DSC02510Once International Camp participants had a day to get acclimated to the new camp, we started off the second day by framing conversations and action in faith. Our 72 youth are coming from a range of backgrounds from Israel, Palestine and America, and with them they are bringing different practices, beliefs, and experiences that shape their religious and spiritual identities.

“[My faith is] something I can trust, that will give me a hand when I need it, that will support me in a time of need.” -Tuvia, Jewish, Jerusalem

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Because Friday is a religious day for people of many different faiths, participants were able to take part in the weekly prayer that Muslims take part in together in the afternoon, known as Jummah, and the celebration of Kabbalat Shabbat through a service that prepared us for the day of rest. At the end of each service, youth had the opportunity to engage in discussion to ask questions and gain a better understanding about the intentions and reasoning behind the practices that were observed.

IMG-20180803-WA0001These spaces grant our young minds an opportunity to gain clarity and bridge gaps that allow us to live and share the world around us in harmony. As we are moving through our days, youth are creating spaces to actively listen and share their identities with one another, while also forming community through the outdoor elective sessions that engage excitement, friendly competition and laughter.

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Global Institute may have just ended, but our work doesn’t end there. As our 50 Global Institute alums returned home to put their learned skills and experiences to the test, Kids4Peace was busy getting ready for our batch of 72 Israeli, Palestinian, and American youth for our first ever International Camp at Blue Star in North Carolina!

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International Camp aims to begin shaping the minds of 8th grade students by driving them to consider the space they hold in this world and how they can learn to build community with others. While gathering today, they spent time getting to know one another by leaning into discomfort, leaning into vulnerability – in order to gain trust and build community.

“To create a bond, [it’s important] to not create distrust in a community. It helps to build beyond surface level conversations.” Owen, Christian, Atlanta. 

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As participants acclimated to their new home for the next 10 days, they had a chance to explore the camp and see more of attractions that the site has to offer — like canoeing! Along with our introspective education sessions, our kids have been spending time getting to know their peers, counselors, and advisers by taking part in different outdoor activities together.

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“I’ve realized that we can do so much more than we thought we could do, before we got here” – David P., Jewish, Jerusalem

10 days of intense dialogue, workshops, skill building, and new interactions helped form a new wave of young leaders. Our 2018 Global Institute graduates are ready to stand up for what they believe in, fight to make their community and the world a place of change, commitment and peace. This group of 50 youth, half from Jerusalem and half from across the US, are an inspiration and proof that change is possible and age is not a factor in determining success. After their participation in the Global Institute, they have seen their own leadership potential and are ready to use it and continue taking action.

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“Kids4Peace is like one family. I’m never nervous or shy to talk in front of them because I know that all of the members of Kids4Peace are like brothers and sisters to me and I really appreciate how close we are” – Qais, Muslim, Jerusalem

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It is hard to believe that this tight-knit group did not know each other prior to the Global Institute. The bonds formed here are so strong, strong enough to overcome the differences in opinion and ideas of the world that they may have. And that further emphasizes and proves the importance of respectful dialogue, mutual listening, and understanding. Tough conversations were brought up on a day-to-day basis over this program and these conversations often led to further dialogue outside of official programing. But despite these differences, these young leaders understood that friendship and differences of opinion are not mutually exclusive. Leadership is about considering all points of view and taking them into account when making a decision. Leadership is about communication and honesty. Leadership is being able to say ‘I understand you,’ even if don’t share the same view. Leadership is overcoming your fears and challenges that come up. Our youth learned all of these lessons, among so many more, during the Global Institute. And they return home motivated, energized, and capable of achieving greatness. We believe in their power to create change and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

“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 R., Christian, 15

 

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‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ This recognized saying has been at the forefront of conversation throughout the week, as our youth discussed what it means to be a leader and the responsibility and obligation that come with leadership. As the participants accepted their Certificate of Achievement in recognition of the completion of the Global Institute, they knew of the responsibility that they were taking upon themselves by becoming young leaders. This moment of acceptance was one that they had been preparing for over the course of the past 10 days, and throughout their involvement in Kids4Peace over the years. Every piece of information, skill learned, tool gained, and outcome of their participation in this program has allowed them to grow and use their capabilities towards creating a positive change. Now, as they move on to the next phase of their work with Kids4Peace and take charge as the youth leaders helping to lead the movement, they are even more encouraged and prepared to create real change.

