GLOBAL INSTITUTE TEENS IN VERMONT | Imagine the Unimaginable

Imagine the Unimaginable
By Diane Davis
“Unimaginable” was my foremost thought as I listened to the young Jewish, Christian, and Muslim teenagers from Kids4Peace (www.k4p.org) during the Williston Federated Church August 7 worship service.  They were alumni of previous K4P camps in Jerusalem and Vermont chapters and had just returned from the K4P Global Institute in Washington, D.C.
It seemed unimaginable to me that these bright, articulate, animated young people who came to speak at WFC about the power of faith and love grew up in communities where fear and hatred of the “other” is the norm.
Williston EveryoneAs each youth spoke, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, heretofore only a story in the media, came alive for me.  Sadly, their stories are mirror images:
“Terrorist” a classmate flung at Lana, when she introduced herself as a Muslim from Iraq during a class at South Burlington high school.
“Spy” and “traitor” labels rained down on Aviv, a Jewish teenager who dared to suggest to his erstwhile friends that Palestinian youth are “just like us.”  He continued, “They didn’t believe me when I told them I have met Palestinian teenagers and they just want to live, like we do.  They are not dumb or mean like we thought.”
Talia, a Jewish girl from Jerusalem, shared that during a particularly tense time in Jerusalem she was afraid to walk to the corner store for milk or take the bus to school.  “We were so scared we didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Unimaginable. I don’t believe I have ever been that frightened in any situation.  How privileged I am, while these youth, their families and their faith communities live in terror and, yes, as they each pointed out, in ignorance about each “other.”
Yet, they also spoke of how they and their families reach out to other Kids4Peace families for solace and support.  They spoke about the recent opportunity in Washington where they visited the United States Institute of Peace and even lobbied state senators for actions leading to peace.  They spoke about the power of listening and learning from each other.
Williston with HenryThe Jerusalem teens met through the faith-based organization Kids4Peace and they can now imagine a different world for themselves.  Through simple dialogue with each “other” and building a small but committed network of Muslim-Christian-Jewish friends, they can now imagine living side-by-side in peace.
Henry R Carse, Kids4Peace Founder, poet, native Vermonter and long-time resident of Jerusalem said,  “I believe these young people will see peace in their lifetime.  Not in mine but definitely in theirs.”
Imagine that.  In fact, get a clear picture in your mind….because you know “If you can dream it, you can do it.”*
Imagine understanding differences.
Imagine acceptance of the other.
Imagine speaking up against bullying.
Imagine forgiving our enemies.
Imagine peace.
Through the wisdom of Yahweh, the love of Allah, and the grace of God, let it be so.
*  Quote attributed to Walt Disney

Walk4Peace in Burlington June 2nd

Join us June 5th at 2pm

Your donations support the Kids4Peace Vermont Summer Camp for youth from the USA.

Come Walk4Peace

Come support Kids4Peace and walk up and down Church Street. Pledge in honor of friends and family if you like. All funds raised will help to put on our summer camps in Burlington!

Details: Sunday, June 5th. Burlington, Vermont.  Meet at the intersection of Church Street and Pearl Street on the UU lawn. The Parade will be2pm – 3pm. With a parent/kid informational meeting to follow in the UU.

#ForwardTogether: Walk4Peace! www.k4p.org/vermont

Exploring Emotions: Vermont/New Hampshire Spring Retreat

by Nancy Stone

Our Spring over-night retreat took place April 16-17 at sisters Lola and Zelda’s spacious home in New Hampshire with 15 alumni and adults attending.  Our first activity was lessons in Arabic. Then, divided into two groups, we were told to create skits using only Arabic, adding new vocabulary as needed.  One teen remarked, “That wasn’t super hard!”  Someone else commented, “It felt good to be a little part of your culture.”  Shukran, Abeer and Lana.

