Archives For Chapters

by Jordan Goldwarg, Kids4Peace Director of Chapter Development

On Saturday, October 28, a group of friends gathered in a home in Seattle for dinner. They came together for a facilitated discussion about this question: What is one thing that is frustrating you right now about our city/country/world? What in your personal experience makes you care about this thing? How are you acting on those frustrations (if at all)?

The hosts of the dinner, Emily Patton and Matt Oppenheimer, are longtime supporters of Kids4Peace. They value the work that Kids4Peace does to build a community of interfaith youth peace leaders, but they were also looking for the opportunity to have their friends experience the magic of Kids4Peace. This led them to invite people to dinner to see for themselves the power of the honest dialogue that Kids4Peace helps facilitate.

After an hour of conversation about the night’s question, the evening culminated with the creation of Team Oppily (a combination of “Oppenheimer” and Emily”), a Kids4Peace giving circle. A giving circle is a group of friends who come together to support a cause in a variety of ways. Financial support can be an important aspect of a giving circle, but Team Oppily will also be giving to Kids4Peace through things such as providing snacks for youth meetings, mentoring youth through sharing their experiences during K4P meetings, and helping to set up for larger K4P events.

image1

The first gathering of Team Oppily!

 

Team Oppily is also pooling financial resources to provide a matching challenge for Kids4Peace’s year-end fundraising efforts in Seattle. They will match up to $1500 in year-end gifts, essentially allowing people to double the power of their contributions.

“All of us have experienced frustrating things in our lives,” said Emily. “While some people may resort to hopelessness, I am continually inspired by the youth and adults involved in Kids4Peace. I talk about the program all the time, so I wanted to find a way to have my closest circle of people reach a more comprehensive understanding of Kids4Peace, too. It was a really meaningful evening and I’m so grateful for our friends who were able to attend the dinner and commit to giving of their time and resources.”

We thank Emily, Matt, and all of Team Oppily for their commitment to building peace in our communities! If you are interested in starting a Kids4Peace giving circle, please contact Jordan Goldwarg, Director of Chapter Development, at jordan@k4p.org.

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, youth in Seattle and Cincinnati gathered with their communities for an afternoon of learning and friendship. Here is just a little taste of what the day held for everyone!

In Seattle…

Our October meeting was busy! Chances are we all left feeling a little overwhelmed, but in the best possible way. The school year is shaping up to be full of continued learning, advocacy work, planning and running workshops for other youth in the community, diving deeper into case studies of conflict, critically examining current events, and so much more!

DSC_0940

DSC_0903

Some highlights:

Our 10th graders, fresh from spending part of their summer in Washington DC, are taking on some local advocacy work with the De-Escalate Washington Campaign.

Our 9th graders are spending the year preparing for their trip to Washington DC next summer. They will be continuing to hone their leadership skills and deepen their understanding of advocacy. We started out their preparation with a crash course in the structure of the United States Government! The 9th graders will also be working together to plan and implement a workshop for younger youth later in the year, a workshop that will share some of the core messages of our work in Kids4Peace!

Our middle school students began the year critically examining some stories of conflict that we find in the sacred scripture of our religious traditions. This began their journey of exploring conflicts from around the world in preparation for heading to International Camp next summer with youth from both the United States and Jerusalem.

DSC_0912

Finally, we all worked together to begin planning our upcoming holiday celebrations – a time when our whole community can come together and share about our personal family traditions and the holidays we celebrate throughout the year. Our youth were excited to serve as party planners for this event and we can’t wait to celebrate together at our first event on November 4th!

In Cincinnati…

What do eight campers, twelve staff members, 40 plants, and one arching tree all have in common? Kids4Peace, of course! The Cincinnati chapter gathered on Sunday for a tree planting ceremony in Cincinnati’s historic cemetery, Spring Grove Cemetery. Having purchased a ‘peace plot’ earlier this year, participants were able to plant some seeds and saplings in the ground, leaving a remnant of their work and love for K4P.