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“I consider all of you my colleagues” – Fr. Josh, Director of Kids4Peace International

Two final important aspects of the Global Institute took place today, before they became graduates. The youth spent time this morning creating a plan for how they were going to bring what they gained from the Global Institute home with them and work towards creating a positive change in their own communities. Whether that overlapped with their continued involvement in Kids4Peace chapters back home, or expanded past the Kid4Peace community, these young leaders were so excited and passionate about this next phase of their story. In Jerusalem, the youth will move on to the YAP track of the chapter there and are already thinking of new programs and ideas to increase their impact on creating peace. In the US, every person thought about issues going on in the country and specifically in their hometowns and began working on plans for how to overcome these issues.

“I want to work on poverty in my community and finds ways to end poverty there. I will take the leadership and advocacy skills that I’ve gained to help spread the word and get more people involved in coming together to solve this issue”– Risa, Jewish, Seattle

Kids4Peace will be there for each and every person, as they continue on their journey towards making a change, and this community and family will always remain as tight-knitted as it is tonight. Additionally, the youth know that the communities around them back home can be important tools to help them in their work.

“I now know how important it is to utilize your community and the people you have around you” – Monica, Christian, Seattle

The second, concluding aspect of these past 10 days, was community service acts. The group divided into three and volunteered at the Urban Greens Farm, The D.C. Central Kitchen, and the Common Goods City Farm. Even when it started to rain, the kids who were working on the farms continued their work until they weren’t able to anymore. It was a really important and meaningful aspect of the program, and a perfect way to conclude this experience where they have learned so much about giving back.

“‘If we’re not going to do it, who else will’ is a lesson that we’ve learned over these 10 days and we’re applying it to our work here, today.” – Kareem, Muslim, Jerusalem

This group of incredible and devoted people are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the future of change and the future of peace. And tonight, they became official graduates of the Global Institute and began their journey to the next phase of peace and advocacy work. It was an emotional night, filled with tears of joy and tears of sadness to be separating from these friends whom they have made such deep connections with. These past 10 days, though intense, flew by fast and though they might not want to leave these memories behind, they are more than ready for the next steps.

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“While this might be a graduation ceremony, it is only the beginning of your next phase in Kids4Peace, and we can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the future.” – Jordan Goldwarg, Director of the Global Institute

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The excitement level today was sky high, as the kids prepared for a highlight of the Global Institute; tomorrow’s Advocacy day. All the leadership and advocacy training that they have gained over the course of the past week will come into play when they take the lead and advocate on behalf of support towards Israeli-Palestinian peace programs, as well as gun reform legislation. The morning was spent learning more about the American political system and how the government works. The kids were all engaged and asked intelligent and important questions as they tried to make the most of this opportunity and gain more knowledge. 38 meetings are scheduled for tomorrow in both the House and the Senate, with both Republican and Democrat Senators and Congressmen and women. The group was briefed on what the specific bills that they will be advocating for are, and of the importance that the passing of these bills will have on Kids4Peace’s work and growth. A large scale of time today was spent preparing for tomorrow’s highly anticipated and important meetings; meetings that will showcase the leadership ability of our youth that we are so proud and supportive of. Members of the Kids4Peace International Board helped some groups prepare, and some will be joining us tomorrow on Capital Hill and leading legislative groups. In addition to our board members, members from the Alliance for Middle East Peace and prominent D.C. lawyers will be joining our meetings. The support and faith that these figures show in our youth is admirable and appreciated, as we know of the great things that this group of young leaders can achieve.

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We took a break from our preparation to watch the World Cup, and everyone joined together for a good-spirited time. Despite the division of those rooting for France or Croatia, we all came together to watch and cheer for our respective teams. We joined the St. Johns Episcopal Church for services this evening, and enjoyed a nice dinner with congregants, Kids4Peace board members, and members of the community. Three of our youth spoke at the dinner and shared their story of why they joined Kids4Peace and what their experience involved in the organization has been like and taught them.

