4Peace programs, but I guarantee you I would not have done them if I was not in this program. This is why Kids4Peace is important: it not only has us create change in our Kids4Peace community, but it inspires us to go back into our own communities and create change every day.

Growing up I always had a specific idea of how I should act and how I should be because of the community I grew up in. In Kids4Peace I can share my values without fear of judgment, IN KIDS4PEACE MY VOICE IS HEARD.

Kids4Peace is a name that not everyone understands because here in Seattle we are not fighting a physical war, but that does not mean we do not have things to stand for. In Kids4Peace we strive for equity, we push for love, we struggle for the voices of everyone to be heard, we lobby for social justice, locally, nationally, and internationally.

We hope you have learned a thing or two about our organization this evening, and that you are inspired by our hope for peace and equity both in our community and across the world.

Alex

Speech given by Lia, a 10th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

Hi my name is Lia, I’m Jewish and in 10th grade. I’ve only been a part of K4P for one year, but it has already become such an important part of my life.

In K4P we are able to form bonds and make connections with people outside of our normal social circles. That can mean someone of a different faith or ethnicity in Seattle and in Jerusalem. I have met so many incredible people and heard so many eye-opening stories about their lives, goals and passion for change.

One story in particular that sticks out to me about meeting new people was last summer when I was in Washington D.C. at the Kids4Peace Global Institute. It opened my eyes to a different way of viewing race in the United States. After spending a week learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the implications of it, I was overwhelmed with the ideas of the hardships that my friends in Jerusalem live with everyday. Then, one day we had a fishbowl discussion which is where a group of people sitting in the center have a discussion and a group of people on the outside observe, just like a fishbowl. We were split up by country and we were asked questions such as “What do you love about your country?” “What do you fear about your country?” And “What do you wish people would know about your country?” Going into it, I was certain that the Palestinians and Israelis would have the most difficult examples to share for some of the questions. But when the American group began to discuss some of the questions, I had to switch my mindset back to the reality of everything that is wrong and the racism millions of Americans are affected by.

 

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Lia with her peers in Washington D.C.

 

Up until that point I had been somewhat aware of police brutality and discrimination, but I had never heard personal experiences. When we started discussing our fears I was deeply moved by the fact that one of our amazing leaders, who is black, opened up about her experience with police violence after losing a loved one in a confrontation with police. She talked about the fear she lives with everyday worrying about the safety of her family and friend’s, the way she feels when she sees a police officer, and other struggles of being a black person in America. Brianna told us how determined she was to dismantle prejudice and racism especially in our police forces. It was emotional, honest, and motivating at the same time.

It made me think differently about the safety of my friends who are people of color and how they must feel towards the police. When we returned to Seattle, I learned about initiative-940, De-escalate Washington. De-escalate Washington, is an initiative that would “require law enforcement to receive violence de-escalation, mental-health, and first-aid training, and provide first-aid; and change standards for use of deadly force, adding a “good faith” standard and independent investigation.” I was very inspired by what Brianna had said and it had made me so much more inclined and excited to want to get involved and work to make this a law. We were going to be working with people who are trying to achieve the same thing that Brianna is. I was able to canvas and gather signatures and educate others about the initiative. The whole time that I was doing it I kept telling myself, this is for Brianna and for everyone who has ever been affected by police shootings.

 

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Lia, with others in Seattle, canvassing for I-940.

 

Although I’m still too young to vote, I am trying my best to make any impact I can politically and socially in my community. Through Kids4Peace, I have been able to use my voice to spark the change the I want to see in my society. Similarly most of you might not be a participant in the program, but still want to help in any way that you can. You are all here tonight because you also care about Kids4Peace and you care about helping empower youth to be leaders for social change. Now is your chance to take action to help make that happen. By donating to Kids4Peace you would not only be helping to fund our amazing programs and camps but also helping give youth in our community who can’t afford to come to our camps the opportunity to join us and learn and make these very special connections. I hope you will support Kids4Peace, because all of your contributions matter. Thank you!

 

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Lia and Frieda during the Kids4Peace Fall Retreat.

 

Speech given by Frieda, a 10th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

Hello my name is Frieda, I am in 10th grade and have been a part of Kids4Peace for 5 years.

Kids4Peace is a huge part of my life. It has given me a supportive community and lifelong friends. These friends live all over the United States from Seattle to Boston to Florida to Houston. Some of my closest friends also live on the other side of the world in Jerusalem.