After two months of being apart, the community came together with families and staff to celebrate the season of fall. It was a gorgeous day for planting. With running and jumping embraces youth greeted old friends who they had not seen since August. Shouts and laughter were exchanged over bags of chips and trowels. Hands and knees were strained, digging and planting in the soft ground. A lovely time was had.

IMG_5611

After the participants finished planting—dandelions, roses, sunflowers and one large tree—we gathered together for a tree-planting service to make the day more sacred. Bible verses, poetry, and prayers from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were shared and chanted. Songs were sung; and cheers were shouted.

PeacegardenF10222017DSC_0969_edited-1

The day was wrapped up with a historical tour of the cemetery. The campers got an up close look at some of the monuments and mausoleums. Some even got close to the swans and snails that lined the lakes and ponds’ surfaces. It was a day of becoming close with another and with nature. Our community remains strong, as we continue to grow together from the same root. What an exciting day it was!

IMG_5622

The Cincinnati chapter will get together again in just two weeks on November 10th to worship with the Islamic Center in Westchester, Ohio.

For more photos from these events see the Seattle or Cincinnati Facebook page!

Posted by: Viktorina, Kids4Peace Seattle Communications Intern

On October 8th, 2017, 25 youth participants gathered at the University of Washington to explore some of the differences that can divide us. More importantly, participants and facilitators worked together to strategize how we can overcome difference and step out of our comfort zone to get to know others that we encounter in our daily lives.

The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) and OneWorld Now! (OWN) brought activities and wisdom from their experiences working with diverse youth, joining Kids4Peace Seattle to organize this workshop, which drew youth from around the Greater Seattle area.

dsc_0765-e1507597830297.jpg

As the middle and high school participants gathered they had the opportunity to engage in different activities. From exploring the different religious traditions to being introduced to the many ways to say “hello” around the world, participants began actively thinking about the things that divide us, and their own reactions to these things. The participants became conscious about differences in age, culture, gender, and more, before moving into deeper learning about languages with OWN and cultural differences with FIUTS.

DSC_0759

 

Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a person in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to a person in their language, that goes to their heart.” As youth began their breakout session with OWN, participants got the hang of phrases in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and French, learning a variety of survival phrases like “Hi, Bye, Yes, No, Thank You, Where is the Bathroom, etc”. Not only did they learn to communicate by speaking, they learned how to communicate with their actions.

This exploration of language introduced the youth to challenges they may face when meeting different people. As this session came to a close, youth reflected on the importance of language as a means of connecting with people across language barriers, and began to build empathy and deeper understanding as they encounters others in the future.

DSC_0857

The breakout session with FIUTS began by assigning a few people in the group a specific behavior. Because some of these behaviors were a little bit silly, this immediately broke the ice and began a deep discussion on what it is like when your actions, specifically the ones rooted in your culture, are misunderstood by those around you. Using the analogy of an iceberg, youth explored the 20 percent of culture that is visible above the surface, and the other 80 percent hidden under the water. The fact that you may only see a small part of a person requires the often difficult work of digging deeper to become aware of the things that make them unique.

DSC_0859

As the event came to a close, whether it meant telling a friend about what they had learned, writing a story for their school newspaper, or posting on social media some of their takeaways (#dialogueacrossdifference), all of the participants were challenged to find a way to take action in the coming week!

Just as we asked all of our youth participants, how can you be inspired to engage in conversation with someone who is different than you?

Written by: Viktorina, Kids4Peace Seattle Communications Intern

In honor of the United Nations International Day of Peace, celebrated annually on September 21st, youth in Kids4Peace Seattle share their reflections on peace:

“Peace is the acceptance of others in all communities across the world.”

–Jacob, 10th Grade

Dialogue - Three Photos

“Life is a constant battle for peace. Those who choose to advocate are the warriors.”

–Tallulah, 10th Grade

IMG-20170720-WA0021

“Peace is the bridge between anger and love.”

–Alex, 9th Grade

20161125_120347

“We can find peace everywhere, we just have to look.”

