Middle Eastern, American youth clasp Hands of Peace

Hands of Peace youth participate in a water balloon toss with children from Kids for Peace, a Carlsbad-based nonprofit that aims to cultivate every child’s innate ability to foster peace through cross-cultural experiences and hands-on arts, services and environmental projects. Photos by Kristina Houck

By Kristina Houck

While war rages in the Middle East, Israeli, Palestinian and American youth promoted peace during a summer camp July 7-24 at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad. Organized by Hands of Peace, the nonprofit aims to build bridges between teens divided by conflict, culture, geography and history.

“We’re trying to provide a safe space for these kids so they can communicate and listen to each other,” said San Diego Site Director Scott Silk. “We believe that by giving them this space to talk and to be together, we are giving the opposing side a human face — for all involved. That’s the start to any kind of peace — understanding that the people on the other side are actually human, too.”

For the past nine years, Silk has worked with the Chicago-based nonprofit, which holds annual summer retreats for students ages 15 through 18. This summer, the group held its 11th summer program with 42 teens in Chicago, and Silk helped launch a sister program in San Diego’s coastal North County.

“The goal is to touch as many kids as we possibly can,” said Silk, who is Jewish and teaches Middle East and American history at Pacific Ridge School, a private school for grades 7 through 12. “I’ve been so amazed and touched by the community of people that’s rallied around this organization. There are hundreds of people here who are doing their part in some way or another.”

Hands of Peace had to raise $140,000 to kick off its inaugural 17-day retreat in Carlsbad. All of the 24 participants received full or partial scholarships, with many having experienced violence and loss as a result of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Scott Silk and Rana Haddad of Hands of Peace.

As a regional coordinator, Arab-Israeli Rana Haddad helped recruit teens for the program she participated in when she was 15 years old. As a Palestinian Christian living in Israel, Haddad grew up next to Jewish people, but didn’t interact with Jews until participating in the summer retreat.

“We live in a really complicated place,” Haddad said. “I come from a city that is mixed with Jews and Arabs together. I was 15 years old, but for 15 years, I wasn’t co-existing with Jews, although I had Jewish neighbors who lived next door. It’s like you’re living together, but not living together at the same time.”

Haddad participated in the dialogue-based program for two consecutive years, learning about different cultures and religions, developing team-building and leadership skills, and exploring ways to incorporate peace-building into her personal life and community.

“You go back home stronger, full of hope,” Haddad said. “You know peace is possible. The things that you shared with your friends, here, at Hands of Peace, these are the same people that you’re living with in war back home.”

Now 26, Haddad works with the organization to help promote peace and develop future leaders. Still, she said it isn’t always easy.

“It’s really hard to be away from home and to talk about peace while there’s war back home,” Haddad said. “If it’s going to affect the process, however, I think it will affect it for the good. It’s better for the kids to face these things here, where they are safe.

“I really hope these programs continue and people support it, because we really need it back home. These are the things that help us. Without hope, we have nothing.”

The summer program featured daily dialogue sessions led by professional facilitators, as well as educational activities and visits to a church, synagogue and mosque. In addition to the summer program, Hands of Peace offers a year-round alumni club in the U.S., Israel and the West Bank that serves more than 300 graduates.

“So many of us are so frustrated by what we see on TV and in the news. We feel so helpless,” Silk said. “I think this program gives people something concrete that they can do — to impact kids one heart and mind at a time.”

For more about Hands of Peace, visit www.handsofpeace.org. Contact Silk at ssilk@handsofpeace.org.

Related posts:

  1. Local student attends Mideast peace program
  2. Historic facts disputed over Mideast conflict
  3. Directors say ‘Hands on a Hardbody’ is unparalleled in American Theater today
  4. Walk this weekend to help Middle Eastern women
  5. Carmel Valley teen participates in American Youth Leadership Program abroad

Short URL: http://www.delmartimes.net/?p=74104

Posted by Staff on Jul 31, 2014. Filed under Life, North Coast Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Archives

Facebook

Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

LA JOLLA NEWS

RANCHO SANTA FE NEWS

RANCHO SANTA FE NEWS

RSS RANCHO SANTA FE NEWS

  • Community input received on proposed health club and pool facility in Rancho Santa Fe
    About 100 Rancho Santa Fe residents showed up on Friday, Oct. 17, for a health club and pool community meeting, the last outreach before ballots were mailed on Monday, Oct. 20. On the ballots, members are being asked whether the Rancho Santa Fe Association should spend $350,000 on a professional planning phase for the potential new community amenity. RSF Ass […]
  • Czech violin duo to perform at Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe
    In cooperation with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, the Czech School San Diego hosts a free classical violin concert by internationally recognized Czech violin player Jaroslav Svecený and his daughter, Julie Svecená, who are on a tour of the United States. The concert will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Village Church. The father-daughter duo will […]
  • Rancho Santa Fe weekly sports update
    Torrey Pines defeated Canyon Crest Academy 4-3 in a Palomar League opener for both teams on Oct. 9. Alayna Tomlinson and Farah Farjood each scored two goals to lead the Falcons. Samantha “Sammy” Cirino added one goal and one assist. […]