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Every so often, a chance comes around to weave several threads of your life into one united, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts whole, and a great idea is born.

In this case - there are 4 major threads – Teaching Aikido to kids, Running a non-profit sports camp, running the Model UN club in college, and a lifelong belief that Doing is better than Talking.

I'll tell you how these threads fit together, and the PeaceCamp Initiative I'm really looking for Kossack feedback on, after the break

The Threads:
1] I teach Aikido to kids (Aikido is a martial art that teaches how to blend with someone's energy and guide them to a safe and peaceful resolution where nobody gets hurt - in practice it looks like dancing with someone who doesn't know they want to dance with you). Aikido is the foundation of many conflict resolution strategies, and I even teach a class at Williams College each January, called Aikido and Ethics that basically claims that Aikido IS Ethics made physical.

2] Every summer I help run a non-profit sports camp . For more than 100 years, Camp Susquehannock has focused not on turning your kid into a scholarship athlete, but on turning your kid into a better friend, a better teammate, and a more confident person.

3] I ran the model UN club in college, representing at various times both sides of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.  

4] I'm a firm believer in the "Talk not. Do, or do not, there is no talk" school of championing a cause. Yes, I know that's not exactly what Yoda said, but it illustrates my point that the world has more folk willing to complain about a problem than seem willing to roll up their sleeves and take charge of solving it. Since it is far better, as Amnesty International observes, to light one candle than curse the darkness, I decided to start lighting candles.

How They Fit Together (briefly):
Late last summer, inspired by several of the "This I Believe" essays I heard on NPR, I wrote one myself and submitted it, entitled "I Believe in Summer Camp". The essay begins:

"I believe in Summer Camp. In the simple joys of sunshine and sports and a spring-fed mountain lake. I believe in kids learning to live together, to play together, and to face challenges together."

Down towards the end, I found myself writing something I hadn't anticipated - that summer camp might actually be a cure for conflict:

"I believe that the incandescent joy of a happy child transcends every ethnic and economic distinction humankind has invented to keep us apart. I believe that every prejudice, every oppression, every resentment, and every misunderstanding can be cured more quickly by mixing everyone’s children together, making two teams, and letting them play than by any form of conflict resolution, court intercession, or legislation we’ve come up with so far."

Less than a week later, I was back in California, attending an Aikido event which brought together all the people in our organization, one of whom talked about her work setting up "Peace Dojos" in Israel (where Palestinians and Israelis train together).

And thus, The PeaceCamp Initiative was born.

The idea is simple - deserving Palestinian and Israeli kids, chosen in part for their leadership potential, come to America to spend a few life-changing weeks at Camp Susquehannock, who's program has been forging lasting bonds of friendship for more than 100 years. This is how I describe the program on the website:

The PeaceCamp "delegates" will, at Susquehannock, experience a world without bullets and bombs, refugees and resentments. They will, at Susquehannock, learn to trust and value each other as teammates, cabinmates, and friends. They will, at Susquehannock, outgrow their inherited enmity.

These young men and women will also, in turn, become leaders amongst their peers, and start sowing seeds of peace and tolerance in a land where both are scarce.

For 2008, the plan is to have 10 Israeli kids and 10 Palestinian. We're treating 2007 as a trial, and I'm hoping to secure the funding to bring up to 4 kids this summer to work the kinks out of the system  and get a handle on what curricular changes I might need to make for a larger group next year. I've already secured donations for the first kid, and therefore have three to go.

The flyer I created,  is targeted at people who can contribute larger sums - but I've set up a paypal/credit card donation link on the PeaceCamp website, so even $5 or $10 contributions are easy to accept (and tremendously welcome). Even more than money, I am hoping for feedback from the DailyKos community - whatever advice you might have, of course, but in particular it would be great to get contact info for individuals or foundations that would be interested in supporting The PeaceCamp Initiative, not just for the 2007 trial, but for the longer term. If you'd rather not put a friend's name and contact details in the comments, feel free either to send them a link to the PeaceCamp website, or to send their details to me directly at peacecamp (at) susquehannock.com.

I don't like to ask for recommendations, but when the cause is this good,  and getting on the rec list is so helpful, I'm more than willing: Please. Click that button.

Many thanks, - and I'm grateful ahead of time for any advice (or donations) you guys might have.

Originally posted to AikidoPilgrim on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:08 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what an absolutely wonderful idea! (7+ / 0-)

    statusquomustgo...and it did...whooooops, not done yet

    by Statusquomustgo on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:04:02 PM PDT

  •  Seeds of Peace, Martial-Arts Style!!! (3+ / 0-)

    Sounds great!  Hai!

    •  Indeed (10+ / 0-)

      I've talked with a veteran Seeds of Peace camper (a staff member this summer), and the program I have in mind is quite similar. They spend a bit more time indoors talking out their experiences in formal sessions than I expect we'll do - in part because I think the informal conversations these kids would have in their cabins are even more therapeutic (and serve to educate our "regular" campers in a valuable way).

      "I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

      by AikidoPilgrim on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:21:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm A Martial Artist, Too... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        litho, Keith Moon, Statusquomustgo

        and understand.  Amazing how much mutual respect can come from a well-run mutual thumping!!!