I keep in touch with my friends across the world. We Skype and have a group chat with almost 50 people. I Snapchat my friends for advice. Across a 10 hour time difference, I have deep philosophical conversations with them.

I love how Kids4Peace is a normal summer camp where we hang out together, have inside jokes, and grow up together, but Kids4Peace is also a community where we can do something meaningful in the world around us. For example, this past summer in Washington DC we lobbied for a bill on Capitol Hill.  This work makes me feel like I’m really making a significant impact on our global community.

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Frieda with friends on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

Though my friends and I lead very different lives, we are connected through our passion for making change in this challenging world. Like the students across the US protesting gun violence, we don’t have to wait to be adults to make change.

This past February, during Black History Month, my history teacher was leading a mandated unit on racism and how to recognize it.  As I was sitting in class, I could tell that the curriculum was lacking in many areas that we have discussed in Kids4Peace. Knowing that there were better ways to approach this topic, I took the time to discuss this with him. During our conversation, I was able to share some of the knowledge I have gained and help him understand how he could be more thoughtful when he approaches this subject in the future.

 

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Frieda, Martina, Alex, and Lia speaking about their experiences and work in Kids4Peace.

 

This evening you have heard stories about Kids4Peace in Seattle… Kids4Peace in France… and Kids4Peace in Jerusalem. K4P youth around the world are making change in our own communities.

Tonight my friends and I are excited to share with you a little bit of the work we are doing here in Seattle. This video will show you a small part of what we are doing every day to make a difference.

K4P VFC Conference

This past month, Kids4Peace youth from Vermont and New Hampshire came together in Burlington, VT to attend the Voices for Change Youth Conference and the Vermont Peace Conference.

At Voices for Change, our youth were inspired by renowned Muslim slam poet Amir Sulaiman. They also networked with other youth from the area and engaged with a youth-lead panel on diversity and inclusion.
K4P Prep
The next day at the Vermont Peace Conference, Kids4Peace listened in on keynote speaker, Beata Tsosie-Peña, as she talked about her experience fighting for human rights in New Mexico. Our youth then presented their own workshop, sharing their life-changing stories in Kids4Peace. Regional director, Jeff Mandell, lead the group in an activity to build awareness of how we show up in conflict: including new strategies to participate in conflict.

 

K4P Deklan Sound Booth
Kids4Peace youth also attended a workshop titled: #MeToo and Global Feminism, led by their curiosity to move toward full equality for women. Meanwhile 2017 camper, Deklan, recorded a radio spot in New Hampshire to get the word out about our upcoming camp this June.

The weekend provided for inspiring experiences that allowed Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire to represent K4P in a larger movement. In one youth’s words, “it was so incredible to continue to learn from old friends and get new ideas from new people. I was so happy to hear that people were inspired by us and what we stood for!”
K4P at Ben&Jerry's
Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire finished off their energizing weekend on a sweet note, with a visit to the Church Street Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop.

Speech given by Evan, a 9th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

My name is Evan, and I’m a 9th grader in the Kids4Peace program. I’ve been in Kids4Peace for 4 years now, and I’ve been exposed to many things I never would have experienced before.

I’ve only lived here in Seattle for 4 years, and Kids4Peace has made my move to Washington State easier. In the time I’ve been here Kids4Peace has changed the way I see the world, making it an organization like no other. But I didn’t always feel this way.

I first joined Kids4Peace in 2014 at the recommendation of my youth group leader, and at first I was hesitant. Kids4Peace seemed like a large commitment, and I had just moved here. I wasn’t sure I was up for the job.

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Looking back, I am so glad I decided to join. On the outside, Kids4Peace seems like a simple peace building organization, and though it does do that, it is so much more. When asked about my time in Kids4Peace, I always answer the same thing. Kids4Peace is a community, a family. The people here support each other, whether one of us is in need of help, or whether we are educating each other on the wonders of stroopwafels.

Kids4Peace has also guided me to things I never expected to be a part of, such as activism work, marches, workshops of all shapes and sizes, and summer programs that are not only enlightening, but extremely fun.