“I’m never afraid to share my opinion at Kids4Peace because I know it will always be respected, even if no agreed on by all” – David, Jerusalem, Jewish

We are looking forward to an eventful day tomorrow, and for our youth to walk onto Capital Hill with the confidence, knowledge, and leadership that they all have within them and are ready to display.

 

Today on Capitol Hill, 50 young Israeli, Palestinian and American youth from Kids4Peace are meeting with 40 Republican and Democratic offices in the House and Senate to request US investment in grassroots peacebuilding efforts.

As beneficiaries of a FY2015 USAID Conflict Management and Mitigation grant, Jerusalem youth will share the impact of US investment in the the Israeli and Palestinian people.  Because of USAID, Kids4Peace Jerusalem has doubled in size and added a teen-led nonviolent action component.

Today, more than 400 youth from across Jerusalem participate in year-round programs of dialogue, leadership and action.  Kids4Peace is showing the power of youth and vision of hope for the future.

Kids4Peace is concerned that FY2017 USAID funding for CMM is still on hold by the administration.

We urgently request that FY2017 USAID funds be immediately released before the end of the fiscal year.  

Organizations like Kids4Peace rely on CMM to fund sustainable growth.  Holding back this money will cause harm to the very people who are working hardest for peace.

We are also seeking long-term investment in grassroots peacebuilding, through an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.  HR 1221 (Fortenberry R-NE) would create this fund and authorize a $50million annual appropriation.  The Palestinian Partnership Fund (in SFOPS19) makes this $50million available in the coming year.

With US leadership, the International Fund would fuel rapid growth of organizations like Kids4Peace and inspire large-scale projects like our organization’s dream: to create a purpose-built Youth Peace Center in Jerusalem, where thousands of Israeli and Palestinian teens can meet after school, to build bridges of understanding, learn about the roots of conflict and inequality in the city, and work together nonviolently to create social change.

In addition to the international advocacy, Kids4Peace youth from Washington State are seeking support for legislation to reduce gun violence. 

For more information, contact Kids4Peace at info@k4p.org

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This morning we were joined by Islamic Society of North America to hear about the Muslim-American community and the work that they do to create change in the US. An issue that ISNA is very passionate about and involved in is climate change. Colin, the representative from ISNA, explained that in many religions there is a focus on conservation, moderation, and being aware of our consumption and so climate change and environmental protection is something that is important to advocate for. As Mawish rightly stated, “Our goal is to take care of the community around us, because if we don’t do that who will.” Participants discussed ways that climate change is affecting their own communities and gave examples of the work that people are doing to combat climate change. There was a discussion on how different societies and cultures care more or less about the environment and the that pollution has, but how it is a problem that affects everyone and must be dealt with.

“It’s an issue that everyone needs to do something about in order to create change” – Will, Christian, Vermont

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This idea is one that relates not only to climate change, but to all issues in general. A constant point of discussion among the Kids4Peace youth is that we must all join together in order to create change. Without communication, connection, and working together, nothing can be achieved. We spent the afternoon at the ADAMS Mosque, where we were privileged to hear from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious leaders on the importance of interfaith building. “Humanity is about having peace in our mosques, our synagogues, our churches, our holy sites” – Imam Magid, ADAMS Center Executive Imam. A beautiful representation of Imam Magid’s words was when three of our own youth were able to share a welcoming prayer from their individual religions, with the entire group. ADAMS boy and girl scouts spent the afternoon with us, and led us on a tour of the Mosque where we were able to participate or observe in the Jum’ah prayer. Kids4Peace joined the ADAMS group for lunch, where they were able to get to know each other, ask questions to learn more about each other’s religion and life, and play games together. In order to maintain the relationships created today, the ADAMS center provided everyone with paper and envelopes, encouraging all of the youth to find a pen pal among the new group of friends that they made. Fr. Josh Thomas spoke to both groups about the shared message that Kids4Peace and the ADAMS center has; “You don’t have to wait till the future to be a leader, you can do important things right now.” From the start of the morning, hearing from ISNA, to our time at the ADAMS mosque, new ideas about religion and faith were shared and friendships were made.

