Peace Action Conference

mawishk4p —  September 11, 2018 — Leave a comment
Vermont and New Hampshire’s Summer Peace Action Conference took place on the beautiful Dartmouth campus in Hanover, NH this year. Youth arrived to the grand community room of the Dartmouth United Church of Christ, where we were welcomed by the associate pastor Rob Grabil. This unique conference gathered both new and veteran Kids4Peace campers, so the first activity involved ice-breakers and name games. Our veterans Jewish faith advisor and Christian faith advisor, Judith Reichsman and Kelley Gage, were in attendance as well the VT/NH Director Jeff Mandell.
The entire weekend was filled with exercises, workshops, and activities that allowed our youth to build relationships and learn more about Christianity, Islam, Judaism. Throughout the weekend, we were joined by several special guests, including Dartmouth’s Rabbi Meir Goldstein, Dartmouth’s Muslim Advisor, Khalil Abdullah, Kids4Peace New Hampshire Committee Chair, Cindy Benson, and many more. Each of our guests introduced an exciting element of community. A few of our special guests shared personal stories of their upbringing in America and travels outside of the country.
Asad Akhlaqi, a Muslim from Afghanistan living in Vermont, talked about what it was like being selected as a teenager to come to the US to attend high school. After graduating, he attended college in Burlington and began a career working IT in schools. Asad’s wisdom about Islam was also welcomed, as students asked questions during the whole day he was here. Tracey Guion, an international explorer and peace worker, shared some stories about her time abroad. She presented her recent work in Rwanda, as well as a youth peace program she had been selected for that included teens from Armenia and Turkey.
Whether it was providing a space for question and answers regarding religious observations and services or storytelling sessions that allowed youth to learn more about the different cultures and lives that create communities in Vermont and New Hampshire, youth had an opportunity to be inspired to build community and take action for their communities.

Pathways Camp Ketura Day 5

merk4p —  August 17, 2018 — Leave a comment

The youth started off the day with games that challenged them to see one another in a new light, as they grouped themselves in accordance to their likes and dislikes. They then played an epic battle of rock, paper, scissors.

The talent show brought to light some of our campers’ unique talents. We were in awe of the quality of the performances. From dance numbers, to instrumental pieces, to acapella and accompanied singing acts, these kids blew us out of the water. The audience cheered on each performer with supportive enthusiasm, often chanting his or her name to offer encouragement.


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We finished the evening with a poolside barbeque. If you closed your eyes, you would hear laughter, song, and other sounds of pure joy. Almost everyone was in the pool. Even most of the staff made it in one way or another. “I wasn’t planning on going in the pool, but a camper decided otherwise,” recalled Talia, one of our 7th grade counselors. DSC_0262.JPG

We all said a teary goodbye to our small groups, sad to leave one another after connecting and bonding over the course of the week. These groups felt like a small family in which we were safe to share our secrets, hopes, and hardships. Many of the youths expressed gratitude for the new friends they have made.

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Special thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza for making it all possible!

Today’s activities were soothing for both the soul and the environment.

The seventh graders started off the day with a relaxing bike ride through Kibbutz Ketura and the nearby date fields.



After pool time, the kids geared up for a field trip to Lotan, a nearby eco-kibbutz. Their tour guide, Mark taught the kids that the prefix “eco” comes from the ancient Greek word “oikos,” which means home. The idea of eco-projects are to take care of not only our individual family homes, but also the earth, the home we all share.

Mark demonstrated the way the kibbutz does a lot with a little and uses recycled materials to build houses and structures around the village. The youth learned how to make rich soil through composting and ethanol gas with the use of old kitchen scraps. They built their own mud walls using the ancient technology of arches and crafted seed balls to plant in the ground. DSC_0316.JPG

With the guidance of Avi from Kibbutz Ketura, the sixth graders hiked into the vast, deep desert for their dinner. They roasted pita and marshmallows over an open fire and adorned these masterpieces with falafel and salad, or nutella for dessert. The kids sprawled across a large tapestry, eating by lantern light under the wide-open sky. Mars, Venus, and Saturn could be seen among the millions of twinkling stars. Quds, Sema, and Siba graced us with their beautiful voices and sang sweet serenades to the group as we said our final goodbyes to the desert.