 

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Evan, Jordan, Jacob, and Risa attended a march in downtown Seattle — January 2017

 

I remember a while back we engaged in a poverty simulation, which opened my eyes. Many people feel bad for those who are less fortunate, but simply move on with their lives. They forget. Kids4Peace showed us more about people who live with this reality every day, the reality of not being able to support themselves or their families. The simulation helped us learn what this was like through unfair treatment, loss of belongings, and lack of basic rights. I left having met others who have experienced these things, knowing their stories and having a better understanding of their daily lives.

Kids4Peace has taught me about important values such as acceptance, and compromise, as well as showing me more about social division and conflict happening not just in our area, but around the world. Kids4Peace has changed my life.

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Speech given by Jacob, a 10th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

CLICK HERE to read the first part of this story, as told by Jacob’s friend Risa (another Kids4Peace Seattle youth participant).

Hello, my name is Jacob, and this will be my third summer with Kids4Peace. Risa and I represent just one part of a global interfaith organization. Kids4Peace is a group of interfaith youth with chapters in Jerusalem, France, and across the US. Here in Seattle, about 25 participants regularly attend monthly meetings. Kids4Peace also hosts camps during the summer. At all of these programs we learn about social issues, leadership skills, as well as the experiences of others through dialogue, thought-provoking activities and story sharing. We also host community workshops throughout the year, reaching hundreds of youth.

Like Risa said, we’ve known each other for a while: We work as assistant teachers at our synagogue together and ride the same bus to school. About three and a half years ago she told me that Kids4Peace was having an open house, and invited me to come.

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Jacob and other K4P youth planning their activism work around the I-940 De-Escalate Campaign.

I remember being very tentative. This was a new group that I barely knew anything about. But I was also a little curious so, I decided, why not? I’m a kid. I like peace, and it’ll only be a single meeting for a few hours. Three and half years later, Kids4Peace is an integral part of my life, and my identity.

Upon arriving to my first Kids4Peace meeting, I timidly slipped into the meeting room, feeling confused about how to act because everyone seemed busy chatting with each other and preparing snacks.

Risa was the only person I knew. Immediately though, someone strode right over and welcomed me, saying hi, and involving me in a conversation they were having about their week at school. I have never more quickly felt connected with a group of people. A little bit into the meeting, I remember dividing up into partners for a group activity. I was nervous I was going to be left alone without one, because no-one knew me, but to my relief, someone walked straight up to me and invited me to join them.

Jacob

It is the kindness that my kids4peace friends showed to me at my first meeting that we are trying to spread in our community. From standing outside MAPS, a local mosque, in support when their sign was smashed by a vandal, to having tough conversations about the experiences of immigrants, we support each other in understanding and solving issues that our community faces.

Our stories are just two of many, so with the same open arms that welcomed me to Kids4Peace, we would like to welcome all of you, and invite you into our Kids4Peace community.

During the event, when Risa and Jacob told their stories, they posed these questions to the audience:

We would like to ask all of you to take some time right now to reflect on some of your personal experiences. We are going to ask you to think about three things, and we would like you to take a second just to think about each thing in your mind.

We invite you to think about…

  • …a time when you were able to use knowledge you took from your community and applied it to something you felt passionate about.
  • …a time when you didn’t feel welcomed and accepted within your community
  • …a time when you were with people that encouraged and empowered you to be your best.

We invite you to reflect on these questions in the week to come, and don’t forget to check back for more stories next week!

Speech given by Risa, a 9th grade participant in Kids4Peace Seattle, at Inspiring Hope, The Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit.

Kids4Peace is a youth group where we have the opportunity to learn about other perspectives and participate in interfaith programs. One of my favorite parts of Kids4Peace is how we are able to connect our learning to make a difference in the world around us.

Specifically, one rainy Seattle evening during our monthly meeting, we had the opportunity to cook and serve food at Tent City. For those of you that don’t know, Tent City is a community of homeless women and men who live together, sleeping in tents and joining together for meals. At first, I didn’t think of it as a big deal. I mean, we were just cooking food for people, right? When we arrived at Tent City with our huge trays of chili and cornbread, I realized how much of an influence we had on people’s lives.

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Kids4Peace youth after their time at Tent City in Seattle.

 

Earlier in the day, we had learned about how a small action can make a huge impact. We didn’t just set the food up for them and leave, we stayed and ate dinner and talked to many people we probably wouldn’t have talked to in any other situation. Lots of us realized we had the same likes and dislikes, and that we weren’t all that different after all. It was then I came to the understanding of how our cooking had not only affected their lives, but ours also.