The unusually warm evening found us walking through a covered bridge leading to a pizza place.  After supper on the deck beside the Contoocook River, we returned home for popcorn and the animated movie “Inside Out”, which is a fun but richly layered exploration of personality, memory and emotions. Our follow-up discussions asked: Which emotions do you feel most often?  What are your core memories?  Which emotions do you think our society values over others?  The adult staff participated by drawing a map of their own “islands of personality.”

After breakfast the next day, we lined up single-file for a silent meditation walk down the quiet street, with a focus on our breath and steps rather than the environment.  This led to sharing time about how to use this skill to calm and focus in daily life.

Art teachers Jill and Nancy then taught everyone how to make their own musical flutes called, ocarina, from kits ordered on-line.  The pre-cut wooden sections were like a puzzle needing to be carefully pieced and glued together; cooperation was often sought from a neighboring crafter.  Once the four-hole instruments were completed, everyone gathered outside to practice songs.  The activity became a metaphor for the peace-making process that leads to making beautiful music together.

May Marathons4Peace

 

 

Peacebuilding is a marathon. Our brave young peacebuilders in Jerusalem and the United States spend six years in Kids4Peace, building the skills and community they need to help heal our divided societies. This May, two Kids4Peace staff members will be running literal marathons to raise money for this summer’s programs that will bring together our Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth — Palestinian, Israeli, and North American — as they take step after step after step in their journey toward peace.

Jeff (Northern New England Regional Director) will be running the Middlebury Maple Run (half-marathon) on Sunday, May 1. On the other side of the continent, on the same day, Jordan (Northwest Regional Director) will be running the Vancouver Marathon.

Our goal is to raise $5200, which represents 50 youth getting one day of Kids4Peace programming this summer. Will you help us to meet this goal? Help provide one day of life-changing programming that allows our youth to meet the other, to learn about each other’s religion and culture, and to develop precious skills in peacebuilding dialogue. Help provide one day of programming to heal the rifts in Jerusalem and to combat the rising tide of religious intolerance in the United States. Help us move #ForwardTogether.

A weekend seminar with K4P NH/VT

by Nancy, K4P NH/VT Art Teacher

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Many Vermont and New Hampshire campers, counselors and staff members of the three faiths met for an over-night retreat the last weekend of January. It was great to meet everybody, whether we shared common memories or made new ones with alumni from different first and second-year camps. “It made us feel part of something bigger!”

The weekend included hearty meals, Acro Yoga, noisy card games, and a movie that led to a good discussion as to its pertinence to our lives. After our new friend Hadil taught us to do a traditional Dabkhea dance, we sang some K4P songs to her as thanks.

Following breakfast the next day, Jill led us in mindful meditation. Then camp director Jeff led a hike across the rolling hills and through the silent woods. Of course, the natural quiet had to be disturbed by a vigorous snowball fight! One camper especially appreciated the Trust Walk game when partners took turns leading the other person whose eyes were closed… ” I felt completely safe, knowing I wouldn’t get hurt”.

We attempted, fairly successfully, to hold a Social Media Flashmob by contacting K4P friends in Jerusalem and the U.S. via Facebook, Skype and Google hang-outs. Such fun!! Then, we worked on an art project for posters to be used in the Walk4Peace, held in Burlington, VT each Spring as a fund-raiser. The new posters more clearly state the mission of Kids4Peace and list our website on the backside.

Here’s a favorite interaction from the weekend:

Jeff: “I asked the group to form a circle but this looks more like an egg. Do you believe you can form a circle?

The kids responded: “No!”

Jeff: “Oh. Well, do you believe Peace is possible?”

Kids: “Yes!!!!!!”

