“It’s like these charts are Rosetta Stones for our identities.” So said one of the participants at the Kids4Peace Seattle fall retreat. We had just completed an activity in which every participant created an Identity Chart. These charts contain words, phrases, and images that convey the way we see our own identity (in one color), and also words, phrases, and images that convey the way we think others see our identity (in another color). By sharing our charts with the group, we not only got to know ourselves better, but also got to know the richness and complexity of other people’s identities. Just as the Rosetta Stone allowed scholars to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, these identity charts allowed our group to begin to understand the densely woven tapestries that make up the essence of our beings. Participants also noted that this activity helped us to realize that there is more to all of us than the 5 things we might initially see when we first meet someone.
This was just one example of the amazing conversations that made up our 2-night September retreat, where 23 of our 30 youth joined us for a great start to our year-round program. The weekend was full of firsts for Kids4Peace Seattle. Our first 2-night fall retreat, our first year with participants spanning 6th-9th grade. This 3rd year of programming in Seattle also brings a doubling of the number of participants we have locally.
Our weekend began with a bus ride out to YMCA Camp Colman! Despite some traffic, we had a fun bus ride with games of telephone and Heads Up. Once we arrived, Pam met us to have some snacks and introductions before we settled into our cabins for the night.
We started our day off on Saturday with fun on a climbing wall and with archery. After that we took some time to make our community agreement for the year, being intentional with each other about the most important things we need to do to make our community safe and meaningful.
In the afternoon we had some time to make ocarinas. These wooden puzzles turned into 4-hole flutes – which everyone spent time mastering how to play! After this, with a small break in the rainy day, we made our way outside for a conversation about how we create meaningful community. We discussed the who, what, why, when, and where of communities and how we begin to use our voices to create the community we want.
Saturday evening began with the Identity Chart exercise and ended with a campfire, lots of delicious s’mores, and a bedtime story from Jordan: a reading of The Lorax by Dr. Suess, peppered with snippets of songs from the movie and rapt attention from our whole group. After the story we all headed to bed, sad that it was our last night together!
Sunday morning brought a continued break in the rain and a chance to spend time on the lake canoeing and kayaking with friends. Those that did not spend time on the water serenaded everyone from the dock with a wide variety of show tunes, Disney songs, and other eclectic choices. Sadly, this brought our weekend to a close and shortly after we finished boating we hopped on the bus back to Seattle.
We ended our weekend with one more first, a kick-off potluck with youth participants, families, program team members, and board members! A few of our 9th grade participants spoke at the potluck, sharing a little about our weekend. At the end, Tallulah summed up the experience this way: our weekend was all about settling in, she said, 9th graders beginning to take on the role of leader and counselor; 2nd year participants realizing they are a little older, a little wiser, and a huge example to others; and 1st year participants seeing that they are part of something bigger and more magical than they realized this past summer.
The 2016-2017 program year is off to a fantastic start, and these 30 peacemakers continue to teach and inspire everyone they encounter. Stay tuned to see what big things are coming!