Boston trip 2015!

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

11822288_10153390734331066_7577270442019899004_nAnother exciting, action-packed day at Kids4Peace! After an early start and a sad goodbye to Camp Merrowvista, our home for the last 8 days, we loaded our bags onto the bus and headed back down to Boston. The amazing singing talent of our kids was showcased all the way back from camp to the delight of the staff. All of the kids promised to keep their day jobs.

Our first stop today was the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center where we had lunch before a quick tour and Jummah prayers. After prayers and a compelling sermon by a guest Imam, we sat with our friend Nancy who answered a number of thoughtful questions we had about the service and Islam in general. She was very knowledgeable about the history of the ISBCC and commiserated with us about the difficulties of parking in Boston. She spoke about peace in Islam and helped us understand more about the practice of Islam in Boston and in other parts of the world.

After the masjed, we moved into our new accommodations in Newton, MA and enjoyed some easy time and a fabulous PIZZA DINNER!! Although we miss Camp Merrowvista, we certainly can’t complain about the pianos we can play, the beautiful soccer fields, comfy beds, and air conditioned rooms! We then walked to Temple Shalom of Newton where we had another quick tour before song filled Shabbat services. Rabbi Gurvis and Rabbi Abrasley spoke passionately about the importance of keeping an open heart and bravely loving others…even if you don’t get along with them. The congregation praised us for the hard work we’re doing, reminding us all that what we’re doing at 12 years old, some people never do in an entire lifetime! They even showed their gratitude and support with ice cream during the Oneg! Woohoo!!!!!

After the walk back (we got in about 3 miles today) the kids got ready for bed, Gabe turned into a soap zombie but he seems to have gotten better. Long story short it was a long day! And we look forward to a slower paced Shabbat day tomorrow while we await our Church visit on Sunday.

Grateful in Boston

11705351_10153388588706066_409844973172011895_n 11056538_10153388589361066_2616636572817550678_nWe spent the morning reflecting on our time here together through a camp-wide scavenger hunt that reminded us of everything we have done and worked on so far.

Hidden on trees and rocks and by buildings and benches, campers found slips of paper with words and themes from our week, such as “perspective,” “community,” and “empathy” among others. We shared with our peace pals which themes spoke to us the most, reinforcing the importance of the activities we did around them.

We ended the day and our time in New Hampshire the same way we do every year in Kids4Peace, with a campfire and songs! Each peace pod prepared their favorite song to lead the rest of the group in as we enjoyed the stunning mountains around the lake for the last time.

We asked all the kids to spend a moment and reflect on what they are grateful for and what they appreciated here in Kids4Peace. Here is just a small sampling of the thoughts they shared:

“I’m grateful to be here and meet new people and help change the world.”

“This couldn’t have been possible if everyone hadn’t tried, and we all had a heart and did try.”

“I’m grateful for Merrowvista giving us a place to stay at night.”

“I’m grateful for all the people here who have good hearts, because you have to have a good heart to make peace.”

11825231_10153388589456066_5845899781457608900_n“I’m grateful this isn’t the end.”

And we are too! This is not the end of our time together as we pack up to head down to Boston bright and early tomorrow morning. It was also mentioned many times by campers around the fire how grateful they were to have their peace pals here and we can’t wait to enjoy the rest of our time with them!


Soccer, cheer, talent and more in Kids4Peace Boston

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

Soccer before breakfast has become the usual. Everyone has learned where to find the Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian food options. We are all ready for the moment of silence before our meals, and we wait expectantly for the song challenges when camp finishes lunch and dinner.11836725_10153388589886066_5879165978718833164_n

In the mornings we work through interfaith and leadership activities, and in the afternoons we join Camp Merrowvista’s woodworking, boating, swimming, rock-climbing and other activities.

As our camp routine takes hold, our community is growing stronger. We are building on our Discovery activities, to take on bigger topics, and this morning’s Discovery block prompted us to consider the stereotypes we hold of others.

After breakfast, the group made their way to the chapel for a program called “paper bags.” They each received a stack of little papers and a pencil, and entered the room quietly. Each bag had one word written on it, including: “Jew,” “Safety,” “Muslim,” “Mosque,” and “Army.” The staff asked them to walk slowly around the room and write down the first word that they thought of at each bag. They put their papers into the bags and broke into their “peace pod” discussion groups when everyone was finished. As the de-brief slowly started, there was a tension in the air – kids admitting that they didn’t like what they wrote, and others worrying about their new friends’ thoughts.