By Nancy Stone, chapter art teacher

Kids4Peace NH/VT Reunite

by Nancy Stone, K4P NH/VY 
Vermont and New Hampshire kids and parents of recent Kids4Peace local and national camps met Saturday November 21st for a much anticipated reunion.  Though some of us keep in touch via social media, it’s so much better to meet in person as we play outdoor games, listen to guitar music, and gobble snacks.  Meeting in the lovely Dartmouth College chapel, we ended our reunion by reflecting on how the Kids4Peace experience has affected us personally.  Zelda Will GaemHere are a few of the shared comments:
       *  K4P gave me a new sense of the world and now my best friends are people on the other side of Earth.  It was an amazing experience.
      *  K4P has transformed my view of the world.  It has given me an outlet to share love, understanding and empathy with people from many different cultures and backgrounds.  K4P is also a vehicle for us all together to join in the effort to expand mutual respect, human dignity and with them, to build a peaceful world.
     *K4P opened a new world for me.  It showed pain, suffering, and hatred.  I have learned that no truth is the same truth but it is the truth of your heart. I’ve learned that if you don’t go into a difficult topic with an open mind, nothing is possible.  K4P shows peace is possible, even with kids.
     *  K4P helped me to understand how people are connected to each other and what different religions are about.
     *  Kids4Peace changed my life because it made me realize that I am not the only one who matters and that I should put others before me.reunion group photo

 

We can do it better, we can live together…Kids 4 Peace!

Interfaith Service 8/15We were so fortunate to have campers from all three levels of K4P VT/NH: Will was from this summer, Shoshana and Aaron were from the continuation 2nd year camp and Lana was from Leadership camp.  The campers read teachings from their faiths while Nancy and Areej led other parts of the service.  Then, Jeff and each of the kids spoke about the rich experiences they had through Kids4Peace.  A member of the congregation played the concertina to teach “Peace Salaam Shalom” that we’d learned from Chelsea at camp.  The benediction was composed from phrases taken from the Prayer Flags made at camp, now divided between Jerusalem, New Hampshire and Vermont.  The congregation was most appreciative and we adults were so very proud of our young ambassadors!

Camp 2015: Being a peacemaker

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-20-15 (F)The morning started off with mindfulness, a chance to “open your heart” as Itai, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem put it. The group practiced paying attention to their breath, inaudibly counting each intake and release, staying still and silent for a whole five minutes.

Transitioning over to dialogue, four adults performed a skit with a lot of mean bullying and hurt feelings. Sarah and Cata ganged up on Julia, making fun of her hair and friendship bracelets, Julia started crying and Chelsea stepped in to ease the conflict.

After watching the pretend kerfuffle, kids picked which role they would most like to have in real life. Most flocked to Chelsea. Romi, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem, talked about how difficult it can be in the peacemaker’s shoes: “It’s very hard to do what Chelsea did. It’s hard to be the only one trying to stop it. Catie, an American, Christian camper added that: “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for somebody.”

After talking about being the one to step in and intervene, Sarah asked the group a couple of good but hard questions: “How does the buddy feel? What do they need?” Kids brainstormed a ton of different possibilities. They thought maybe it had to with getting attention, wanting to feel good but really feeling insecure, having experienced violence in their own lives and bringing into their interactions with other people, jealousy, boredom, and much more. Whether conscious of it or not, the group collectively showed empathy, understanding and thinking about what it might be like for both the bully and their target.

8-20-15 (J)In the next exercise, the kids divided up into two long lines. In the fictitious scenario, line A, while strolling along, finds line B kicking a grandma! It was up to the kids to decide what to do and how to do it. Some blocked and protected the imaginary grandmas with their bodies, others tried saying stop and talking, while tried moving the bully out of the way.

After switching roles, kids discussed what was like when they were able to help out effectively. One Jerusalem, Christian camper, Karl said: “I felt like superman!” Zelda, who is Jewish and from the US, “felt powerful”.

Using non-violent strategies, asking good questions and figuring out what is going on can be scary, counterintuitive, and hard. That said, when we see people being bullied, if we have the courage to help, we can make a huge difference. We can ask “what’s wrong, how can I help you, what are you angry about? Responding peacefully is a good option, but one that takes practice and courage.

A special guest, New Hampshire Congresswoman, Ann Kuster, spent the morning hearing about Kids4Peace, sharing stories and meeting with staff and kids. It was wonderful to hear her talk about how she uses the same, open minded approach that Kids4Peace tries to cultivate, while working with Representatives with all sorts of different world views.

