In the midst of unrelenting conflict in the Middle East that impacts the entire global stage, 42 teens from Israel, the West Bank and San Diego are coming together to work toward peace and break down the walls of conflict for three weeks in Carlsbad this summer.
Hands of Peace, a program based in San Diego, brings together high school students for about three weeks to build bridges and leadership skills among teens divided by conflict, culture, geography and history.
Now in its third year in Carlsbad, the Hands of Peace program empowers young people to find their voice as peace leaders, break down stereotypes and gain the knowledge and critical thinking skills to take steps toward peace in their home communities.
Teen participants have undergone an extensive application process to be part of the program, showing a desire to share their perspectives and work toward peace. 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 central activity of the program is intensive daily dialogue sessions, led by professional facilitators, in which teens share personal stories, listen and share views about paths for peace. They also take part in educational activities including a visit to a church, synagogue, and mosque and a community organizing workshop.
“Young people are the key to change and peace, so the transformations that we see taking place during the summer program give us hope for a better future,” said Gretchen Grad, Hands of Peace president and founder.
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.
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