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 1.31.56 PM.pngWhen we arrived back at camp, we had a spontaneous dance party! They boogied the night away and put off going to bed as long as possible. It was the perfect happy ending to a perfectly wonderful day.

Special thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza for making it all possible.


As you entered the dining hall for breakfast, you could feel the excitement radiating from the kids about today’s destination – Eilat!  We could all feel that today was going to be an incredible adventure. The bus ride there consisted of singing and laughter.

The day was filled with fun in the sun and on the water with rafting and boat rides. They hung on tight and tried not to fall off into the water. There were three rides the campers could go on- the banana boat, crazy shark, and floating seat.
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“My favorite was the Crazy Shark ride, because it’s literally like a bouncy castle on the water,” Hind, 6th grade.

The water was so pristine and the location had such biodiversity that we were able to see bizarre and colorful fish species that were unlike any we had seen before. One surprised group of kids even had a bright blue fish jump into the ride with them!

Before leaving Eilat, we had a delicious lunch of schnitzel, meatballs, potatoes, pita, and salad (and hummus, of course!). The lunch was so good that we had to fend off strangers from eating our food.

After a long day on the water, we returned to Camp Ketura for educational programming. The youth explored their identities, the values that are necessary to accomplish a goal as a team, and what the world would look like without those values. These “kids” offered wisdom and insight far beyond their years. We are blessed with such an incredible group of young hearts and minds. The advisors then led a guided meditation that helped the group self-reflect on the values they had discussed and the realities of the world we live in.

We finished the night watching Ferdinand and having small group discussions. Some of the groups began their presentations while others reflected upon the day and shared meaningful stories with one another.


Overall, today was an excellent opportunity for bonding between the staff and 6th and 7th grade youth.  The groups were mixed both in Eilat and while watching Ferdinand and sharing popcorn.

Thanks so much to our partners USAID West/Bank Gaza for your support.

The sixth graders rose with the sun this morning for an early morning bike ride through Ketura’s date plantation and the desert’s soft sand dunes. Each kid and staff member on the ride had a chance to jump down the dune, if they dared!

Back at Ketura, the rest of the sixth graders created gorgeous decoupage crafts while also getting to know each other better. They learned about the history of Ketura, the mission and vision of the Kibbutz and some of the “ins and outs” of kibbutz life.  

After breakfast, the kids cooled down in the pool. The boys played water games and enjoyed the pool to the max. Then afterwards, the girls played chicken and monkey in the middle. There was not a frown in sight as these water bugs splashed and laughed the hour away in the cool pool.  It was much easier to get everyone in than out.

After lunch the CIT’s led everyone in some games that enabled all of us to use our bodies and also get to know each other better through a series of speed round questions.  

The staff continued raising the energy level with more games.  A fantastic round of “Who’s afraid of the big bear?” got everyone energized for what was yet to come!

From there we split up into electives with the 7th graders. Dance, Painting and Crafts provided relaxation and fun.

We then moved into our small groups for educational sessions and everyone created a group flag to be presented on our closing night.

The 7th graders enjoyed a peaceful 10 minute walk in the desert to watch the sunset. It was a new experience to many of them and magical to all. They had a blast playing in the sand dunes. For dinner, the youths made their own pita over a fire and prepared their meals with the support of the staff. They then watched falling stars and played games with their flashlights. It was a truly beautiful experience.

After dinner, the small groups had the opportunity to reflect on the day and what Kids4Peace means to them. They discussed the opportunities and difficulties that the program brings and how this makes them feel. Some were given time to plan the creative presentations the groups will share during the closing night of camp.




After a week of dialogue and relationship building, our International Camp participants were placed in charge of running religious services for everyone to observe. On day nine, our Muslim and Jewish participants came together and organized Jummah services, as well as Kabbalat Shabbat. Each service was designed to put students in charge of creating spaces for the different practices of each service to be celebrated. During Jummah, participants had the chance to not only observe the prayer, but learn about different sects of Islam that were represented at camp, including Shi’ism, Sunnism, Sufism. That evening, our Jewish campers came together to lead us through different songs and prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat that also represented the different sects of Judaism. Both practices were followed up by question and answers that our kids helped facilitate.

Our day was also sandwiched with daily electives, including zip-lining, intro to filmmaking, a photo walk, swimming, and much more. In our intro to filmmaking elective, participants were given the opportunity to interview one another for a Kids4Peace film about how they would like to see the world change. As camp comes to a close, International Camp is evolving to give students power to take ownership of the resources Kids4Peace seeks to give, by placing leadership in the hands of our youth who have the power to take action and make changes.


