Exciting Updates from Kids4Peace!

Dear Kids4Peace Community,

Since we began in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace has brought together youth from different religions and cultures around the world, in camps and year-round programs, to develop respect, understanding, and the skills to work toward a more peaceful world. 

As we enter our 20th year, I’m excited to share news about the next steps for Kids4Peace.  

Later this fall, Kids4Peace will become a program of Seeds of Peace, another leading organization in our field, and I will take up a permanent full-time role as Executive Director at Seeds of Peace.  The boards of both Seeds of Peace and Kids4Peace International have taken the first steps in bringing the organizations together, and we will share more details in the coming weeks. 

Seeds of Peace was founded about 10 years before Kids4Peace, with a camp in Maine for Israeli, Palestinian, and Egyptian youth.  Today, Seeds also has strong year-round programs in the Middle East and the United States, as well as Europe and South Asia.   

After six months splitting my time between the two Executive Director roles at Kids4Peace and Seeds of Peace, I am thrilled about the opportunities ahead.  During these past few months, I’ve seen the huge potential that would come from joining forces.

Kids4Peace and Seeds of Peace each have unique strengths and capabilities, and we can significantly increase our impact by working together.  In addition to aligning our programs, we will consolidate administrative functions, which will help us operate more efficiently and scale our work around the world.

Through this integration, we are committed to maintaining the unique character of our work: 

  • Kids4Peace will retain its name and identity, as a program for younger youth, with a strong interfaith and intercultural focus.  
  • We will continue to have year-round and summer programs in all the places where we work, which will be led by many of our current staff, volunteers, and youth counselors. 
  • We will maintain a distinct program and community in Jerusalem, with a focus on creating relationships among Israelis & Palestinians from all parts of the city. Our chapters in the USA and Europe will be able to continue operating as they have been, under existing affiliation agreements and operating plans. 
  • Several members of the Kids4Peace Board will join the Seeds of Peace Board.

While our organizational structure will shift, our mission remains the same – empowering youth to create more peaceful communities.  

The board of directors of Kids4Peace believes this is the right move independent of the current world COVID-19 situation. The board has been exploring this opportunity since January, and has conducted a thoughtful process, looking at how we best serve our youth and our communities, and strengthen and grow our programs.  Our combination sends a strong message to donors and to others in the field that the combined organization has stability, economies of scale, vision, ambition, and the ability to deliver excellent programs to serve our youth and their communities.

For now, all of the fall Kids4Peace programs will continue as planned.  Stay tuned for a schedule of virtual meetings.  We hope to resume in-person activities later this year, when it’s safe to do so again. 

Looking ahead, we plan to bring back and expand the Global Institute in Washington, DC, and travel seminars (like last year’s trip to Belfast).  Kids4Peace youth will be eligible to join additional Seeds of Peace programs, including the Camp in Maine.  And we’ll work together to build a high school program that combines the best of both organizations, including our focus on youth-led advocacy and community involvement. 

Especially in this moment, it is critical for peacebuilding organizations to work in the most effective way possible – to transform individual lives as well as the communities where we work.  Our world is crying out for justice, freedom and peace. This integration of Seeds of Peace and Kids4Peace will allow us to be a bold, creative leader in our field, with the capacity to achieve large-scale impact. 

We have achieved so much over these last 19 years, since the first twelve Kids4Peace youth made the courageous decision to meet each other and dream of a better future. 

As we take this next step together, I invite you to gather with the Kids4Peace community around the world – youth, parents, alumni, volunteers, supporters and friends – for a special Virtual Celebration on Sunday, September 13th at 1pm Eastern / 8pm Jerusalem. We’ll share stories, memories, and hopes as we look back and ahead.

We know that together, peace is possible.  Thank you for being part of the Kids4Peace community, and for joining us in this next chapter of our journey toward a more just and peaceful world.

In Peace,



Fr. Josh Thomas, Executive Director

Across religion, across culture, across difference of opinion, Kids4Peace youth leaders are coming together to take action in their communities. Together we are more powerful. Together we have more resources. Together our individual actions create momentum for change.

Over the years our youth continue to come back. From 12 to 18 years old, these youth are still here. They have hope and they continue to take action to create more just, more equitable, more peaceful communities that they dream of seeing in our world.

Together we have built a global movement. Your actions mean that the possibilities for change are endless.