8-20-15 (I)She also shared about how great it is to see kids connect on an unconscious, visceral level, overcoming differences through shared experiences without even realizing that close friendships are being formed. With only time for a short visit, it was sad to see her go so soon!

The after lunch hours flew by swimming in the lake, making masks, playing soccer, and doing acro-yoga. Before anybody knew it, the time had come for the evening talent show! Fantastic MC’s guided the evening, calling up one great act after another. The celebration continued from individual skits, dances and songs, to one big dance party with songs in different languages, both familiar and new blasting through the space.

Even those campers, who were at first glued to their seats, couldn’t resist for long the temptation to join in. Spirits high, kids walked back their cabins begging for more.

Camp 2015: Crossing the line

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-19-15 (P)A puzzling picture was presented to the kids when they arrived at dialogue. Some saw an elderly woman, while others found a young woman’s face. After some discussion and lots of explaining, most people were able to see both, but then had the confusing experience of switching back and forth. As a whole group the kids talked about how oftentimes we only see things from one perspective, but if we’re open to looking, we can see something completely different. This talk led into a game. A rope was laid down the middle of the room and the kids were split into two groups. Each group was separately given the same objective: to get all the members of the other group to their side of the rope. Language was intentionally left neutral, winning/losing, your team/their team, etc. was never mentioned.

Kids used different strategies to try and accomplish what they were told to do. Some thought of a good solution but didn’t know how to involve others. Some tried to create a really attractive environment with fun games on their side, so kids from the other side would be excited to join them. Others pleaded, begged, bribed or tried coercing the other kids across. Some tried negotiation and explaining. After about 20 minutes, they all came to the agreement to stand on the centerline, with one foot on each side.

In the debrief, kids reflected on the experience. Alexxa, a Christian camper from the US, noted that: “People are thinking about just their goal, without thinking about both groups”. Joseph, a Christian, Jerusalem camper had a related thought: “Nobody thinks about the middle ground”.

Most kids realized that they had been thinking in terms of winning and losing, and assuming that the first side with all the people would win. When asked to explain the purpose of the game, many of them all had good ideas. One said it was to “learn listening” another mentioned “empathy” another wanted to emphasize “seeing things from different perspectives” and another talked about “working together”. They were able see how all these skills fit together to in order to cooperate.

After working hard in dialogue, the kids once again went off to practice and develop their Abraham tent skits.

8-19-15 (C)Down at the waterfront, after lunch, pairs of kids swam around, jumped off the dock, chatted, laughed and splashed. The same afternoon rotations of mask making, sports and games/acro-yoga took place before dinner. At that meal, the much anticipated clean cabin award was presented. Spaces were judged on their cleanliness, as well as the feel and how welcoming they were. One of boys’ cabins had cleaned everything, even the porch, and was thrilled to take home the prize!

The evening was relaxing, watching a movie, Remember the Titans, and drawing backdrops for the Abraham tent play. Cleaning up spilled popcorn after the movie, kids worked together, pausing on the way back to their cabin to admire the stars.

Camp 2015: Word of the day: Empathy

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 8.46.48 AM8-18-15 (E)
The word of the day was empathizing, which one Muslim camper from Jerusalem, Qais, defined as “feeling somebody else’s pain”. Sarah, who was leading the discussion talked about how when we show empathy, we support the other person.

The kids then split into groups, writing down stories about something that had happened to them. Stories were randomly drawn out and read, followed by everybody else finding good language with which to empathize. One Jewish camper from the US, Isa, felt moved by one story: “I’m really sorry for whoever that happened to, because that sounds terrible.” After dialogue, Abraham tent groups met to start figuring out their skits for Sunday’s big show!

The afternoon was split between swim test and three rotations. Groups either made plaster masks, played sports, or did group games/acro-yoga. For two hours after dinner, preparations were hurriedly made for the upcoming talent show! Cartwheels were practiced, songs were rehearsed, dances were taught and many surprises were devised. The rhythm of camp life is definitely setting in.

