Archives For Leadership Camp

by Jiries, Christian Counselor, Jerusalem

11807321_919913288065296_517511697718386362_o The boys woke up at 6am to finish packing their bags and getting ready for the last day’s activities. They showed each other the various gifts they bought for themselves and for their parents and siblings, right before putting them into their bags. Once they were finished, the campers and counselors sat on the porch with their plates full of delicious fruits and pancakes with maple syrup from right here at Acer Farm. It was their last meal at Acer Farm, a place that brought them together and united them with peace and love. Mixed emotions filled the room.11754494_919914171398541_4925827061641501649_o

11754399_919913101398648_677150522965500689_oAfter breakfast, the boys went back to the yurt for one last time and cleaned it out while the girls finished packing their bags and cleaning their rooms inside the log cabin. At 10am, all the campers were ready and began boarding the buses, all well-dressed for church and banner painting. The buses left camp towards the church. Singing and cheering and clapping made the trip towards the church even more fun. We got to church and took our seats.

During the mass, one group presented their skit about racism. After church, the kids spoke to and introduced themselves to some of the local parishioners. We enjoyed some drinks and refreshments and then had some hot dogs for lunch. Everyone sat closely together for the last meal, while cheering and singing camp songs.

Nearby the church, a huge peace banner was waiting to be painted with beautiful colors by the campers. A professional graphic artist named Russell helped prepare the banner and brought all kinds of colors for us to complete the masterpiece that will be displayed on billboards all over New England. In the background, the Brothers Yares sang melodic and soothing songs in English, Arabic and Hebrew. Arriving soon after we did, the Iraqi young leaders from World Learning joined our campers and helped complete the painting. Then, we presented our 3 skits that we had worked hard on with the playwright Court Dorsey. One was about sexism, another about homophobia and the last about racism.

The end was near. We sang, took photos, and got ready to get back to camp and get our bags and suitcases. The last thing the kids wanted to do was say goodbye to each other. It was a tearful and sad event, mainly because of the relationships that these campers developed with each other and with their counselors. Campers, counselors, and volunteers all shed tears and exchanged beautiful parting words. The American kids got in their bus, the Israeli and Palestinian kids in another bus, and they drove away from camp waving back towards the camp, counselors and staff. A sad moment, but a moment that will never be forgotten, because one day, we will meet again, and continue our fight towards peace together.

by Lana (Muslim) and Yosef (Jewish), USA participants

We woke up to a cloudy Saturday morning with all of us feeling tired and sad about leaving the next day. After breakfast, we split into three groups to complete our peace plans. Next, we completed our skits with Court. The skits are being preformed tomorrow, so we worked vigorously to perfect them. Just before lunch, we started writing song lyrics with the Yares’ Brothers for a song we are going to sing tomorrow. Then, we had another delicious salmon lunch courtesy of Dorothy.

After lunch, we had the renowned Crazy Olympics, which is a timed, team challenge of who could complete various crazy challenges. First, everyone on our team had to wear a freezing shirt to move on. The next challenge was to eat a whole watermelon after using any means to break it open. The hardest step was to drink a whole gallon of water. Some of the boys drank so much they almost got sick! To complete the Olympics we jumped into the pond, which started swim time.

Mary Fetchet the founder of Voices of 9/11 shared her story about the death of her son and talked about the goals of her nonprofit organization.

Then, we had a barbeque dinner made of lamb burgers that were perfectly grilled by Bishop Tom Ely and Fr. Nicholas. We ended the night with practicing our songs and an outdoor concert from the Yares Brothers.

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by Yosef, Jewish, USA participant

Today all the boys woke up at 7:30 AM, because we forgot to set an alarm for 6:30 AM for the morning run. After breakfast, we painted our masks. Each of these unique masks took shape along the contours of our faces. Likewise, the painting of the masks was unique. We were tasked with illustrating the characteristics that make each of us special and a peacebuilder and leader. The masks didn’t conceal our identity like most do, but revealed a picture of our true selves.