“Paper bags” held remarkable moments of growth, in the context of a strong community of friends. As the facilitators read what was written in each bag, the kids had a chance to discuss how they felt and how they could work together to overcome stereotyping, conflict, and prejudice.11822822_10153388590251066_6323094357021691123_n

But what makes our camp unique is not simply the way that we foster powerful peace education. What makes camp unique is the way that this work builds deep trust, empathy, and love.

Fast forward to the very end of our day…the annual Kids4Peace Talent Show!!! This year’s Talent Show was a special one. It was a full display of this remarkable community of new friends. Imagine acts as far ranging as Dabke dance, magic tricks, a basketball lesson, a “cup song,” modeling sunglasses, doing back handsprings and just eating an apple. The applause did not just get louder with each act; cheering and laughter filled the show from start to end. Everyone was celebrated for who they are and cheered on to be their very best. There was a palpable feeling of trust and safety in our community…you could get up and share anything you wanted, and you’d receive nothing but support. Now that sounds like the kind of world we all dream of living in!

These young peacemakers are not just learning to wade through rigorous conversations to confront injustice and build understanding. They are doing their work with celebration, joy, and dance.


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The Great Hike

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

Yesterday was such a full day that we all had no choice but to fall asleep early and catch up on some much needed ZzzZZzzzz’s.  Our legs were happy for this extra rest since they did the hard work of hiking us all the way to the top of Mount Canaan.

Yesterday was our big hike day! One of the Kids4Peace traditions is to look only at the ground as you make those final steps to the top of the mountain.  Everyone silently shuffles up together, looking only down, and then on the count of three the whole group, together, turns around for the breath-taking view.

Lots of us were nervous about the hike beforehand (for some, this was the first time ever hiking such a big mountain), but we went at a pace we could all handle.  Even though it was challenging at times, we encouraged each other, and we all high-fived at the top; each of us so personally proud to have accomplished this feat.

At the top of the mountain, we played some games, including “Interfaith Bingo”.  Many of us even got BINGO!…especially after learning so much about each other’s religions this past weekend.

After the trek back down to our cabin, we couldn’t wait to dive into the lake and wash away the grime of the mountain.  We splashed around, took out the paddle boards, and practiced our diving skills off the dock.

Eva and Jeanie (our awesome Merrowvista leaders) gathered us back on the shore and gave us quite a challenge.  We took turns telling the story of Noah and the Flood as it is in the Qu’ran, Bible, and Torah.  Imagine our surprise that all three of these religions have this story!  Little did we know that we, too, would be building an Ark!  Sure, there was no flood, but it was quite a challenge still…the leaders blindfolded half of us!

This was a big test of our communication skills, but it looks like we’re getting better and better at being able to respectfully communicate with one another while still accomplishing tasks.

A thunderstorm rolled into camp after we finished dinner, but if you were here, you wouldn’t have even noticed.  Another thunderstorm of dance and song was happening in the dishroom where the Kids4Peace boys had their turn of doing the dishes for the entire community of 200 people.

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#dayinthelife of a #k4pkid

11039296_10153390728586066_6743036740332181810_n  Can you believe that just one day at camp can hold all of this:

– Sharing our sacred objects and learning from each other why they are important.

– Kosher chocolate chip pancakes!

– Sitting and listening to one another with care and intention.  Learning how to hear someone else’s pain and to heal together.

– Feeling, firsthand, how frustrating injustice can be via a totally unfair (but super fun!) game.

-Getting letters/emails from mom or dad. Remembering how much our loved ones miss us.

– Taking a quick but much needed nap!

– Making friendship bracelets to share with new friends.

– Recreation time!  Soccer, archery, outdoor survival, nature art, or rock climbing!

– Dance and theatre games with Brio Integrated Theatre which helped us find our joy and feel more confident in our own unique selves.

– Laughs and songs over dinner.11217538_10153390728666066_3299872787742701024_n

– Sharing with the entire Camp Merrowvista summer camp community about what it means to be a peacemaker.  We shared our answers to:

– What does friendship have to do with peace?

– Why is it important to be friends with people different from me?

– How is my perspective changing because of Kids4Peace?

That’s the life of a Kids4Peace kid.  Weaving in and out of intentional peacebuilding time and just plain having a ton of fun with friends who you never knew you could be friends with.