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Reaching new heights

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-17-15 (H)Mixing things up a bit, Monday was ropes course day! After a few big activities with everyone, the campers went into smaller groups to play cooperative games and meet their ropes course facilitators.

Eventually everyone headed off to the woods, working with the low ropes, logs, swings, and platforms. At lunch Talia, a Muslim camper from Jerusalem, reported her experience: “When I first went on the rope I felt like I was in a video, I felt like I was flying!” She also shared her thoughts on what the afternoon with the high ropes would be like: “I’m afraid of heights so I’m a little nervous. But I also like adventures! This will be my adventure.”

Sure enough, everybody’s toes where high in air that afternoon. Kids perched on top of log, called the catwalk, strolled across a bridge made of just a single wire, clambered up a climbing wall, and scrambled up a vertical playground of obstacles. On the walk back to the cabins, another Muslim Jerusalem camper, Mona, shared her experience. “It was fun! I was a little nervous but then it turned out to be so easy!”

After dinner, campers crowded around a new project, writing appreciation and encouragement cards for their friends. As notes were written and delivered, kids shyly peeked into their bags, seeing if anybody had left them a little something and having a hard time resisting the temptation to read them. Nancy, the art teacher, made it very clear that notes can only be read on the way home. It’s going to be hard to wait.

The evening consisted of a huge soccer game, with almost everybody playing, topped off with a good old campfire, songs and s’mores. Even though everyone was tired, it was hard to tear them away from the fire and fun and take them to bed. It’s only been a day, but this new site is already feeling like home.

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Camp 2015: Church, Ice Cream, and a Test of Tenacity

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-16-15 (A)The day started early, finishing up packing before breakfast and getting dressed for church. It was a struggle to get all the luggage packed into the bus, but somehow everybody and everything made it in time to the Cathedral.

Bishop Tom, a well-known face from the previous days and the ice cream social, preached, giving special attention to Kids4Peace. Christian campers were able to participate in the service, lecturing and alter serving. During the homily, the entire group performed the Kids4Peace chant as well as taught the congregation a song called Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

Afterwards, the Bishop answered questions about the church, his vestments, and Christianity as well as demonstrated the rather complicated way of putting on his hat. When he finished, there was a line nearly out the door to try it on!

8-16-15 (C)After that, it was back on the bus for a short ride to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory! Two tour groups made up of campers and staff, marveled at the big machinery and sampled a delicious cup of caramel swirl chip in the flavor room. Respects were paid at the Flavor Graveyard, mourning the loss of some delectable blends.

The next several hours were spent on the bus. Tired, hot and full of people, it was ride that tested everyone’s tenacity and tolerance. It took a bit longer than expected, but everyone arrived safety to New Hampshire. After a good dinner, the kids settled into their cabins for the night, eager to see their new surroundings in the daylight.8-16-15 (B)8-16-15 (G)

Camp 2015: Filling up in NH/VT

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-14-15 (B)The second full day of camp started off learning how to ask for a translation. Sarah, the dialogue facilitator, and Chelsea, the interfaith advisor, demonstrated with a little bit of frantic Spanish. In the next activity, kids stepped into the circle, telling the group something about themselves, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes Hebrew, oftentimes English. The room was always full of voices sharing and translating.

Next, the kids split into peace groups to draw maps of what is most important to them. For many that included their family, their friends, their faith, their pets, and a few of their favorite things to do. After completing their maps, the groups shared among themselves, looking at the similarities and differences in each one.

When the dialogue session came to an end, there was a scurry of activity as the girls helped each other put on headscarves, and everybody climbed onto the bus and headed out to visit a mosque. Upon arrival, a delicious homemade feast was waiting. Walking around the space, one American camper Will, who is Christian said, “This place is really cool! It’s so different from my church but its got the same nice feeling. If I were Muslim, I think I’d really like coming here every week.”