“Before I joined Kids4Peace I didn’t have a lot of connection to my own faith, but once I joined I got to meet so many interesting people who really connected to their faith. This helped me connect more to my own faith and learning more about other religions helped me appreciate and understand my own faith better. I think that interfaith building is so important because it helps people understand the values that we share and use those shared values to create change through peace building and nonviolent action.” – Monica, Christian, Seattle

Today helped to frame the theme for the rest of the weekend, which will have a large focus on the faith aspect of our work. Tonight, we will attend Shabbat prayers at the Kesher synagogue in D.C., and members of the synagogue and of the Jewish community there will join us for a meal.

 

 

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Today, we traveled down to Baltimore, where we were joined by youth from Communities United to interact and engage with them. Together, we participate in multiple sessions and tours around Baltimore. Interacting with other youth, who are working towards creating change regarding equality and race in Baltimore, the kids saw first hand how much of an impact one group can make if they work together towards a common goal. The day, filled with interesting dialogue and new perspectives, sparked great friendships among the participants of Kids4Peace and those of Communities United. Our first presentation today was a Q&A with a local radio show host who shared with us his fascinating and eventful life’s background. Growing up in a segregated Baltimore during the Civil Rights Movements, and a child of Holocaust survivors, Marc Steiner explained how knowing and seeing oppression in society has shaped him into the person he is today and the views he believes in. He saw segregation first hand throughout his childhood and adult years, and heard about the catastrophe and genocide of the Holocaust. Both events taught him about the harm and danger that can ensue from hatred, racism, and segregation and he made it part of his life’s mission to ensure that segregation and hatred are not tolerated anywhere. He was the youngest white male to get arrested in Baltimore for participating in a sit-in during the Civil Rights Movement, at age 16, and used his story to show our youth just how important the work of young people is and how impactful it can be. A main theme of the day was learning about separation among people who differ from each other, and how important it is to bridge that divide. Our youth were taught about the importance of learning about each other’s histories and using that knowledge to better the world. The key to doing so is communication, and Marc used one significant word to define communication: listening. “Listening allows you to hear a person’s reality which shows that person’s truth, and there is a truth on every side of the story; a truth that must be respected.” We spent the afternoon exploring different parts of the city and seeing its many different realities. Baltimore is a complex city made up of some areas that are developed, some that are becoming more developed, and some that have been forgotten. The tour included City Hall, Baltimore’s Real News Media Outlet, China Town, and the Holocaust Memorial. Each stop added more to the theme that Marc formed earlier in the day, and each stop gave the kids more perspective on issues such as immigration, racism, income inequality, and hatred among people. The tour of city hall gave the youth some inspiration, hearing about how the hall serves as a place where people can stand up and make a claim for what they believe in.

“Everyday people can fight to make the changes that they want to see at city hall, and they can speak their mind regardless of their age or background.” – Catie, Christian, Seattle

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The Real News Media Outlet provided the youth with a realistic idea of what a career in journalism and media looks like, and taught them how important it is to share unbiased facts and to be committed to the truth.

“It was inspiring to hear how they remained independently funded through members of the Baltimore community and not corporations, in order to report what they wanted to report from the point of view of the people of Baltimore” – Sofia, Jewish, Vermont

A member of the group was even given the chance to share her own story on camera, and everyone was able to watch how videos are clipped together and edited at the news outlet.

It was empowering to share my story on a real platform and it was also a very cool experience, and something I would never had the opportunity to do elsewhere” – Lior, Jewish, Jerusalem

We finished off the day with a panel comprised of Baltimore residents who shared their own stories and explained the different tools they have used to fight for change in Baltimore. One popular tool is visual art and performance as a means for organizing movements. The youth were taught about cantastoria performances, and given the time to prepare and perform a cantastoria related to an issue that they felt passionate about. This workshop added to the message that other workshops have touched upon, of making your voices heard through public performance and narratives.  

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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.