–Annabelle, 8th Grade

This past spring, youth from Seattle shared about their experiences in KidsPeace. Together they shared their story about the meaning and impact of this work in their lives and in their communities. As you hear their story in the video below, we invite you to reflect on your own stories and definitions of peace.

We truly believe that together, peace is possible.

Under Pressure

Kids4Peace —  July 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

Contributors: Ada (8th grade, NH), Deklan (7th grade, NH), and Fiona (Counselor, NY). 

As the rehearsals for the musical dramatic event “Peace Child” are in full swing, the campers and staff of Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire’s first year camp are beginning to feel the challenges of memorizing, staging, and mounting a production. Fiona, a Senior Counselor from New York, NY, offers some perspective on the performers and their progress. Putting up a show in six days with six hour long daily rehearsals has her “nervous about their energy” on the day of the performance, for “it’s going to be a big stretch”. Ada, a rising eighth grader from New Hampshire, echoes Fiona, acknowledging that “it’s a lot of work”.

However, while the work can be stressful and exhausting, it is also just as rewarding. Now the campers are working on scenes and character development, helping them to realize the thematic value of this piece. Fiona believes that “they grasp that it’s something about peace and that it means more than other shows they might have seen or been part of”. That appreciation for the play has many of the campers eager to perform.

One in particular is Deklan, a rising seventh grader from Sunapee, NH. Because Deklan is “never one to get anxious or anything” while onstage, he is finding great excitement in his work. Especially in exploring his character, “Character”, in the play. Understanding his role and how Character connects to the other characters and action of the play is making him “feel more confident that [he] is going to enjoy it and have a really good time”.

deklan acting

Downstage from left to right: Deklan and Mariam

While the play is helping the campers to find meaning and joy for themselves, it is also helping them to connect to others. Ada is finding that the activities they do at camp and rehearsals have helped her to connect “to the [other] kids and enjoy being around almost all of them”. Deklan has also “made friends with kids from K4P through the play”, and has had “fun [meeting] people and [hanging] out”.

But the impending audience incites nerves and excitement. Fiona cannot wait for the kids to have a “really cool experience” with a “whole sea of people all there supporting” the group. And among that sea of people will be familiar faces. Looking forward to “maybe get[ting] to hug them” and maybe “ask[ing] for a picture with them”, Deklan cannot wait to see his family. Surprisingly homesick, this performance is also an opportunity to reconnect to his loved ones and share a beautiful story.

A story that Deklan claims “speaks for itself and … is very persuasive”. Addressing peacemaking and bullying, they hope that they play inspires the audience to go out and lead change in their lives and schools. But do not be alarmed at the portrayal of bullying onstage. Deklan reassures us that “the bullies on stage are just acting”. Don’t let their impeccable acting fool you; the Peace Child “is not hurt, she’s totally okay!” To all planning to witness this event- please sit back, relax, and enjoy the peacemaking.

Contributors: Hussein (7th grade, VT), Judah (7th grade, NH), and Sage (6th grade, NH).

audience

The early bird spreads peace and understanding at Kids4Peace camp, and these campers sure are living as peacemakers, waking up bright and early at 7:00 am yesterday morning. While they may not have bushy tails, the bright eyed campers headed off to the Flying Monkey House Theater for their first full day of rehearsal. And as they say in the theatre, early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!

actingAnd these young professionals were on time as they headed into a six hour rehearsal day, consisting of singing, dancing, and scene work. Working with graduate students, staff, and faculty at Plymouth State University, the campers began the journey of breathing life into their musical dramatic piece, Peace Child. However, even the beginning stages of the creative process challenge young performers to reach outside of their comfort zones.