For the service, the girls went upstairs where they could see what was happening on a screen. The Christian and Jewish campers sat in an arc around the space, observing the prayers. Afterwards, the group met with the imam, and learned about the special carpet design for praying, and much more about the mosque as well as the traditions and beliefs of Islam.

The afternoon was spent shopping on Church Street, Burlington’s famous pedestrian walkway. The Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the most popular places to visit.

A little tired out, groups then walked to the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue to meet with the Rabbi. Her chat went right into the Friday evening Shabbat service welcoming in the Jewish day of rest. After blessing and sharing grape juice and challah, the entire group walked back to Rock Point, singing the Kids4Peace chant and chatting among themselves. It was a full day in every way possible.

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Counselor Prep in Vermont

 by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator, K4P NH/VT camp

8-10-15 (E)8-10-15 (I)Monday, August 10th was a full day of working hard and building group moral for the VT/NH staff. Individuals had trickled in throughout the previous day, including a big van from Boston bringing the Jerusalem Counselors and one of our lovely cooks Debby.

They arrived too late at night to really meet anybody until the next morning. The tone of our work together was set after breakfast, sitting down to make trilingual nametags.

Counselors passed around napkins and scrap paper, practicing the Hebrew and Arabic spellings of their names, comparing translations and decorating their individual papers. Later the group paired off to tell each other their life stories.

Experiences ranged from childhood in Jerusalem, coming to U.S. for a high school exchange program, leaving Iraq and immigrating to Jordan and later the U.S., doing peace work in Nicaragua, participating in interfaith travels and much, much more.

Between stories, staff members found comfort in each other’s company, breathing together, sharing weight, laughing and sharing.

In the afternoon, counselors eagerly donned Kids4Peace T-shirts, split into groups, and worked on logistics for the kids’ arrival. Signs were hung, floor plans were drawn, schedules were written out, spaces were set up… in other words, much was accomplished!

The late afternoon included time to visit a nearby park, play soccer, explore the waterfront, or participate in an outdoor yoga class benefitting Kids4Peace. It was a long day, but one that gave us all the chance to set good intentions for the upcoming camp.

Vermont Kids4Peace Gala!

together picVermont held its first Kids4Peace Gala on November 9th at Shelburne Farm’s historic Coach Barn.  One hundred Vermont & New Hampshire campers, families, community members, staff, and camper alumni came together for a reunion, fund-raiser and celebration of peace-making.

Rabbi Joshua Chasan and Bishop Thomas Ely reflected on the first year of Kids4PeaceVermont in 2007.  Camper/Counselor Noa Urbaitel and K4P parents Roberta Nubile, Elizabeth Berger, and Naomi Barell spoke about the positive impact that Kids4Peace has had on their lives.  Then our special guests, Yakir Englander, Montaser Amro and Fr. Josh Thomas, inspired us with stories of hope and acceptance.

rabbi joshua

Rabbi Joshua Chasan

bishop tom

Bishop Tom Ely

Lisa Speaks k4p fundraiser

Since our New Hampshire/Vermont chapters will be starting a new year-round program, our small staff is seeking assistance for this growth.  There are opportunities for community members to become a Friend and/or an Ambassador.
Friends will volunteer time and talent to assist with year-round youth activities, service projects, photography & video, mailings & administrative tasks, media & public relations, special events, etc.

Ambassadors will be trained to become spokes-people for Kids4Peace to help with camper recruitment, presentations to community groups, faith communities and spreading the message of peace.

(If you are reading this, please consider signing up at www.kids4peace.org/vermont.  We need your energy! The choice of activities and level of commitment will be up to you.)

Surrounded by colorful posters & banners, delicious refreshments, and live music, the campers and staff shared hugs and group photos, rejoicing in the special community that brings us together in our mission of peace.

past & present k4p kids

Past & Present Kids4Peace Kids

The evening ended later with Vice President of Kids4Peace International giving a talk at the University of Vermont for students and staff.