Next, we moved on to helping the community. We went to a local farm where we picked kale and cucumbers for a food shelter. With the baskets of veggies in hand, we loaded the cars to deliver them to the food bank. At the food shelter, we prepared the kale and ate a meal with members of the local community.

Returning to the farm we hurried to Muslim Friday prayers, which was in a shaded spot up on the side of the hill. After that, we worked on our social justice skits with Court. We used improvisation to create, sculpt and script our scenes. After the acting, we came together to talk about the meaning of our masks. We had a great dinner and then listened to our guests the Yares’ Brothers, who sang beautiful songs for Kabalat Shabbat. Lastly, we worked on our peace plans for Jerusalem. Through heated negotiations, we discussed possible ways to improve the current situation.

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by Ariel (Jewish participant) and Yasser (Christian participant), Jerusalem

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We woke up in the morning in a pleasant mood with many expectations and hopes for the day. We went to eat breakfast that was made by Dorothy. She prepared us some boiled eggs, fresh fruit salad and cereals. After eating a fabulous breakfast, we went to get dressed for the Mt. Bromley Adventure Park and shopping at Target.

Of course, Fr. Nicholas explained the rules and appropriate behavior while at the park. We then got on two buses and headed to the adventure park. When we arrived at the park, we were guided through a tutorial on how to use the obstacles safely. We climbed up the hill to start the activity; each one of the group members found his or her starting route on the ropes course. 

We had a lot of fun, but with the fun comes the need for strength and courage, we did almost all the tracks of every difficulty level; there was a lot of encouragement between the campers. We gained a lot of experience in teamwork.

After a lot of sweating and hard work, we finished the course and ran down the hill to eat bagged lunches that Jack and Christina had made for us in the morning. We finished eating and boarded the bus for Target to go shopping. We arrived at Target and gathered outside of the building to set a meeting time and shopping rules. Almost everyone got what he or she wanted. 11705773_917877374935554_4232441675164510934_o

When we arrived back at Acer Farm, we ate Dorothy’s handmade, lovely lasagna and some fresh salad. After dinner, Sister Heidi Truax called us together to practice our Civil Rights Era social justice skits that we will preform on Sunday at the Brattleboro Common. Overall, we had a lot of fun working together as a team and not leaving anyone behind and overcoming our fears. This was meaningful for the spirit of our group!

by David, Jewish participant, Jerusalem

Jiries woke me up this morning at 7 AM, so I decided I might as well go and take a morning shower to wake me up instead of lying bleary-eyed in bed. When I got back to the yurt (Tent) I was already wide-awake most of the boys were up and about, preparing for breakfast.

11703415_917495861640372_8423428611353324971_o After breakfast, we all went to the backyard where we played a human-sized version of “Mastermind” and that was pretty fun, even though sadly we only had enough time for a single good round. Then Edward Turner, the founder of an international law organization called Lawyers Without Borders came and taught us about the Rule of Law.

Mr. Turner explained to us how do our justice systems function and what is the Rule of Law and that was very interesting. He spoke well and he brought up questions that were very controversial, which made us think about and learn new things from each other. Later on we had some free time, then we all prayed together and had an awesome lunch (Whoohoo!), which for me was mainly comprised of hot dogs and salad. Afterwards, we had a Drama for Social Change session with Court. In that session we defined all the words that conflicts mean to us and talked about conflict for a while, and then we did some skits, sort of like the ones we did yesterday just more dramatic and less of the straight-up funny type.11754539_917495134973778_719835407030994304_o

Later, we had our fifth leadership session in which we talked more about violence and were divided randomly into three groups: Israel, Palestine and the U.S., and we had to use an iceberg model to display examples of direct, cultural, and structural violence we could identify and then present them to the other two teams. That was really interesting because I was in a group with two Israelis (including myself) and three Palestinians, and it showed me things that I didn’t think about before (which usually happens when we speak about Israel and Palestine).