Desmond joined Kids4Peace Seattle in August 2016 when he was 12 years old. Now, as a 15 year old sophomore in high school, Desmond continues to use his voice to fight for the change he wants to see in the world. From speaking at rallies, to educating his peers through conversation and social media, Desmond knows the power of his voice.

“It’s not just about what we do in the program. It’s about what we do when we go back to our communities.”

Desmond

Omar joined Kids4Peace in Jerusalem as a 12 year old sixth grader. In all of his years in Kids4Peace, he has brought humor, wisdom, and deep reflection to his conversation and action. Today, Omar is a senior in high school and is preparing for college and beyond.

“When I think of the future I feel stubborn optimism, with desire to better the lives of my people.”

Omar

Catie joined Kids4Peace as a 12 year old in Vermont and continues to participate now as a junior in high school. Through her years in the program, from her first visit to a mosque to her work now as a public speaker and activist, she has always deeply believed in the power of each individual, and the collective power we hold together.

“When people are apathetic we have to empower them to care, to know that they do matter, and that when one person is being hurt we are all being hurt. We have to tell them don’t give up, and you have the potential to really make a difference!”

Catie

Across religion, across culture, across difference of opinion, Kids4Peace youth leaders are coming together to take action in their communities. In Boston, Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Lyon (France), and Seattle – youth leaders are driving the work of Kids4Peace. We are so excited to share these updates with you from our continued work around the globe!

Boston:
On Sunday, November 3, over 120 guests came together during Kids4Peace Boston’s Determined to Make a Difference Benefit. This was a joyous celebration of all that has been accomplished over the past nine years, and a look toward K4PB’s continued impact in the years to come. We honored K4PB founder Peggy Stevens for all she has done to create and grow the organization, and youth addressed guests about the importance of K4PB in their lives.

Cincinnati:
Volunteers and community members gathered on Sunday, November 10th for their annual Appreciation Party where everyone celebrated the hard work that keeps Kids4Peace growing! Kids4Peace Cincinnati has tripled in size over the last 4 years and is hard at work planning for their 5th summer program in 2020. These volunteers and community supporters are crucial to the great work that helps to support our youth leaders!

Lyon, France:
Kids4Peace France had their first meeting of the school year on Sunday, October 13th. 15 youth, both old and new friends, gathered to make plans and learn together about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot! Our youth leaders in Lyon will gather for their next meeting on November 17th when they will tour a Synagogue and learn more about the Jewish faith.
In the spirit of honoring the deep cultural importance olive trees have to all those in Jerusalem, our youth began their weekly programming in late October by joining the olive harvest at the YMCA. Youth worked together on ladders and even on each other’s shoulders to harvest the olives!
The painting described below was created in response to the prompt “Raise Your Voice.” The painting was displayed in the “Under One Roof” at the Bender JCC art gallery in Washington D.C. during the month of October!

Coloring The Monochrome | On a gradient background a podium faces the abyss. People lurk at the bottom of the painting, in the darkness, hiding from the light. As people move closer to the podium, their color begins to emerge as each person begins to find the light and bring their own color to the world. A rainbow speaks at the podium representing the sound of all the voices, joined in a chorus, bringing contrast and light to a monochromatic society.
This year, Kids4Peace Cincinnati is focusing their learning and action on the issue of gun violence in their community. During their November meeting, youth decided to hold an interfaith prayer vigil for all the families and cities affected by mass shootings this year in the USA. Sitting in silence one youth read a list of every city and date where a mass shooting has happened in 2019. It took a good fifteen minutes. It was sad. After a brief pause, three other youth recited prayers, each from their own faith tradition. High school students from different faiths and no faiths did this. These youth care deeply about the issue of gun violence. These youth are the ones who are practicing active shooter drills every day at school. They are the ones who are growing tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They mourn for the victims. They are growing up in a world where this is normal, but they have not accepted it as such. They are doing something about it.
During the weekend of October 12-13, 21 middle and high school youth from Kids4Peace Boston came together for a weekend of fun, dialogue, and climate change learning. Youth learned about the current discourse around climate change issues and explored different ways that individuals, businesses, and government could intervene. Youth then engaged in dialogue with each other on their views around climate change and climate action. The weekend also marked the start of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and Boston participants and their families gathered together at the end of the overnight to celebrate together, helping to build and decorate a sukkah for a local Jewish community, including creating a decoration with blessings from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.