The Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine, opened on June 27 with a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the 20th summer camp of planting the “seeds of peace” throughout the world. The camp was founded in 1993 by John Wallach, an award-winning author and journalist, to create a space where young people and educators from around the world, particularly regions of conflict, could meet face-to-face with their historic enemies, to build critical relationships and greater understanding.
Seeds of Peace is a nonprofit, apolitical organization that has graduated more than 5,000 campers by successfully providing leadership, reconciliation and relationship building skills through dialogue and experiential learning.
“Say Yes to Education” sponsored 40 students this year to attend the camp from the Syracuse City School District. Thirty-two students are new “seeds” and eight are returning “seeds.” The students were selected through an application process; half are refugees and half are American born. The students will spend 14 days building the capacity to become change agents and leaders for peace in their schools and communities.
This magical place is not high-tech at all and, as a matter of fact, all the electronic devices are taken away from the participants when they arrive. There is a huge dining hall, manicured lawns, recreational activities (tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, canoeing, swimming, etc.) and an infirmary staffed with a doctor and nurse. But the most important place on the grounds is the dialogue hut where the transformational process happens.
The new “seeds” learn how the process of dialogue is used to address conflict and to build bridges of understanding in their relationships. In addition, the returning student “seeds” will participate in an intense four-day facilitator training, so when they return to Syracuse they will be able to facilitate dialogue circles themselves!