I’ve been with Kids4Peace since sixth grade, and the relationships I’ve made with people and the experiences I have been a part of have all shaped my life today. During my time in Kids4Peace, I have been asked to think about and reflect on many things. Ever since I stepped into my first meeting, Kids4Peace is a place I’ve felt accepted and empowered to be my best. The friends I have made in Kids4Peace have stayed with me throughout middle school and now into high school.

Risa

I’ve known my friend Jacob since we were kids, and we’ve gotten even closer as we grew up. Wanting to share my Kids4Peace experience with Jacob, I invited him to a Kids4Peace community day, where friends and family could come and check out our organization…

Check back on the blog next week to hear Jacob’s part of the story!

 

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Jacob and Risa speaking together at the 2018 Inspiring Hope event in Seattle.

 

By: Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Seattle Chapter Director

Remarks from Inspiring Hope, Our Kids4Peace Seattle Annual Benefit

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit our Kids4Peace chapter in Lyon, France, and while I was there, someone asked me what it is like to be living in the United States right now, a time of so much unrest and turbulence. I thought about it for a moment, and then I replied, “It’s an awful time to be living in the United States right now. And it is also an amazing time to be living in the United States right now.”

He looked at me a little bit puzzled, and I think this was understandable. I am sure that many of you in this room tonight can understand what I meant when I said that it is an awful time. Every day brings a fresh assault on the rights, equality, and dignity of just about anyone who is considered to be different or the other. And it’s important for me to acknowledge, as a cis white man, that I have only recently begun to understand the magnitude of the awfulness that so many black, brown, trans, Native, Latino, immigrant, and disabled people, not to mention all women, have been living with for so long.

The discrimination and attacks that people experience on a daily basis is nothing new, but it has become so much more visible over the last two years to those of us born with privilege. And this is actually why it is also an amazing time to be living in the United States right now. Every single day, we wake up, and we are presented with abundant opportunities to make a positive change in our communities and in the world. Let me give three quick examples.

Do you care about racism? If so, you can get involved with the No New Youth Jail campaign here in Seattle, helping to end the school-to-prison pipeline and the disproportionate incarceration of so many kids of colour.

Do you care about Islamophobia? If so, almost every week, there are mosques and other community groups hosting open houses and potluck meals to get to know each other.

Do you care about refugees? If so, you can help sponsor a family while also lobbying our elected officials to bring more refugees into the country. This is especially urgent, since I was shocked to learn last week that so far this year, a total of 11 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the US.

Of course, as has always been the case, if we want to make the world a better place, we should follow the lead of our youth. Who can ignore the power of Emma Gonzalez, Naomi Wadler, and so many other kids who have mobilized a movement that is creating change that adults have been incapable of achieving for a generation? Who would have thought that the state of Florida, under a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, would pass gun control laws?

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Naomi Wadler (left) and Emma Gonzalez (right) speaking at the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24th.

And in Kids4Peace, we are so proud of our youth who are part of this growing wave of young activists, helping to shape society in more peaceful, compassionate, empathetic ways. You have already heard from a number of our kids, and I’m sure you’re as impressed by them as we are, but I want to highlight just three specific ways that our youth are making an impact.

First, last fall, our 10th graders, who had recently returned from our Global Institute leadership program in Washington, DC, decided to join the I-940 De-Escalate Washington campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with this campaign, it was an initiative to the state legislature to require police in our state to receive conflict de-escalation training while also making it easier to hold police accountable when there has been excessive use of force. This initiative was designed to help keep all of our communities safer, recognizing all the while that communities of colour are disproportionately affected by police
violence.

I-940 Photo Grid

Our youth spent the fall collecting signatures for the initiative, while also helping to educate others through conversations and spreading the word through social media. Lia, one of our 10th graders who worked on the campaign, and who you will hear from later tonight, said, “As 10th graders, even though we still can’t even vote, we think it is very important for us to be aware of social justice and how police brutality and injustice in all forms is something that affects us. We in Kids4Peace feel compelled to fix things that are broken in our society.” And the work of our kids paid off: the state legislature passed I-940 during the closing days of its session last month, making it the law of the land.

My second example comes from our Jerusalem chapter. In the city of Jerusalem, despite the fact that about 1⁄3 of the population speaks Arabic as their first language, when films are shown in cinemas, they only contain Hebrew subtitles. Our high-school youth are working on a campaign with the municipality of Jerusalem and the cinemas to add Arabic subtitles to films. While this might seem like a small change, it would have a huge impact on creating more visibility for the Palestinian population, and more importantly, it would make cinemas a shared space, where Israelis and Palestinians can come together for common experiences, something that is incredibly rare in a very segregated city.