 

Photo Credit: Kelley Gage

Maddie | Close Friends

 That’s what I love about K4P: I get an inside look into what others believe is the way to start solving problems and becoming peacemakers.

As a high school junior living in Waterbury, Vermont, Maddie Baughman was one of our youngest counselors in 2013. She participated in Leadership Camp in 2012, and waIMG_1516s a camper before that.

Maddie comes from a Christian family, but doesn’t describe herself as highly religious. When she’s not studying, she spends time helping out with her parents’ composting business, working at a local bakery, playing basketball, participating in theater, and daydreaming of joining Kids4Peace again!

“Kids4Peace is anything but abstract. We have the rare opportunity of getting to know and love amazing people from halfway across the world—and that’s real,” she notes. She loves learning about the array of cultures and religions represented at camp. She doesn’t take for granted her ability to take part in K4P. She feels lucky to have so much support, and knows that can’t be said for all participants. That’s one reason she hasn’t hesitated prioritizing K4P in planning her last few summers.

Keeping in touch with campers and counselors alike has helped her to stay connected to the cause. She says she and her K4P friends “discuss everything from our favorite types of cars to political and social occurrences, such as Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.”

I caught up with Maddie to get a more in-depth understanding of how her experience with K4P changed her outlook. Here’s what she shared:

“I’ve definitely learned a lot about what the day to day experiences are for those I’ve met through Kids4Peace. As a result, my family and friends hear a lot about what’s going on too. When it comes to talking about the conflict, I don’t think people know where to start. That’s what I love about K4P: I get an inside look into what others believe is the way to start solving problems and becoming peacemakers.

I picked up a lot of skills as a counselor, namely leadership and listening. One night, there was some religious disrespect going on, and intentional or not, there were hurt feelings. With the help of the other staff members and counselors, we were able to get the campers to understand each other and resolve the issue.

As counselors, we got to explore how we can be leaders. It was a powerful transition from camper to counselor, suddenly becoming an adult in this world of conflict. The intermediate time (Leadership Camp) was the place where we learned the most, had the best conversations about the conflict, and could talk about what was really going on. People were serious, and it got intense at times, but we also had a lot of fun. Between us, we built respect and trust, the fundamentals of long lasting friendships.

The Americans that participated in this year’s camp in Houston brought their learning and hope back home. They were very enthusiastic when they came, and even moreso when they left. They brought that to their friends, communities, and households. It’s important for people everywhere to understand the different perspectives of people living in conflict in the Middle East, as well as other places around the world—including the US. The US is a great place to host the camps so that we as Americans can understand what’s going on over there.

I’m still in touch with my friends from K4P, I feel as close to them as I do with my friends at home. We bonded over exploring different cultures, languages, religions and their respective ceremonies, noting the similarities and differences. I really enjoyed that.

K4P helped stir my interests when it comes to thinking about college. I’m curious about global studies and international relations. I’ve come to realize that regardless of where you live around the world, it’s possible that we’re all still able to connect on a personal level.

 K4P has definitely caused me to examine what I want to do with my life and how I want to be a positive influence on the world. In day to day conduct it’s important to understand people as people rather than what makes them different. It’s been a wonderful way to learn about myself and who I want to be.”

At Kids4Peace we’re all on the same level, we interact with each other as other people, rather than people from different countries.

– Interview by David Rowan, K4P International Intern

Maddie - Houston 2

Maddie - Houston

Nancy | Recognition and Respect

Kids4Peace helped me recognize my own faith while respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. It is that recognition and respect that we hope Kids4Peace offers the children, as well as the adult staff.

Nancy Stone is a volunteer with Kids4Peace Vermont and the art teacher for the Vermont/New Hampshire summer camp. 

Describe your background:

My dad was in the army during World War II, so I was born where he was stationed in Detroit, Michigan in 1943. Currently I live in Williston, Vermont, near Burlington and Lake Champlain. I was raised in Massachusetts and went to Alfred University in New York where I majored in ceramic design. In college, I explored a very broad range of aNancy Stonert, as well as English, history, and art education.

