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
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.