Kate Atkinson was brought up in the Episcopal Church with her time divided between England and Connecticut and is now an Episcopal Priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Kate described to me a childhood where her family regularly hosted students from other countries.
“I grew up knowing people of different countries, nationalities and religions. It was a natural part of my life to include different people. We didn’t view it as strange or unusual, it was just a part of our lives. The idea of encouraging children to break down the barriers of ideology and nationality was very appealing to me.”
Kate got involved with Kids4Peace through her Interfaith Council and is working with the New Hampshire Chapter, who just had their first camp this past summer. The kids came to Church the first Sunday of camp and Kate described this as a “wonderful experience.”
“The kids took part in the service, did readings, read prayers and sang a beautiful son in Arabic, Hebrew and English.”
In addition to working with the summer camp, Kate is a part of the steering committee for the New Hampshire Chapter. She and others work in “galvanizing support of different people. I would raise the topic of Kis4Peace at Episcopal diesis meetings. Financial support is important but prayer support is very important also.” They also create promotional materials and assist with Honor Card donations for when people want to contribute financially in someone’s name. Further, Kate’s daughter Georgia was at the camp in New Hampshire last summer!
I asked Kate about what she thought of the organization as a whole and she responded with thoughtful words and a good story.
“What works really well is the strong desire for living together in harmony. We all are different and there are fundamental differences between us but we don’t want to change one another. We can all model peaceful behavior.”
Kate told me that while attending the Kids4Peace summit several weeks ago, the audience heard from a boy who had been a part of the Boston camp. He spoke to the group about what they learned at Kids4Peace and he said he became a more peaceful person. His mother, who was in the crowd, stood up and asked if that was why he didn’t fight with his sister so much anymore. For Kate, this story reveals a fundamental part of Kids4Peace.
“We are not just learning about global peace but learning about individual peace. How we deal with one another on a human and individual level.”
I further asked Kate about what she would like to see for the future. She expressed that she would love to see the New Hampshire chapter moving forward to continue to offer a successful camp every summer and establishing more year round programming so that kids can take what they learned a few steps further, keep relationships alive and keep growing together. She also voiced that she would like to take Kids4Peace kids to Jerusalem.
“It is important to see the place that features so strongly in conversations and peacemaking exercises and it is important for young people to know more than just their corner of the world. The moment we step out of what’s familiar, we become more committed to making a difference.”
Kate also shared thoughts on what aspects of Kids4Peace are so important and why it is really making a difference.
“The most important thing that I have learned is that we can learn from our children. Since the entire camp came to visit St. Paul’s, we have had campers visit and they visit other places as well. Everywhere they go, they are helping to make a difference. Children can teach adults, adults can learn from children and sometimes that’s the way it has to be. In bringing peace to the world, that is a very important thing to remember, that our children have something to teach us.”
Dick Dutton is currently co-chair of the New Hampshire/ Vermont Chapter of Kids4Peace with Rabbi Robin Nafshi, and as a part of this role he “gets people, organizations and communities together” in the cause for peace. Though the New Hampshire Kids4Peace is brand new, Dick’s personal experience with peacebuilding is extensive and frankly, impressive.
Dick started off our conversation by describing himself as having “always been a bridge builder.” He grew up in New York State and St. Louis, Missouri and his father was a Baptist Minister who had people from different ethnicities, religions and cultures in their home all the time. Thus, Dick “grew up with excitement about the rest of the world” and told me that his room was filled with maps on the ceiling and walls.
After receiving an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Texas, Dick went to a then very progressive Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He described to me always having “imagination to bring together people of different cultures.” At his first church in Virginia during the American civil rights movement, he encouraged black and white dialogue and was almost kicked out. Captured by his vision for peace, Dick was gradually able to understand the sentiments against him and his cause at the time.
Dick’s quest for peace did not end there however. He moved up the east coast from Baltimore to New York State and eventually New England and created local interfaith groups with Jews, Christians and even Buddhists. Building bridges all along the way, Dick worked with a local Catholic Priest in New England to bring twelve kids from Ireland, some Catholic and some Protestant, to the US to interact with American children in a ten day camp much like Kids4Peace.
Two years ago, Dick became involved in Kids4Peace and helped most recently with the first New Hampshire camp this summer, which he described as a “thrilling success.” I asked him to give me his thoughts on Kids4Peace as a whole.
“They had such a good time playing but every morning had serious discussion where they broke into groups and talked about conflict resolution. Everyone was able to get involved and participate in discussion. We would like to think that this isn’t a ten day thing. All the kids have made a commitment to spend some of the next year doing social service with different groups. Kids are continuing to talk to their peers and their parents and having on going conversations about some ways that they avoided conflict, negotiated and conversed with each other at camp.”
Dick further described his favorite experience from last year’s camp as being the Abrahamic Tent. A show put on by the kids on the last night of camp to show case and parody the different religions. He describes one funny scene of two kids dressed up as Jesus and John the Baptist where John baptizes Jesus and they come out of the water to take a selfie. Another scene however struck to the heart of the matter. The scene depicted children in sheets symbolizing Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. For Dick this showed an important truth. “I realized that all the religions are on a journey and are in transition. No one has arrived yet.” Overall Dick said the first camp experience was for everyone a helpful one.
“Now people are aware of Kids4Peace and the camping program so this second time around we will learn from the last time, improving and building on what happened last year and making it even better next year.”
Additionally Dick expressed a humble appreciation for the many people involved in the camps.
“The willingness and cooperation between those who were helping to organize this was phenomenal. The volunteers who helped out with meals, transportation and those, who did 100 tasks, all the volunteers were just fantastic and so willing to give time to do this. A tent or booth was present at two multi-cultural festivals and we had volunteers for that. So the volunteers at all levels were just spectacular. And then the Director, the Faith Leaders, the counselors, other adults, parents and the Kids, the Kids…we had a real family, and all were committed to what we were doing.”
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