Young Participants Learn Leadership Skills And Conflict Resolution As They Work Toward Peace And A Better Future
Press Release – CHICAGO: Israeli, Palestinian and American teens will come together in the Chicago area in July for a three-week peace building program designed to help break down the walls of conflict in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Hands of Peace summer program encourages high school students of widely varied backgrounds to find their voices as leaders, overcome stereotypes and learn the leadership and critical thinking skills that are necessary for working toward peace. The participants come from areas that are deeply divided by conflict, culture, geography and history, yet they commit to forging a connection and finding common ground.
Now in its 15th year, the Hands of Peace program empowers young people with knowledge and skills that will enable them to take part in grassroots peace efforts in their home communities. This summer’s 49 participants have undergone an extensive application process to be part of the program, showing a desire to share their perspectives, listen and work toward peace. Hands of Peace participants live with host families, giving the local families an opportunity to build strong, long-lasting relationships with the teens from the Middle East and see the conflict through the eyes of those who have experienced it firsthand.
The program takes place at various locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs. In addition to Chicago, there is a San Diego program, now in its fourth year and serving 47 teens this summer.
Many of the Middle East participants have experienced violence and loss as a result of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are meeting the “other side” for the first time. The program revolves around daily dialogue sessions, led by professional facilitators, in which teens share personal stories, listen and offer their views about paths for peace. The participants also take part in educational activities including a visit to a church, synagogue and mosque and a community organizing workshop. In addition, there are team-building outings, such as a ropes course excursion, a lakefront barbecue and sightseeing in Chicago.
Gretchen Grad, Hands of Peace founder, says she sees great transformations take place in the young participants each summer, as they develop deep connections with each other. “This gives us hope for a better future,” she says. “Young people are the key to change and peace in the Middle East. “Grad adds that the summer experience is transformative not only for the participants but also for the local families who get involved. “We are so thankful for our network of supporters, volunteers and host families. We could not do any of this without them.”
Following the summer program, Hands of Peace alumni continue to grow as peace leaders, taking part in seminars, alumni club activities and a year-long leadership program to implement community projects in their home communities.
In addition to the summer program, Hands of Peace holds educational events such as film dialogue nights, guest lectures and community service projects. The organization also sponsors a Dual Narrative Tour of Israel and Palestine for supporters. The next trip takes place Oct. 21 to Nov. 1, 2018. The group will tour holy sites in Jerusalem, float in the Dead Sea, visit a refugee camp, talk with prominent politicians and activists, and meet with Hands of Peace alumni, families and staff. More information can be found at http://www.handsofpeace.org/dual-narrative-trip/.
More About Hands of Peace
Hands of Peace is a non-profit 501(c)(3) global interfaith organization. It was founded in 2002 by three women—one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim—who shared the conviction that peace could be nurtured, one person at a time. Worldwide, Hands of Peace now has more than 500 alumni living and working for peace across the United States and throughout Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. For more information, go to www.handsofpeace.org.
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