Overall, this year was a really a turning point for the YLC Camp weekend. It was as much about meeting Seeds and connecting with the organization as it was a professional retreat for the YLC as leaders in this organization. I think we all learned more about each other and about ourselves in the process and will be a stronger and more committed team for it. This year and years past will serve as building blocks to make the coming years of Camp visits even more powerful and meaningful to YLC and Board members.
On Saturday (7/9):
We met with Daniel, the Delegation Leader Facilitator and head of the Adult Educator Program. Daniel works for Seeds of Peace in the Jerusalem office and focuses his time on building programs in the Middle East for all the Delegation Leaders (adults that bring the kids to camp) that for the most part are professional educators in their home countries. He develops relationships with them and empowers them to be ambassadors for SoP in their communities. He likened them to poles of a tent. Without them there would be no safe place for the kids to even consider coming to camp. He shared with us some stories of major challenges with these adult educators through their own dialogues sessions in particular telling us about some incredible changes of heart by some of the delegation leaders that were able to overcome their own biases and prejudices to develop lasting friendships and a firm belief in the SoP mission.
We also met with two counselors that run the South Asia dialogue sessions for campers. These are graduate students that are focusing their studies on South Asia and conflict resolution and have taken the summer to carry the Seeds through the long arduous road introspection and reinvention. They shared with us the powerful strategies they use to advance the conversation beyond the superficial political expose to a deep and emotional conversation that shatters the bias and prejudice the kids come to camp with.
We then had the opportunity to join in on a Hindu service that was organized by campers to show the others what this service looked and felt like. This was complete with chants, incense, and a beautiful description of the meanings of the service by the India Seeds themselves. Throughout camp, the Seeds have opportunities to lead the community in their own religious services in order to expand religious understanding. The Seeds then offered to bless the guests by applying a bindi (the red dot) to our foreheads which we were told is meant to ward off demons and bad luck as well as to retain energy which is said to exit the body at the point between the eyebrows. It was beautiful to see Seeds from around the world representing so many religions quietly observing and listening as their curiosity about each other was satisfied.
We also had the opportunity to meet Glenn Cummings, former Assistant Secretary of Education. He spoke to us about his career as a Speaker of the House in Maine, about his leadership in introducing Obama to Maine, his experience as an educator, a social entrepreneur building a magnet school in Maine focusing on environment and sustainability, and also about being a community leader. He inspired us to do more and commended the YLC on its amazing efforts and passion for SoP.
We then joined the Seeds in sports. Some played “steal the bacon,” basketball, soccer, and tennis. The games were intense and fun spirited! Then came time for lineup. Wil Smith introduced us each to the campers with a chance to say a brief word about ourselves to the cheers and laughs of the 192 Seeds attending this summer.
At this point, the YLC and Board broke into our own 2 hour planning and leadership session. We began with an Acumen Fund exercise on values. Each of us had to force rank our values in order of importance from 1-20 from a pre-established list that was distributed. We then called out different values/principles and each person had to stand around the room close to numbers posted on the wall 1-20. This shows us the wide distribution of priorities in our lives and gave us a chance to reflect on the relative importance of values. Some shared priorities, others had vastly opposing priorities. The point of this exercise was to realize that even in a group as close as the YLC, we don’t place the same importance on principles that are guiding our lives. The empathy required to understand that we don’t place the same value on happiness, or social justice, or close family allowed us to see that despite disparate priorities we are all on the same page and more unites us than divides us. The ability to empathize with others is core to leadership and is an essential part of the SoP lesson.
We then had a very productive 1hr 30min meeting discussing strategy and plans for 2011-2012. Most notably we discussed integration of YLC Chapters and team fundraising programs.
We then broke for the evening and went to have dinner in Naples, about 20 minutes from camp. We enjoyed some drinks, good laughs and lots of lobster rolls and fried pickles which are oddly amazing.
On Sunday (7/10):
We woke up bright and early to attend Group Challenge on the low ropes course at camp. Led by 2 of the Group Challenge counselors, we were split into 2 teams. Each team started from a different end of the ropes course. One member of each team was blind-folded and as teams we had to get from one end to the other of the 50 yard course. It took us 1h30 minutes and we had to learn to work together as a team and then to work as a group of 2 teams to get past each other as we made our way to the opposing side. It was amazing to see different team members assume different roles in what ended up being very physically challenging. Some were anchors, some were strategists, some were quick and nimble, and some had no balance. We managed to get the blindfolded (and balanced-challenged) people across the ropes but not without incredible difficulty. This was capped by a discussion after the course was finished where we discussed our impressions of the exercise and the feeling of taking on those different roles and working as a team. This is only one of the many Group Challenges that the Seeds go through on a daily basis.
Next we went for a nice swim in the lake and laid out in the sun for about an hour before lunch. The lake is fed by the same spring as Poland Springs. The water was so clear and sweet.
Next we had a chance to join the Seeds for lunch. We talked about being homesick, about the difficulty of breaking these barriers, of how much fun camp is. Two campers shared that they never wanted to go home. That as much as every minute of their day at camp is planned for them, this is the most free they have ever been. One of the Seeds asked about YLC and whether we all understand the details of the conflict and the historical facts that led to it. We responded that while many of the YLC do understand, that is not our purpose of focus. We at the YLC are not trying to solve the problem. We hope to raise money and awareness for SOP so that more Seeds can attend camp each year, to train the next generation of leaders. We are here to support them, to help guide them when we can in their professions and education as needed, and to show them that there is a community out there that believes in them and in their ability to move the world forward into a peaceful direction.
Click here for a slideshow of the weekend.