And while we love to see this kind of large-scale activism, we also value the changes that our kids make in their communities every day. At the risk of embarrassing Jacob, whom you heard from a few minutes ago, I want to say a word about his robotics team at Issaquah High. For over a year, the team had been experiencing rising tension between two groups that had different ideas about how the team should operate. Jacob, being the leader that he is, turned to skills honed in Kids4Peace to try to solve the problem. He offered to lead a dialogue session for nearly 30 team members with the goal of creating a community agreement that would help to establish norms for how team members interact with each other. The dialogue session was a success: Jacob created a safe environment in which everyone was able to express themselves and agree to a common set of values for the team, something that has really shifted the group dynamic this year. And in fact, the session was so successful that Jacob was asked to lead a similar session for other robotics teams in the region. Best of all, all of the kids in our core leadership program are trained to lead workshops like this.

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Jacob facilitating a conversation with a small group of students.

 

These three examples give you just a taste of the new emphasis in Kids4Peace on supporting our youth to take public action and stand up for the values they believe in. Kids4Peace has always been about engaging in dialogue with people who are different, and that is still a big part of what we do. But we are following the lead of our youth, who have been telling us that dialogue alone is not enough; it must also be paired with action.
And we are working to develop new ways to engage even more youth in our work. This year, thanks to a grant from the Seattle Foundation, we have launched a series of youth advocacy workshops, run in partnership with a broad range of other organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and 21 Progress. The poem you just heard by Sumeya was written at our MLK Day workshop combating Islamophobia and Antisemitism. And the final workshop, with a focus on supporting and elevating immigrant and refugee voices, is just around the corner on May 6.

We have also launched our new congregational partnership program, in which a number of local congregations are using Kids4Peace curriculum in their religious schools and are coming together for shared experiences like visits to other houses of worship and potluck dinners.

Now, it’s not quite time to take out your wallets, but I do want to say just one quick word about money before I wrap up. We have set an ambitious goal tonight to raise $50,000. That is about a 40% increase from the $35,000 that we raised at this event last year. We have set this ambitious target because, by the end of this year, we want to be able to hire a community organizer who can help us include even more communities in our work, including those communities most impacted by current government policies. And thanks to some visionary leadership from four of our loyal supporters, we have already raised $15,000 toward our goal tonight. This group really wants to see us get to $50,000, and I know that if we come together as a community, we can help each other out to get this done.

If we’re successful, it will allow us to strengthen our new initiatives, reach more communities, and ensure that even more youth can exercise the leadership skills that are innately within them. Of course, we can’t do any of this without the support of our community, which is at the heart of everything we do in Kids4Peace

To conclude, I want to ask all of you a question. Like almost all of our youth, I have become absolutely obsessed with the musical, Hamilton, over the past couple of years. One of my favourite moments in the show comes when Alexander Hamilton, after spending months as George Washington’s secretary, is finally given command of troops in the Revolutionary War. Maybe one reason this play has resonated with so many people is that, like our present moment, the Revolutionary period was both an awful time and an amazing time to be living here. The ravages of war were perhaps made just a little easier to bear by the hope and the possibility that came from creating something completely new, as imperfect as that new creation ended up being.

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When Washington gives Hamilton his command, he reminds him of the power and the responsibility of the position by saying, “History has its eyes on you.” That line always sticks with me: “History has its eyes on you.” And it sticks with me because in our present moment, when we can push back against the awfulness by seizing the amazing opportunities we have been given, I know that history has its eyes on us. And the question that our youth are asking themselves and the question they are asking you is, “What are we going to do with this moment we’ve been given?” I think we should start by following the lead of our youth.

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Left: Renee Atkinson, Operations Manager; Right: Mawish Raza, Communications Manager

As Kids4Peace is evolving and strategizing new ways to empower our youth to lead the way towards action, its family is also growing! We recently welcomed two new people to Kids4Peace International’s office in Washington D.C. and wanted to give an opportunity for you to hear and learn more about our new Communications Manager, Mawish Raza, and Operations Manager, Renee Atkinson.

