Archives For Summer 2018

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If one event could fully capture and brilliantly tie together all that our youth have been working on and learning throughout the Global Institute and with Kids4Peace so far, our event today with the US Institute of Peace did just that. The event was comprised of three aspects; a panel, roundtable discussions with policy makers, and a workshop led by USIP on nonviolent actions. The panel included USIP officials and policy leaders, as well as two recent graduates of the Global Institute, who are representing Kids4Peace on a speaking tour around the US. For the current Global Institute participants, hearing from such great role models and was inspiring. The two graduates, Omar and Eliana, exemplified to our youth the outstanding and admirable work that they can achieve when they use the tools and lessons they have gained from the Global Institute.

“It was inspiring to hear how much work they are doing after the Global Institute because that is one of the things I feel is most important about this program; not only do we get our tools here and learn all about public speaking, sharing our stories, and making a change, but we can continue to make a change when we go home. I thought it was extremely inspiring to see the changes they are making in their own community, and seeing them use what they gained from the Global Institute to make those changes. The Global Institute is not only this amazing experience over these intense 10 days, but it is also about bringing what we learned home with us and using these new skills and tools to make a change where we are and when we can.” – Catie, Christian, Seattle

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The officials and peace leaders on the panel described how the USIP works to achieve peace through ‘bottom-up’/grassroots and ‘top-down’ efforts. They explained how from the top down, the USIP works with government officials and policy makers to create active change. Additionally, the grassroots efforts are equally as important, as a member of the panel said; “what you all do with Kids4Peace is not simply a nice and optional addition to our peacemaking, but a necessary addition.”  The USIP addressed the importance of our youth telling their stories, connecting today’s lessons with what was taught yesterday, and further encouraging our youth to make their voices heard. Roundtable discussions were held, where our youth were able to ask policy leaders important questions and have conversations on relevant and important topics with such qualified people. These questions included; ‘how do you try to engage in conversation and dialogue with people who are from the “other side” or who don’t agree with your opinions?’ and ‘what inspired or attracted you to become an advocate for peace?’ The USIP also led a workshop on nonviolent action and how to achieve a just, peaceful society through peaceful measures. Our youth were given examples of conflict situations and asked how they would respond, in an exercise focused on teaching the best ways to solve a problem in a peaceful manner. Later in the evening, we were joined by Nina from an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder to hear how music and visual arts can play a role in promoting peace. Our youth discussed how lyrics in songs often speak to people, and motivate them to take action. It was an impactful day all around and the day ended on a high, when the kids finished off the music workshop with a dance party and performance by our very own musicians David and Ido.

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Mawish Raza, our very own Communications Manager, started off the morning by leading a workshop on public narrative and the importance of sharing your story. She introduced the workshop by sharing her own story, providing the youth with an example of how one story can inspire others. Mawish emphasized the importance of having a community, explaining that “what Kids4Peace does is it teach us how to relate to the community we are a part of.” The group discussed how stories shape the world, and themselves as individuals. A focus was placed on how leadership is driven by stories, and how leaders can spark a movement and inspire others to take action through public dialogue. Every participant of the Global Institute has a story to share, and this workshop served as a reminder to him or her that they should be aware of how their story can impact others. Mawish spoke to the group and encouraged them to raise their voice and make their story heard; “If you have ever gone through a challenge, you have a story to tell. If you ever had to make a difficult decision that made an impact on your life’s direction, you have a story to tell. Each one of us has a story to tell. Your lives are very unique to yourselves, and regardless of if you think you have a story to tell, the life choices you have made are one of many stories you can share.” The youth responded positively and used the lessons that they took away from this workshop to practice telling their own public narrative.

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“I now understand the importance of telling my story, whether it’s sharing my own narrative, a group’s narrative, or the narrative of a situation that’s affecting present times.” – Liat, Jewish, Jerusalem

Project Over Zero joined us to discuss locating and responding to our fears. A variety of activities and discussions took place and the takeaway lessons from this workshop were significant.

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“The fear I’ve experienced in my life has motivated me to work harder. I’ve learned that how you react to fear determines whether or not the outcome will be positive, and you should try to overcome the fear and create a positive change from it.” – Fawzi, Muslim, Boston

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Later in the evening, we watched a documentary called After Freddie Gray: What Now?, in preparation for our trip to Baltimore. We wrapped up our movie night with Hidden Figures. This significant, historically based movie touches on the realistic obstacles that three woman of color who worked for NASA faced and overcame; successfully helping to launch astronaut John Glenn into space. Both films are incredibly inspiring and educational, and our youth gained a lot from watching them and learning about conflicts that are still very sensitive.

 

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We kicked of the global institute today and so far it’s been a major success. The morning was spent familiarizing ourselves with one another and discussing guidelines that formed our community agreement; an agreement that will allow our time together to be productive and respectful on all accounts. We took time to reflect on our experience at Kids4Peace in our hometowns, and what we have learned from our participation.

“We may have different beliefs and religions but we are all similar in that we are all striving to make the world a better place.” – David, Christian, Kids4Peace Boston.

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LearnServe International and Hear My Voice joined us this afternoon and introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship and provided us with tools to work on creating a solution to issues that are currently facing people and places all over the world. The issues brought up included climate change, bullying, access to education, disabilities awareness, and others. Our youth used LearnServe’s Problem Tree Method to find solutions to different problems that affected their communities. This method involves understanding the root of the problem and considering the effects that branch from this issue. There was a great deal of focus placed on educating the younger generation about current issues and situations, in order to prevent ignorance from having a negative influence on society. Two participants spoke about the importance of hearing all perspectives to an issue and the issue of ignorance:

“You need to see the validity of the other side of the argument and not only shoot down ideas because you don’t agree with them. Our younger generation is often shot down and said to not be capable of making any changes because we don’t understand the situation, but the perception of our inability to change things is false.” – Hallel, Jewish, Philadelphia

“The root of so many of the problems we’ve been discussing is ignorance. Do your research, don’t believe everything you hear without checking the facts first. Share your opinion but only if it’s based off of the truth. You don’t have to accept someone else’s beliefs as long as understand them and are willing to listen.” – Evan, Christian, Kids4Peace Seattle

LearnServe explained that it is not always possible to address the entirety of a problem but that should not discourage efforts. A centralized focus on specific aspects of a problem can allow for a greater impact, and that impact can then effect even greater change. The issues and possible solutions that were discussed today are a part of the personal plan work that the youth will be focusing on next year, after graduating the Global Institute. Scott said it best when he explained that; this is not the end of the conversation but the start of it and the beginning of working towards a solution on the problems that you’ve been discussing.”

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We were privileged to hear from Aaron Jenkins from the Expectations Project this evening, to discuss the challenges we face and how to push past the hard discussions in order to have a meaning conversation and create change. Aaron explained the importance of surrounding oneself with people who are optimistic and believe that change is possible. Movements like Kids4Peace and The Expectations Project, and those who are involved in them, are examples of such optimism in the power of change. Incredible signs of leadership were displayed today passion and desire that these youth have to make a real change is inspiring.