After the leadership sessions, most of the campers went horseback riding and surprisingly only the Jews went swimming, so we jumped on the opportunity and did a “Mikve” with our guest Gordon. A Mikve is a Jewish tradition of getting cleaned by dipping in the water several times quickly (We did it in our own version of just jumping up and down and screaming “MIKVE!”, not the real one).11782481_917496058307019_8715352717662375565_o

And then came the highlight of the day: we were separated to three groups and each of the groups was sent to a different non-JPB-K4P family, who lives in the area, and we dined with them and learned about their lives. I went with Tom and Connie and their two sons Sam and Peter (who are both 20 years old) and they served us a delicious spicy chicken dinner and taught us about Brattleboro. They then took us with them for a 30-minute walk in Brattleboro which I really enjoyed. I was very happy that local families support JPB and K4P, and that they are so generous with people they never met before to support the cause of Peace.”

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by Nicole and Ayyoub, Muslim Participants, Jerusalem and USA

Today we started the morning with delicious waffles. After that we had a Courage workshop put on by the junior counselors, Jiries and Christina. During the workshop, we had to admit our own fears to ourselves, and then some people admitted them to the whole group.

At the same time, we sent four people to continue editing the videos we took on our cameras with Gordon. We also did mini interviews with each camper.

Later after the break, we had an Etiquette session with Jude in which we learned how to introduce others and ourselves, how to communicate with new people, and deal with awkward moments.

We worked on our improvisation skills, and about resolving conflicts. We talked about different prejudices in society like racism and sexism and made groups for skits that we will preform on Sunday.11754561_918370454886246_3280295842532938881_o

After lunch, we had our last unit of Leadership with Jack. Using our conflict resolution and mediation skills, we began coming up with our own peace plans for the Holy City of Jerusalem. It took some time and we plan to continue our work on them tomorrow.
For dinner we enjoyed some great grilled chicken and salad, and then we had an art session with Stuart. We made little cut outs of the word “peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English.11728705_918370334886258_4239331381902999342_o

And to end the night, we climbed a mountain in the dark, WHILE BLINDFOLDED!!!!! It was very challenging, but we all made it and came together in the end. We sat around a bonfire, just to rest and sing. The counselors gave us talismans to take home and always remember this leadership camp and the struggles we overcame together.”

by Zoe, USA participant

11794466_916958458360779_5567753013237627423_oThe experience from the past few days of camp have become increasingly difficult day by day, but with all of this difficulty actually comes great fun. We have discussed some very hard subjects, my favorite being dignity, and in the sessions, when we talk about these things and how they have affected our lives, everyone becomes closer to one another.

We connect through hard and emotional talks, otherwise known as dialogues, sometimes late at night, and we also connect more as friends when we are doing fun activities. The other day when we went canoeing, it was so much fun! Mostly because I bonded with the people I was in the boat with. You see the fun, lighter side of a person in those situations rather that the deeper side. We canoed down river a few miles to a little beach, then splashed and swam in the river. This is by far my favorite thing we have done so far.

11807306_916958625027429_8890027617171776926_oToday we have had a busy day. We first began by talking with a woman named Jeanne, who was a family therapist. She talked with us about how everyone has a story from their past, and when we shared those stories, sometimes they changed a little bit every time we told them. We then acted out our previously written stories about ourselves in small groups. We then had a guest who talked to us about water and the role that it plays is our lives, spiritually and physically. After a few fun water balloon games, the whole group moved into today’s leadership topic of nonviolent communication and its four steps.11794382_916958395027452_4265135434796304529_o

We also had a trainer, who specialized in theater and mediation, come and do a great workshop with us. This was really fun because everyone got to express him or herself and let out all of their energy. Our final guest was an artist who worked with paper as an art form. We cut and pasted different colored pieces of paper to create something beautiful.

To end the long day, we all got to enjoy some tasty ice cream.

~by Lamara, Christian participant, Jerusalem

Today was a really great day. We did so many interesting things, such as hiking, swimming, and eating ice-cream! We also had a lot of meaningful conversations. We had a great dialogue about conflict, violence and what it meant to each of us. We also shared a lot of deep stories and we were able to learn more about each other. What was great about this was that we were able to connect more and realize how many similarities we have. It is amazing how a few days of the camp have passed by and we are all already bonded together like one family. I am so glad to be here!