Dance in particular proved demanding, for dancing in front of others can be quite vulnerable. Judah, a rising seventh grader from Hopkinson, NH, “really hates dancing in public”, but nonetheless “had to dance in front of people”. And with that positive attitude and willingness, Judah found that after awhile, “it was even fun!” Sage, a rising sixth grader from Loconia, NH, was continually pushed out of her comfort zone today as singing and dancing is already uncomfortable. And when the campers had to improvise dance themselves, it “was an extra push”, for she “did not feel comfortable making up things on stage with just loose instructions”. Even on the outskirts outside of her comfort zone, Sage was able to appreciate the situation as something that, while uncomfortable, is in fact just “new”.

Being in the theater can be intimidating in itself. Hussein, a rising seventh grader from Winooski, VT, was “really shy” and even “scared” when they arrived at the Flying Monkey House Theater. But Hussein found that “when [he] tried to do the things [the instructors] showed [them], [he] wasn’t as shy anymore, and it was fun to be an actor!” That positivity flooded the day as the campers experienced memorable moments together: hearing the unique score that was composed intentionally for them, learning each of their specific roles within the group, and singing the opening song together.

Both Judah and Hussein enjoyed singing the opening song, or as Hussein calls it, the Group Singing 2“special music”. After the young campers put their all into singing that song together, Judah assesses that it was “definitely a memorable moment”, for “it was a team effort”. The new community they formed together during the first day was further strengthened as they became something even more powerful, an ensemble.

 

Contributors: Arbai (9th grade, Winooski, VT), Emma (7th grade, Andover, NH), Sherihan, (6th grade, Winooski, VT)

Water bottles were decorated and the ice was broken as the camp season was officially kicked off yesterday at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Staff members welcomed fourteen young campers as they entered into their first Kids4Peace camp experience. After name tags had been made and suitcases were unpacked, the staff introduced themselves, and the campers played some get-to-know-you games. Working up quite the appetite, all gathered in the dining hall for dinner. But of course, no meal is complete without a blessing led by a camper.

 

19437509_1349217565156574_413859909257907386_nThe newfound energy from dinner fueled the following discussion revolving the group’s values and expectations while at camp. As campers and staff voiced their hopes and ideals, a Community Agreement was composed that will serve as the group’s foundation while at camp. While the group’s expectations of each other are captured in the Community Agreement, each of the campers had their own pool of hopes and prospects for the next eleven days at Kids4Peace.

 

19554753_1349216735156657_6222761309396805353_n

Sherihan, 6th grade, VT

Arbai, a rising ninth grader from Winooski, Vermont, has high hopes to learn a great deal while at camp. She even aspires to pick up “more English”. The desire to learn is also felt by Sherihan, a rising sixth grader also from Winooski, Vermont, who wants to know “how other people practice their religions”. But sleep away camp with a group of strangers can be intimidating, for campers must “[be] away from family” (Arbai). Not to mention the first day jitters, as campers are “talking and laughing with people [they] don’t know yet” (Sherihan).

19554493_1349218241823173_1612218451267862643_n

Emma, 7th grade, NH

Emma, a rising seventh grader from Andover, New Hampshire, on the other hand is purely “really excited for everything”, hoping to “meet new friends”, “learn about religion”, and “know what it’s like” to be away from home overnight. Whether one is full of unbridled hope, consumed by worry, or anything in between, all campers got the opportunity to voice their hopes and fears and listen to others.

 

The day was closed, accepting all of these hopes and fears, expectations and worries. The campers, now a community, went to bed, marking a successful first day of camp.

 

Solidarity in Seattle

Jordan Goldwarg —  November 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

In my life, I don’t think I have ever had the experience of an unknown grown man hugging me while breaking down in tears. Today, it happened twice.

These have been an intense, emotional few weeks in the United States. To add to the weight of those emotions, last weekend, someone vandalized the main sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the largest mosque in the Seattle area and one of K4P’s oldest partners in the region.

maps-vandalism

In an act of vandalism, someone took a sledgehammer to the granite sign outside MAPS (photo courtesy of MAPS)


In response to this act of hate, MAPS responded with love and hospitality by hosting an Open House for the whole community to come and learn the truth about Islam as a religion of peace.