And we are off!! What a day it has been! Despite the the drastic change in climate and environment the campers are adjusting well and excited to be learning and playing together. To ensure they stay hydrated in the heat, we play fun drinking games (with water!).  Pathways Summer Seminar is part of our Interfaith Jerusalem project, funded by USAID West Bank/Gaza, which fosters youth leadership and civic involvement, celebrates the religious diversity of Jerusalem, and engages 288 youth and their parents from critical neighborhoods to support a pro-peace agenda in their communities.

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The kids were divided into small, intimate groups of seven to eight, with which they will meet twice a day throughout the week. They shared personal stories and funny anecdotes to break the ice and form bonds. They learned that this circle will be a safe space for them to come with questions or concerns for the rest of the week. Together, these teams will plan special projects or performances to present to the rest of the camp.

A highlight of the day was the Ketura tour during which the youth learned about kibbutz life and the way Kibbutz Ketura functions and sustains itself. During the tour, the guide showed the kids a beautiful olive tree that grows from a 2,000 year-old date seed.


The culture and atmosphere of a kibbutz is a new experience for many of our campers. “This is my first time on a kibbutz. I’d never even heard of a kibbutz before this,” said Gowan, one of spirited 6th grade campers.

Later after dinner, the kids cracked codes and solved puzzles, leading them around the kibbutz in search of hidden treasure and then retired to their dorms for more bonding and a good night’s sleep.



Stories are passed down for for several reasons – to share histories, to inspire dreams, to memorialize moments…at Kids4Peace, story telling is an important tool that allows each of us to recognize how our experiences influence our role in advocating for justice. Day seven began as with a storytelling workshop that set the foundation in place for our next two days. On this day, students began digging into their personal experiences and considering how those experiences directed their presence at International Camp.

In continuation of the storytelling workshops that framed our previous day, day eight was a continuation of the power of story telling and the different ways that you can tell and share stories. Two of our camp counselors brought their expertise in sharing expression through spoken word and theatre of the oppressed.


We have been lucky to shape the participation of our kids at camp with the skills and talents of our staff who are experienced in respective backgrounds. As Kiren led her workshop on spoken word, she shared some performances that she had done with a youth slam poetry group that she started with a group of friends, Muslim Girls Making Change. During this session, participants had the opportunity to listen, practice, and create their own pieces.


Our Theatre of the Oppressed workshop was led by Emily, who is getting ready to take her acting skills from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to London at the Royal Academy of the Arts. During her session, Emily led campers through exercises and discussions on power. The techniques that she shared are part of an international movement that uses theatre as a means of promoting social and political change.

DSC02776When we consider the number of conflicts that have resolved over time throughout history, community is has its focus. When communities come together, they form inexplicable bonds that allow issues to reach incredible resolutions. That’s exactly what we were exploring on day six of International Camp.


As we reached our mid-way point during our 12-day camp, participants returned to their community agreements to reflect on the rules that they created for themselves early in the week. We moved through the day having conversations about what community means and how community stays and spent more time learning about the what makes community for us.

And as with any community gathering, the day ended with a party! Campers broke out into a small group dance competition to rival over the best dance.


We continued our journey at International Camp on day five by taking some time to think about what space do we take up in this world. Our day was split into two parts: traveling down two paths at Hooker Falls in DuPont State Forest and sharing stories and experiences at spaces that structure our daily lives at home (i.e. favorite restaurants, schools, etc.). While the hike allowed participants to step away from camp life, it was an opportunity to take a moment to marvel in the world around us. This flowed effortlessly into our group conversations, as our campers added to dialogue about the similarities and differences that they shared in spaces that surrounded them. These two activities helped build up to a larger question that we are exploring throughout the week: where do we create justice?

“Can you bring your whole self to a place? [This activity helped build] an understanding that we will show up differently in different places.” – Kelly (K4P Adviser), Christian, Seattle


Our identities are complex and, for many of us, they allow us to manifest different versions of our self based off those environments. This also allows us to think about the larger questions that influence the role that we play in our homes, our communities, and those spaces that frame our daily lives. As we continue to move through this week, we are working up to understanding what justice means to us in our daily lives and how we can be advocates.