        •  This Has the Added Advantage (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Statusquomustgo

          of attaching the kids from both sides to a culture different from both of theirs...A few years back, I saw some Seeds of Peace kids speaking at a Sister Cities International event.  While all of their words were moving, I was particularly struck by two boys, one from each side, who said that during bombings and similar events, their first thoughts and concerns were for each other, for their friend.  

          For me, this is what it's all about.   Best of luck!!!

  •  Fantastic idea! (9+ / 0-)

    This is a great idea, and kudos to you for putting it all together. There are a number of summer camp programs designed to bring Palestinian and Israeli kids together, so that they can build understanding and respect and even friendship.

    The bonus is, next time a group of young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers face off against each other, maybe everyone will wonder if someone in the other group is someone they were friends with at a camp like this, and put down their rocks and guns.

    In loving memory: Sophie, June 1, 1993-January 17, 2005. My huckleberry friend.

    by Paul in Berkeley on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:07:12 PM PDT

  •  good on you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    litho, mattes, sofia, Statusquomustgo

    Thanks for the diary, and for your hopeful work. One kid at a time, indeed. Let peace break out in every mind everywhere! This particular "martial" art might be just the thing to do it. Love your description:

    Aikido is a martial art that teaches how to blend with someone's energy and guide them to a safe and peaceful resolution where nobody gets hurt--in practice it looks like dancing with someone who doesn't know they want to dance with you.

    "Looks like dancing with someone who doesn't know they want to dance with you." Sounds like I/P all right!

  •  Rec'd, and donated... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AikidoPilgrim, Statusquomustgo

    ....give till it hurts, folks.

  •  Check this out... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Israeli and Palestinian entrepeneurs developing a Web Based OS.  Awesome!

  •  Only 8 comments? (0+ / 0-)

    we don't get no f*cking flamewar?

    In loving memory: Sophie, June 1, 1993-January 17, 2005. My huckleberry friend.

    by Paul in Berkeley on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:15:53 PM PDT

    •  The aiki spirit come to the I/P diary! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Paul in Berkeley

      "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

      by Pesto on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:23:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  F'in Flamewars (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2

      Would be particularly inappropriate in a diary about aikido and peacemaking, don't you think ;-)?

      Even the world of Aikido has conflict, and egos, and style-feuds, but we like to think that most of the flame-war types online are BJJ or MMA practitioners . . . (not to disparage their respective arts - but only to say that those arts clearly are more appropriate for someone who IS looking for a fight than Aikido is.

      "I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

      by AikidoPilgrim on Sun May 06, 2007 at 02:22:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great idea (0+ / 0-)

    I used to do martial arts, and believe this has real potential.  

    These kinds of projects don't have to be martial arts related--violin or windsurfing (which I taught) , or anything that can teach self disipline and mutual respect will do the trick.

    "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

    by Wilberforce on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:20:21 PM PDT

  •  This is a wonderful initiative (0+ / 0-)

    Have you had a chance to look at the website of Gaku Homma's dojo, Nippon Kan, in Denver?  Homma Sensei has been active in peacebuilding initiatives through aikido, as well, and he's even put together something called the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network to help dojo coordinate these kinds of projects.  A brief blurb from his website sounds pretty on-point for you:

    The mission of AHAN, the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network is to extend the philosophy of Aikido into the world beyond the dojo. For more info, click on the links below.

    One goal of AHAN (the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) is to inspire individual dojos to find and develop service projects in their own communities. It is not required to join AHAN as a member. Individual independent ideas and activities are encouraged and supported! If your dojo has started an activity you would like to share, please let us know and we will post it on the AHAN Activity Bulletin Board.

    "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

    by Pesto on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:34:12 PM PDT

    •  Peacebuilding initiatives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gkn

      I've not been to Nippon Kan's website in some time - but have heard good things about Gaku Homma's program. I do have his book on teaching children, which I recommend if you haven't read it (though he and I differ on whether to let parents watch or even train in class with their kids (I'm all for it, he seems to think that protecting kids from a parent's criticism is imporant. I guess my kids have kinder parents than his do . . . )

      I am working with Aiki-Extensions - which is all about bringing Aikido out of the dojo - not just for peacemaking, but also for therapy, counseling, and coaching.

      regarding your previous comment - what is "I/P"? I'm guessing "Israeli / Palestinian Conflict" - but that doesn't quite match how it has been used in the comments, or at least not unambigously.

      "I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

      by AikidoPilgrim on Sun May 06, 2007 at 02:17:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I/P is the abbreviation (0+ / 0-)

        for "Israel/Palestine."  There are lots of I/P diaries posted here (though, virtually nothing in the front page), and there's a recurring meta-discussion of how quickly they degenerate into flamewars.  I actually think the discussions here are productive compared to similar discussions elsewhere.  

        "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

        by Pesto on Sun May 06, 2007 at 07:16:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Can't talk, got money where my mouth is ... (0+ / 0-)

    What's there to say, sounds fabulous.

    Check out Budo for Peace's website
    http://www.budoforpeace.org/

    •  Budo for Peace - way ahead of you ;-) (0+ / 0-)

      Budo for Peace is the organization I'm working with to get the PeaceCamp candidates from. That connection was made via the Aiki-Extensions Middle East Peace Dojo Project - who are working with Budo for Peace to pair up Aikido Dojos just like Budo for Peace has been doing with judo and karate dojos.

      "I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

      by AikidoPilgrim on Wed May 09, 2007 at 08:30:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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