The Kids4Peace community showed up in force for the Open House and also stayed afterward to hold up signs of support as members of the MAPS community arrived for the large Jum’ah prayer.

Standing in front of the mosque with our signs was such a simple act. It literally took only minutes to coordinate the invitation to our families and to make signs (which for some families, became a fun Thanksgiving activity!). This simple act, however, had a profound impact on the members of the MAPS community who saw it — and by extension, on all of us from K4P who were there. Countless people came over to talk to us and to thank us for standing together with them. Some brought snacks and sweets to share with us, further extending the hospitality of the Open House. Many people took photos or selfies with the group. And toward the end, a teenager approached and asked if it would be okay to take a photo of his grandfather with the group. The older gentleman had sunglasses on, so it was hard to read his expression. But when he put his arms around the shoulders of me and a K4P father as we posed for the photo, we could feel him start to sob. After the photo, without saying a word, he hugged each of us as the tears streamed down from under his sunglasses.

20161125_120347

Standing in front of MAPS

It is so important for Jews, Christians, and others to be strong allies for our Muslim friends and neighbors right now. A simple act of support goes such a long way toward lifting people’s spirits and making everyone feel like they belong in our communities.

In the wake of this divisive election campaign, if you are thinking about concrete things you can do to make a positive difference in the world, here is one easy solution: grab a group of friends of family (or both!), make some signs, and stand outside your local mosque during Friday prayers. You will be making a world of difference.

by Hana, K4P Jerusalem Media Intern

Last Thursday Kids4Peace Jerusalem’s Leadership youth (9th graders), met with diplomats from the US Consulate, the US Embassy, and USAID.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The session started with each diplomat giving a brief presentation, explaining their jobs and responsibilities. Some of their positions are more political, linked to the Consulate, others more cultural. They all express their admiration for the kids Congratulations, you are our hope for the future.

The first question that broke the ice was direct and had no hesitation: If you say you support the two state solution why does US always vote against it at the UN?

The diplomats smile at the question and make comments about how the kids go directly to the point. One of the diplomats assistants replies:

“We are working towards a two state solution to bring peace into the country. By getting involved we provide a neutral space so that both sides feel comfortable. We want to bring peace and establish a Palestinian state, however a big impediment is the estrangement between the two sides.”

The answer was followed by another question directed to the US, Why is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such a big issue for the US?

The diplomats answered: The US is deeply connected to the history of the area, with a large population being Christian and having very important Jewish and Muslim communities. Many Americans feel spiritually connected to this land. Israel was an important ally of the US during the Cold War, and it’s very connected to WWII, so there is a spiritual, cultural and political connection. Furthermore there is a feeling of frustration for the endurance of the conflict and we believe stability within this region affects the global economy. The instability of oil and global market could get better if the region had more stability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids also wanted to know wether the US supports not only organizations working with kids, but also with adults.

One of the answers the kids received was: Definitely, we also support the parents circle of Kids4Peace and are involved in environmental issues. It’s true that it gets more tense whenever parents are involved. We are also currently learning negotiation between Israeli, Palestinians and diplomats. Not only do we learn technical skills, but we also get to know each other and deepen the relationships within our community.

The diplomats also want to make clear that it is our kids job here at Kids4Peace to continue with this work as they grow up: It’s also on you guys to continue to engage when you grow up as adults.

Finally the diplomats say that they find it easier to work with both sides within similar communities:  People with common interests working together helps create peace. So working with educators, social workers etc. from each side is helpful. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At this point the diplomats feel they also want to know more about the teenagers sitting in front of them: Why do you participate in K4P?

Adam, 15, answered: Both sides are in pain, so the only way to understand the other side is to hear their story. Some of my friends are against it and I also lose hope sometimes. Even if we don’t change the world, we can change ourselves.

Talia, 15, added: As we grew up there was a moment when my classmates started discussing politics and the conflict, and I realized I didn’t know anyone who was Arab. As soon as I joined the program I started to understand that the reasons of “the other side” were rational and that it’s not fair to put the blame on them.