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by Yazan, Muslim participant, Jerusalem

11794441_915451221844836_3137224644963309201_oToday I got up particularly early for a morning shower. For breakfast, I warmed up a couple of pieces of toast. The day was made of dialogue sessions, at least one session with a guest speaker, lunch and dinner, swimming, and outdoor activities, as well as card games and throwing around a frisbee. We began the day with a challenging teambuilding activity, where we had to hold hands in a big circle and pass two hula-hoops around. The activity required lots of communication.

One of the highlights of this camp so far, Bill Cusano and his three volunteer assistants came to work with us all the way from New York City. They spoke to us about a project called the “Elijah” project, and presented each of us campers with a video camera, provided by sponsors that have a lot of faith in what we are doing and are looking forward to seeing the videos that we will be making. The videos will be about the ‘3 Sabbaths’, referring to the holy days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the three Abrahamic religions.11722055_915451281844830_3713642335937427211_o

We then had a session with Jeanie, a family therapist who told us about her career, and a couple of extremely meaningful stories of how important the ‘lens’ we wear are, meaning how much a perspective of things can vary from one person to another. One’s curse may be another’s blessing.

11722419_915451251844833_496912809283893935_oAfter a small break, we had a great lunch of kosher hamburgers and hotdogs. Our camp had many guests, which was very interesting since each camper had one guest to sit with while we ate our amazing food. The other Muslims and I (including an Imam, who was also our guest), prayed the significant Friday prayer for Muslims, which is taken as a day of rest in the Muslim world.

Afterwards, I met another Palestinian man, who is a friend of Fr. Nicholas, from a city in the West Bank called Jenin, which also happens to be where my great-grandmother lives. We had a very educational and meaning session with Youssef Bashir, a man from Gaza who came to tell us his first-hand account of his childhood and his very forgiving, peaceful father, who had forgiven the Israeli soldiers who nearly killed him, used his home as a military base, and in fact shot him in the back. We were all puzzled. How could one forgive someone after going through all that? This was something Youssef himself had to learn and understand over a long time.

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It cannot be easily expressed how life changing that morning was alone. ‘Seeing things in another perspective’ is indeed transformational. I’m not sure how many of us can develop as people without discussing the things we did today at camp
Our daily leadership skills program focused on Dignity. We talked about what Dignity is, the difference between Dignity and Respect, what are the essential elements of dignity, and what can violate one’s dignity. We then went up to swim in the pond, had our Jewish Shabbat prayers and ceremony with Rabbi Michael. After dinner, we had a very deep and meaningful dialogue session, where we talked about personal experiences when our own dignity was violated. We heard and shared many emotional, sad, and moving experiences that we had experienced.

by Eyal, Jewish participant, Jerusalem

11218235_914865081903450_3131900374876691632_oWe woke up at 6:30 AM in the morning, so we had some time to talk until breakfast. At 7:30 AM we had a great breakfast: bagels, cereal, yogurt and fruit.

After breakfast, we did some icebreaker activities, to get to know each other better. We then established group norms and rules, so we will be able to communicate with each other without being offensive.

11722151_914864338570191_2656729864667605535_oThen we looked at slides with pictures of different places and incidents in Jerusalem, and we had to write about 3 things:

1. Why are we at this camp?
2. What’s holding us back?
3. What are the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

For lunch we had a delicious home-cooked kosher meal. After we fed our appetites, we worked on our identity, morals and self-leadership skills. Then we went swimming in t  he pond. It was very fun just hanging out in the cool water with everyone after a hot day. We had a great dinner of ziti pasta with mozzarella, garlic bread and cucumber-tomato salad. In the evening, we paired up and made masks. I feel it connected us in a special way. 1782391_914864998570125_2306066087139913255_o
Then we went on a nighttime scavenger hunt. It was intense looking for the clues to find a secret campfire spot, in which we burnt the pieces of paper with the things that hold us back. We also got bracelets with leadership qualities written on them that we will wear throughout camp. One participant said “I will cherish this my whole life!” And now, its time to go to sleep and prepare for another awesome day.