Mawish Raza joins K4P as the new Communications Manager. She comes to K4P after years of working in film, communications, and education and is committed on further driving the intersection of media and action. She has directed and produced several films and has spent time teaching the power of storytelling in the classroom. During her free time, Mawish takes every opportunity to seek live music and new food.

Renee Atkinson joins K4P as the new Operations Manager.  She has an extensive background in nonprofit, volunteer and event management and is eager to apply her skills to helping K4P behind the scenes to make it so that other staff can thrive in their roles.  She has recently returned from a 3 year posting to the Philippines where her husband worked for the US State Department. She is the mom to two teenage daughters and in her spare time loves to cook and garden.

We are so excited to have Mawish and Renee joining the Kids4Peace team! They are both eager to get to know the supporters and advocates that have make it possible to empower our youth — from Seattle to Jerusalem. Feel free to reach out to them with any questions or comments at info@k4p.org!

by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Seattle Chapter Director

Many people know that Kids4Peace operates in North America and Jerusalem, but did you know that we also have a chapter in France? Since 2014, a team of dedicated volunteers has been building a presence in Lyon, and on March 16-18, I had the privilege of joining them for a weekend of visioning, training, and planning.

As with everywhere we operate, the need for our programs is great in France. The global migration crisis has provoked an Islamophobic backlash against the many migrants and refugees who have arrived in France seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in Anti-Semitism that has been frightening enough to cause many Jews to leave France. Against this backdrop of religious discrimination, France also struggles with many of the challenges that face other countries, such as racism and economic inequality.
Kids4Peace France (or Copains pour la Paix) has been working to change all of this. Through partnerships with a local synagogue (Keren Or), mosque (Mosquee Othman), and church (Paroisse de la Nativite), they have been bringing together youth every month to learn about each other’s religion, to promote understanding, and to foster dialogue.

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Members of the K4P France team at weekend retreat outside Lyon with Paroisse de la Nativite

Over the course of our weekend together, we attended worship at all three partner congregations. In between, we spent time as a team looking back at what K4P France has accomplished since its founding; created a 1- and 3-year vision for where the chapter wants to go; and also had fun through some of the games and activities that we use with our kids when we meet.
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Members of the team working on 1- and 3-year visions

Many thanks to John and Brigitte McGregor, along with the whole K4P France team, for hosting this weekend, and for their unwavering commitment to improving the lives of youth in Lyon! Below, you can find a transcription of remarks that I shared during our visits to the partner congregations.

Merci beaucoup pour accueil chaleureux ! Je m’appelle Jordan Goldwarg, et je suis le Directeur de Développement des Nouvelles Branches pour Kids4Peace International. Je travaille à Seattle, sur la côte ouest des États-Unis, et c’est vraiment un honneur d’être ici ce Week-End pour travailler avec notre équipe de Kids4Peace France, ou comme on dit des fois, les Copains pour la Paix. 

Je me considère comme éducateur, et dans le passé, je me disais souvent que mon travail a pour but de préparer les leaders de demain. Puis, un jour, une de nos jeunes qui fait partie de Kids4Peace à Seattle, m’a dit: ‘Jordan, je ne sais pas pourquoi tu dis toujours que nous sommes les leaders de demain. Nous sommes déjà des leaders aujourd’hui!’

Et, bien sûr, elle avait raison. Cette réalité a été illustré nettement aux États-Unis au course du dernier mois. Le 14 février, nous avons souffert une autre tragédie horrible quand un adolescent a tué dix-sept étudiants et professeurs dans  une école secondaire en Floride. Cet événement a été tellement affreux, effrayant et atroce, que dans les semaines depuis le massacre, ça continue d’être vraiment interessant de voir le leadership des adolescents et leur réponse à l’événement. Ils commencent à forcer un changement dans les lois et la culture des  États-Unis au sujet des fusils. La semaine passée, le congrès de l’état de Floride a passé de nouvelles lois pour réglementer les fusils, et ils ont fait ça même avec une opposition féroce de la part de groupes de pression très puissants. Ces nouvelles lois ne seraient pas possibles sans le travail et l’influence des adolescents. Je répète: ces nouvelles lois ne seraient pas possibles sans le travail et l’influence des adolescents.

