BY DARLING KITTOE | Many people question teenagers’ ability to make a difference in the world. It may seem like our generation cares more about what Kim Kardashian is wearing or who Justin Bieber is dating than we do about the fact that thousands of individuals across the globe are being denied their basic human rights. What is often kept hidden is that there are thousands of teens all around the world who are fighting to make the world a better place.
In school, we are taught about war and justice, but we are rarely taught about what teens can do to make a difference. Each year, high school students from different countries are learning what it takes to create long lasting peace at Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine. They are learning that peace does not come solely from the absence of conflict, but from the presence of joy.
Each summer at Seeds of Peace, 200 teens from South Asia, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and the United States come together to learn about peacebuilding and conflict resolution. There, they spend three and a half weeks living, eating, and sleeping with other teens—many of whom they have grown up viewing as enemies. They spend two hours a day, six days a week in intense and powerful dialogue talking about the conflicts.
For those three and a half weeks, teens come to realize that it is not about who is right or who is wrong, or who is suffering more, but about the fact that no one benefits from the conflict. They stop seeing the “other side” as an enemy or nameless face, and they start seeing them as their brothers and sisters.
The enduring impact that Seeds of Peace has on teens all around the world is almost indescribable. Today, there are more than 5,000 “Seeds” planted worldwide. They leave camp and go out into the world to create meaningful change. These teens will grow up to become writers, lawyers, politicians, and more. The values they learned at Seeds of Peace will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
So when you think of our generation, think about those children who are striving for peace and social justice. Think about those teens who spend their summers learning about conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Think about those teens who are fighting to make sure that everyone is being granted basic human rights.
Think about the teens who are planting seeds of peace around the world.