For Matt Loper, a job with Kids4Peace seemed unimaginable six years ago. While in undergraduate, he studied theater design and human development at Northwestern University and had no connection to K4P during his college career or even any aspirations to work with youth. But after connecting with the “incredibly inspiring” participants that first summer of camp in Boston, he was instantly hooked! While today Kids4Peace is an important part of his life, the path to working with kids and interfaith organizations in Boston was not clear to Matt immediately after graduation. Thinking at first about starting a path toward the medical field, he had a moment of clarity after Kids4Peace camp.
“I had this really informative experience where I was thinking about how one semester of school would cost a similar amount to making two or even three trips to Israel and Palestine. Feeling such a strong pull toward Jerusalem and away from school, I knew then just how important Kids4Peace really was to me.” Today, Matt, who at first was a staff member at the camp, is now responsible for organizing and supporting the Kids4Peace chapter and program in Boston, acting as the Boston staff director.
Matt is fortunate enough to work with young people both at an episcopal church and through Kids4Peace Boston. “Peace is such an important part of my faith that it really informs why I do Kids4Peace and why Kids4Peace is important to me. I like the fact that at my church I work with the youth group. I work with kids who are the same age as the kids in Kids4Peace. It gives me an opportunity to look at the world and what we are doing in a single faith context, and to then be able to bring that to Kids4Peace.”
For Matt, one of the most meaningful parts of Kids4Peace is his exposure to different religions. For Matt being able to understand the values and the traditions of both Islam and Judaism, as well as the daily life in Israel and Palestine has been really moving. “I knew so little before traveling to Israel and Palestine and working with the kids. I am now able to understand that part of the world and those faith traditions and relate to it all a bit more, which is really helpful for me.”
Working with others in a non-profit organization, and learning new skills from them, has also allowed Matt to gain a deeper understanding and become more open to the realities between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, not only in Israel and Palestine, but also in Boston. For Matt, the relationships made through Kids4Peace are extremely meaningful. “I work with people who are working so hard to make peace. It was amazing to see what impact it had on their lives and what sacrifices they had to make.” Through Kids4Peace, Matt was introduced to people who deeply inspire him, people who he would not have otherwise met, claiming he is a “much better and more peaceful person because of it.”
Yet for Matt, the most inspiring part of his work with Kids4Peace is the kids. “Anytime I have a rough day and get to spend time with them it totally turns my day around. The kids are really inspiring, in terms of their ability to interact with one another in atypical, more peaceful ways as well as to ask inspiring questions of one another.” One of Matt’s most cherished memories from his work with Kids4Peace was during camp one summer, when he heard the boys being quite loud and talkative during their bedtime. Matt went in to ask the boys to quiet down. When he entered their room, “I saw one boy was reading the Qu’ran, and all the other boys were sitting around respectfully around him, just listening. It was a really powerful moment, to be able to see Christians and Jews absorb the wisdom of the Qur’an through this young man’s reading.”
For Matt, this ability to learn and understand other cultures and religions, as well as to work closely with people who deeply inspire him has been profoundly meaningful. “Kids4Peace has brought the most incredible friendships into my life. It has brought people into my life who really inspire me, and my life is so much better because of it.”