Helping hands, Warm heart, Vivid seeing, Searching feet

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

It was another incredible day at Kids4Peace Camp – busy and full of meaning and FUN! We woke up happy and full of energy. The boys even got ready fast enough to play soccer before breakfast. It is amazing to see everyone engaging together, taking risks and sharing stories, listening intently to others, and just laughing and enjoying camp with new friends. It seems like there’s no limit to how much we can learn about each other and each other’s cultures while having so much fun!

Anyway, this day was another really full one! After breakfast, we went to a photojournalism workshop called “Naming the World: Challenging the Single Story” led by Sheya who helped us think about what we see when we look at an image and how we can see images (and people!) as more than just one simple story.

In the second half of the workshop, we even had the chance to go out and capture this place and our community with our own cameras.

We couldn’t swim in the lake today, but no worries, these awesome counselors created a water relay in our backyard full of all kinds of games in which everyone got soaked and cooled off. After drying off, we went to the third part in our religious observations: a Sunday Christian service led by our group’s Christians and Reverend Thomas Brown. As always, we concluded with time for questions and reflections.

One of the most important parts of today was when we grappled with the important questions of “What is a peace builder?”, and “Why it is important to talk about peace?” One of us summarized with a beautiful image of a peace builder: someone with …

  • Helping hands,
  • Warm heart,
  • Vivid seeing , and
  • Searching feet

The day ended with another game of soccer for the boys, and the girls taking their turn doing the dinner dishes (for all TWO HUNDRED people in the whole camp!) while having a dance party and singing together. (Of course, EVERYONE knew the words to all of the songs no matter where they came from or what language they spoke!)


Rock, Paper, Scissors, RAFT!

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

It was a perfect day in New Hampshire!  The sky was blue, a breeze kept the kids cool, and the lake sparkled in the sunshine. You’d never know these kids met each other only 3 days ago. Together, they sang (loudly) and laughed at meals, used photos to explore the importance of communication to fully understand the “big picture”, and jumped off the raft in the middle of the lake during the afternoon swim period – using the universal language of rock, paper, scissors to decide who would jump off the raft first!

One of the Jerusalem kids switched easily between Arabic, Hebrew, and English to coordinate group jumps off of the raft. The day ended with a visit to the camp compost station and garden; a break to play soccer and basketball  surrounded by the green tree-covered New Hampshire mountains; prayers to close Shabbat and end the day; and time for reflection on what compelled everyone to join Kids4Peace.  The kids gave too many amazing reasons to list, but some memorable ones included wanting to:

 learn about other religions,

 meet new friends,

 become a peace maker,

 do something every day to create peace

 stop all the war

 and because my brother/sister loved it!

Click here to check out some pictures through the eyes of our youth! 11781600_10153381729626066_2433120783491597136_n11836796_10153381729006066_1238177170218953057_n11800328_10153381728821066_1405413446110168661_n11752579_10153381730336066_8732783748485630704_n

Woodshop, Archery, and a Blueberry Bush

by Matt Loper, Kids4Peace Boston Director

Friday was an amazing day! In the morning we selected activities that we wanted to do. Some of us went to the woodworking shop, others went to archery, and some chose to make challah bread for our celebration of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath).

Others of us were adventurous, choosing activities with intriguing names like “Ninja Training” and “Diving for Treasure.”

After lunch we had our first religious observance, the Muslim Ju’umah prayer. While Jews and Christians respectfully observed, the Muslim children and adults shared their prayers and their preparation for prayers with us. Afterwards, Christians and Jews asked many questions such as “Why do you pray on carpets?” and “Why do you turn your head to the right and left at the end of the prayers?”

After an hour of rest, called “Easy Time,” it was finally time for swimming in the beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Almost everyone swam out to the raft and jumped off many times. The lake was much colder than swimming pools in the Jerusalem area but it felt great after a couple of days of hot weather! A few people picked blueberries off of bushes near the waterfront and shared them with their new friends.

We then prepared for the beginning of Shabbat at sundown. This time, the Muslims and Christians respectfully observed as the Jewish campers and staff shared the lighting of candles, prayers, and songs. We then all ate a delicious kosher Shabbat dinner prepared by our cooks Ben and Shilla, who cooked us Ugandan-style chicken.

11817068_10153377864226066_4710087770573899791_nIn the evening, we played games and then, before bed, went out on our back porch to observe the full moon. We thought about our Kids4Peace family at camps all across the United States and far away in Jerusalem and the West Bank, all enjoying the same full moon.

Check out the Day 2 Full Album here!