À Kids4Peace, notre mission est de supporter des leaders jeunes dans leur travail de réparer les problèmes qui causent la violence et les divisions dans nos sociétés. Nous sommes une mouvement global, travaillant avec des adolescents de 12-18 ans qui sont  juifs, chrétiens et musulmans, en Amérique du Nord, a Jérusalem, et en France. Les participants se réunissent régulièrement pendant l’année scolaire, et ils participent aussi dans des programmes plus longs pendant l’été. Tous nos programmes ont comme but l’éducation interreligieuse, la formation de compétences en dialogue et leadership, et la formation de communauté, dans le but de créer un  changement social positif dans nos communautés.

A un moment où tellement de gens autour du monde utilisent la religion comme une force pour diviser les gens, nous cherchons les valeurs et mérites partagés dans la religion qui favorisent l’empathie, l’acceptation, et le respect. Quand on réunit les adolescents dans une communauté favorable avec ces valeurs partagés, et quand on soutien le développement de ces compétences de leadership, les résultats sont motivant .

Prenons l’exemple de Lia, une fille juive de 16 ans qui fait partie de Kids4Peace Seattle. Pendant une époque quand plusieurs groupes de personnes aux États-Unis, en particulier les minorités et  les immigrants, subissent la violence aux mains de la police, Lia a passé beaucoup de temps l’automne passé en s’engageant comme bénévole pour une campagne dans notre état pour essayer de changer cela . Cette campagne a pour but d’exiger que la police dans l’état de Washington prenne  des cours pour diminuer le conflit, et par ce moyen, de réduire la nécessité d’utiliser leurs pistolets contre les citoyens. Après avoir ramassé des signatures pour des pétitions, après avoir parlé avec ses amis, et après avoir amplifié son message par les médias sociaux comme Facebook et Instagram, Lia a écrit le suivant: ‘À l’âge de 16 ans, même si nous ne pouvons pas voter, nous pensons que c’est très important que nous soyons    conscients de la justice sociale. La violence de la police est injuste et ça nous concerne tous. Nous, en Kids4Peace, avons une obligation de réparer les choses qui sont déchirées dans notre société.’ Et je suis vraiment fier d’annoncer que cette campagne a été acceptée par le congrès dans notre état la semaine passée et c’est maintenant une loi.

Je peux vous donner aussi une exemple de notre branche à Jérusalem. Dans la ville de Jérusalem, malgré le fait qu’un tiers de la population parle l’Arabe comme langue maternelle, les cinémas ne montrent que des films avec sous titres en Hébreu. Nos jeunes travaillent dans une campagne avec la municipalité de Jérusalem et les cinémas pour ajouter de sous titres en Arabe pour les films. Cela peut paraître comme une changement petit, mais ça va avoir un impact énorme en augmenter la visibilité de la population Palestinienne. De plus, ça va rendre les cinémas, des espaces partagés, ou les Israéliens et le Palestiniens peuvent se rencontrer pour des expériences en commun, quelque chose qui est vraiment rare dans une ville très séparée.

Et ici à Lyon, Kids4Peace, ou Copains pour la Paix, travaille depuis plus de trois ans pour construir des liens entre communautés diverses. Dans un moment où la tension religieuse a augmenté beaucoup dans plusieurs parties d’Europe, Kids4Peace travaille sans cesse avec les jeunes à Villeurbane et dans d’autres parties de Lyon pour montrer qu’en réalité, nous sommes plus forts ensemble. Nous avons aussi créé un partenariat avec les Scouts et Guides de France, et avec plusieurs mosquées, églises, et synagogues pour faire des programmes avec davantage d’enfants.

Pendant que nous continuons de construire ce mouvement global, ici à Lyon et  ailleurs , nous vous invitons de nous rejoindre. Ensemble, nous pouvons répondre au menace de fondamentalisme de toute sorte en promouvant l’acceptation et l’empathie, et en montrant que la religion est une force positive dans la société. Racontez à vos amis ce que vous avez entendu ici aujourd’hui. Portez-vous  volontaire avec Kids4Peace. Si vous avez des enfants proches de vous, encouragez-les de se joindre à notre travail. Ensemble, nous pouvons construire une mouvement d’espoir et une mouvement pour la paix.

Plusieurs gens me demandent ce qui me donne de l’espoir pendant une époque de peur, violence, et division. Ma réponse est simple: Je prends de l’espoir en voyant des leaders jeunes qui recherchent la différence, qui promeuvent la paix, et qui ont un désir pour la compréhension mutuelle. Merci à vous tous de  nous aider à diffuser ce message d’espoir.