How has your background led you to K4P?

In 1983, I heard about the Children’s Art Exchange with the Soviet Union and I could not sleep. It really stirred me, being a mother, an artist, as well as an art educator. I wanted to use my art for peace so I became the Art Program Director for the Children’s Art Exchange. I went to the Soviet Union three times, bringing art from American children and carrying back art from the Soviet children. We also had an exchange of teachers and children. What I loved about the Children’s Art Exchange was that it combined peace, nurturing children, and art. Kids4Peace has the added element of addressing Faith. Having been a church and choir member since childhood, the spiritual aspect of Kids4Peace makes it even more special.

Kids4Peace inspires me because I want the world to be a safer place for my children and grandchildren. We have a son who was born in 1968 and a daughter who was born in 1971. They both moved back to Vermont to be near us so we do child-care for the three grandchildren. I’ve taught all levels of art from Pre-K to College level but I knew I could not keep that up if I was going to do the childcare. So, I ended many commitments but decided that I would keep working as art teacher for Kids4PeaceVermont. It has grown to a much larger commitment but I’m glad it’s still in my life.

As art teacher for Kids4PeaceVermont, I work with the camp director to come up with art projects that are significant and meaningful to each summer’s programming. We have themes such as ‘things we share’ (i.e., the earth, water, wind, etc.) and I come up with projects that reflect the theme. We have made plaster gauze masks on each other’s faces. It is amazing to see two kids from different cultures, many times with a history of deep conflict, having the trust to build a mask on each other’s face.

How did I become involved with Kids4Peace?

Well, one night in 2009 my husband asked if I wanted to go to a church Peace Potluck. I reluctantly agreed, although I was tired and didn’t want to go out to another night meeting. Soon after the camp director started the presentation and I saw a video of children from Palestine, Israel and Vermont, I was flooded with a feeling that I must become involved! So, I went up to the director and said I hoped that I wasn’t too old, but if they needed an art teacher, I was willing to become actively involved. At the time it seemed like a small commitment, just ten days in the summer, but it has become a year-long involvement with monthly meetings, a peace-walk, buying art supplies, giving sermons to my church, speaking at Rotary meetings, etc.

How has Kids4Peace influenced your life?

Through my work with Kids4Peace, I have gained a new outlook and appreciation for life. In a selfish way, it makes me appreciate the peace and freedom we have in our country now. It also makes me more conscious of the situation in Israel and Palestine, and I worry about the kids and staff members when there are reports of conflict or attacks. In the beginning, I embraced getting to know everyone in the different religions and felt that separating myself from the group to go up and take communion with only the Christians was being disloyal to the group. But after searching my heart, I realized that being a Christian is part of my personal identity. That summer, Kids4Peace helped me recognize my own faith while respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. It is that recognition and respect that we hope Kids4Peace offers the children, as well as the adult staff.

Today, Kids4Peace is a very special part of my life. I can talk to people from other religions more deeply, and I can have meaningful conversations about faith and culture.

A Muslim advisor from camp, now living in Vermont has become a dear friend. Kids4Peace makes me feel that even at my age, (I just turned 70), that I’m still a useful part of society and that I can help young people also see that they can become leaders for peace. I am so happy to be doing my work with Kids4Peace. Recognizing that the problems in our different societies are long-standing and difficult, we can empower the children with skills and understanding so that they can work for peace, perhaps even using the arts, making changes in attitudes so that we can find new ways of interacting with each other.

What are your  favorite memories from Kids4Peace?

One of my most striking memories from the Kids4Peace camps happened when we had early morning meditation along Lake Champlain. In the beginning, the kids were restless and shifting around. Eventually they settled down and just sat silently on the huge boulders, looking out at the water and mountains. When we walked back up the dirt path, one boy from a Palestinian refugee camp took the hand of another boy, a new friend who was a Jew from Vermont. It was such a beautiful moment! It still gives me shivers.