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. 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.
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.
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.
- 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?
So much can fit into one day!
That’s the life of a Kids4Peace kid, though. 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!
Good Morning! בוקר טוב صباح الخير
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.
Check out this photo album for a sample of these photos:
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!)
Everyone is headed to bed excited about tomorrow’s hike!
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!
We fell asleep with happy hearts and can’t wait to wake up to another wonderful day tomorrow!
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’myah 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; including Shilla’s delicious recipe of Ugandan chicken.
In 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.
Crazy Dinner! That’s just one of the activities that filled our day today. At Camp Merrowvista, twice every summer all 200 campers and staff dress in their craziest clothes for dinner, and Kids4Peace was part of the celebration this evening. Mismatched clothes, silly hair arrangements and a visit to the camp costume closet prepared us to be part of the fun. Not only all of that, but we also had pizza for dinner!
Earlier in the day, the Boston kids arrived to join their soon-to-be-friends from Jerusalem. In Kids4Peace we call roommates “peace pals” and each room has kids from Jerusalem and kids from Boston and each room has at least one Muslim, Christian, and Jew. To get to know one another, we played games with names like knankle bopper and dragon tail tag. The boys were challenged by an activity called “Whale Watch” which required all of them to balance on a large board on a fulcrum that rotates 360 degrees. At the same time the girls had a “Giant Swing” challenge where they had to work together to get their whole group from one area to another.
We also spent some time in religious groups getting ready for Ju’umah prayer (Muslim Friday prayers), Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath), and a Christian Sunday morning service.
It’s been a wonderful first day and we’re looking forward to swimming in the lake tomorrow!
Check out our photo album from this awesome day at:
The Jerusalem campers arrived yesterday evening and headed right to camp in the
Lake Region of New Hampshire. This morning most were up early – very early –
because 6 AM in New Hampshire is lunch time in Jerusalem. Early risers played
soccer, learned how to make origami boxes, and enjoyed the tall trees and view of
the lake from our back porch. We’re ready for a full day of activities!
Can you believe that these 12 young people and their wonderful staff are already in the air flying toward Boston for Kids4Peace summer camp!?!?
The local team, here in Boston, is extremely excited to greet them when they arrive! The Boston team just finished two days of staff training and have this enthusiastic message to share:
“Hello from most of this years’ Kids4Peace Boston staff! We jumped right into training, prepping, playing, and doing a little arts and crafts as we excitedly await the beginning of camp this summer!
The Boston team of six staff and two counselors-in-training have spent bountiful time together in the town of East Falmouth, a little south of Boston on the Cape. In a beautiful home just a few minutes drive from the beach, we practiced how to create safe spaces for dialogues, conflict resolution, and reflected on what it is like to be a twelve or thirteen year old. We’ve shared experiences where we have seen interfaith dialogue not only be successful, but beautiful, and gathered the key ingredients for this success that we can bring to K4P to help foster a positive learning environment. The energy and excitement to work with these incredible children is growing by the minute!
But it’s not all work…this is camp after all! We’ve also been playing games and cooking up a storm with team-challenge dinner! Do you know how fun it is to make vegan ice cream? We do! It perfectly complimented our tossed salad with homemade dressing and the choose-your-own-adventure entree of cous cous with stir fried veggies, falafel, kosher meat, and choice of two curries. What a feast to bring us all closer as a staff!”
A Sunday in Boston without a snowstorm in what feels like forever and a youth interface conference! Could it get any better? More than thirty Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth came together from all over the Boston area for team-building activities and interfaith dialogue. Peals of laughter and excited voices filled the interfaith chapel as K4PB youth met and became fast friends with other teenagers from local churches, synagogues, and mosques. And the conversations in dialogue groups and workshops were respectful, thoughtful, and inspiring–just what you’d expect from teenagers committed to peace and interfaith understanding! After all, this was the conference that K4PB youth proposed, organized, and ran.
The day started early for K4PB youth–they showed up, cheerful and excited, to host an interfaith youth conference on Daylight Savings Sunday. The K4PB high school participants took their conference and their responsibilities as hosts seriously. They proposed the idea last year and were involved in its development from inception to the turning off of the last lights in the evening. In preparation for leading workshops and dialogue, the high schoolers have been getting together on many Sundays over the past couple of months to create and practice their presentations and dialogue plans.
Bright smiles flashed everywhere today! K4PB youth welcomed our guests as soon as they arrived and they introduced each guest to his or her K4PB host or hostess or “peace buddy.” The interfaith pairs then participated in fun large group and smaller group activities and got to know each other over snacks and games. They were pals by the time they sat down to listen to our guest speaker, journalist and author Linda K. Wertheimer whose book, Faith Ed: Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance, will be published in the summer of 2015. Linda presented one of her upcoming books’ chapters as a case study and then the youth pairs actively participated in dialogue groups of eight around the issues of intolerance and education and world religions in public school. How bright does our future seem when youth from different religious and socio-economic backgrounds come together and talk and listen so candidly and with such sensitivity!
After dialogue, the youth led or attended their chosen workshop. Some learned words in Hebrew and Arabic; some thought about points their three faiths have in common; others observed and heard about objects sacred in each of the three faiths; the rest considered the place of race, faith, and justice in our world today. Before anyone realized it, it was almost time to say good-bye. But not before a rousing and inspiring closing ceremony! As the youth said their goodbyes, it was evident that each participant would be leaving with a new friend from a religion other than their own and there was no doubt that they were taking home the message that distrust and fear tear us apart but that trust and friendship bring us closer together. Later that evening, when the K4PB hosts were asked “who made a friend today that they’d like to see again?” all of them raised their hands.
In the anonymous program evaluation form, 100% of the youth said that they would recommend the event to a friend. The three words they used most often to explain why were: fun, informative, educational. When asked what they enjoyed most, the youth responded that they loved meeting their peace buddies, leading workshops and dialogues, participating in games, and spending time with other K4PB participants. Kids were pleasantly surprised by their ability to lead workshops and delighted with the openness and enthusiasm with which other youths joined in and participated in the dialogue and conference. When asked to rank their experience, half the participants said that they enjoyed the event overall, the dialogue sessions, and the workshop in which they participated a lot. In a 1-to-5 scale, they gave it a 1.
“It was good to have an event that was for non-K4P kids. I was proud that K4P kids were leaders.” ~ Paris, K4PB teenager.