Aviya, 15, also expressed: I had only heard what my side was saying “They kill people, so they’re bad” I wanted to know what they were thinking as well.

Omri shared his personal experience in the public space: With my family we bought in Arab shops, we went to Arab restaurants, even my parents had Arab friends who spoke in Hebrew. Also, many of my friends said it was ok to get to know Arabs, we played football together. I didn’t have Arab friends myself and decided to join K4P. I prefer to come to Jerusalem every month because here Arabs and Jews really live in the same city, it’s not like two different cities.

Zeina: Many of us heard a lot about the other side and knew a lot of things from what people had told us, but we had never met or knew anyone from the other side. We were curious to know what they think about us too. After we joined Kids4Peace, we noticed that the others are just normal people as we are and we share many similarities.

Tia: Older K4P members and program Alumni’s encouraged me to join, some friends were against it, but I believed I had to hear what they have to say.

Guy (Leadership program coordinator) : We’ve reached a moment where more kids come to us that we can afford to accept. Friends and relatives of K4P members want to join too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the kids had been in the spotlight, they all had a short break. After the break it was their turn again to ask some more questions. The conflict is again, the main topic.

One of the kids asked: What do you think about “drawing a line”, creating a boarder in areas people live in? what do you think about the future, post boarder?

The kids received an interesting answer, referring to world history: It’s not up to us to draw any line. Societies have been able to work together without diminishing their pain like the example of France and Germany who have been enemies in different wars through history and now are allies.

The diplomats then received a very direct question: What are some personal goals you would like to achieve during your service in Israel?

The diplomats were pretty surprised and pleased with the question. “It’s a good question / I hadn’t thought about it. Freedom of movement is something that would help my job so much. There’s a sense of being displaced depending on the city you’re in. My wife is an Arab and she doesn’t speak arabic in West Jerusalem. If we could reduce the tension and help make people more comfortable to walk around.  A better access to resources (water, electricity) everywhere. More patience and manners: traffic is an example.  That there would never be a reason to turn away a student in K4P for lack of resources

The last question that was asked: How are we gonna get peace if there is a wall of separation? If the two populations are not connected?

The kids received a complex but yet hopeful answer: Any border is an invisible wall, and also walls can fall like in Berlin. The greatest wall is the mentality of people. Even if there are two states, you will also need some kind of border between the two states.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Diplomats also reminded the kids of their power and responsibility and working towards a change: “Remember that you guys have a lot of power, talk to the people about your dreams, about what you want to achieve. Raise your voice. Remember Rosa Parks ( African American civil rights activist) she was not alone and didn’t come unprepared. She was from a peace group in Tennessee. You can also bring change in society like Rosa Parks did.”

Overall kids showed a level of maturity and preparation that definitely surprised the diplomats who praised them. The kids were also satisfied with the session, feeling that their questions have been answered and the difficult topics addressed.

 

by Jordan Goldwarg, Northwest Regional Director

On Sunday, May 8, Kids4Peace Seattle held its first joint activity with students at Noor Academy, the Sunday school of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. Over the course of three hours, our youth began the process of getting to know each other through a number of activities. There were icebreakers and teambuilding activities, such as having to navigate a human obstacle-course while blindfolded.

DSCF2456

Youth navigating the human obstacle-course

 

We also explored each of our three religions through a game of Interfaith Bingo. Holding a bingo card that contained images and words from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, youth needed to find out the significance of each item by asking other youth to share their knowledge.

DSCF2496

Working on Interfaith Bingo boards

 

Finally, we engaged in small-group dialogue on a variety of topics. In my group, there happened to be only Jewish and Muslim youth, and we had a fascinating discussion about what it’s like to be in the minority in our schools. Youth shared stories of needing to miss important rehearsals or sports games because of religious holidays. And while most of them enjoy the opportunity to share their religion with others, there was also shared frustration of situations in which people expect them to know everything about about Islam or Judaism.

Thank you to Noor Academy for hosting us for what we hope will be the beginning of many collaborations!