“We came with projects, but left with people,” said Divya, reflecting on her experience as a 2019 GATHER Fellow. There may not be a more perfect way to describe the Fellowship.
Leading change is lonely work. And in many locations, it’s also risky—professionally, emotionally, physically. The GATHER Fellowship brings a cohort of changemakers together from areas of conflict around the world, not only to build skills, but more importantly, to build community.
Last month, the 15 Fellows from Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Jordan, Mexico, and the U.S. met in New York City, as well as rural New York State, to reflect on where they started, acknowledge the roadblocks, and celebrate accomplishments. In fact, the activity that kicked off the “closing ceremonies” was a Heck, Yeah! Night. (O.K., it might have been called something else a bit more emphatic that also ended in ‘ck’, but this is a family blog.)
The Fellows, along with eight staff members who supported them throughout their journey, sat around a fire and shared moments from the past year when they persevered, despite feelings of doubt or setbacks. There was much to be proud of.
The next day, these ‘heck, yeah!’ moments were further explored visually, as each Fellow created a multimedia presentation of his or her work. Depicted as timelines, gardens, flowcharts, and color-coded symbols, the arc of change was evident in all. In between communally cooked meals and snowy strolls through the woods, they shared advice, insights, even their first recollections as a child of world events and the importance they conveyed in that moment and to their development.
After three days in a quiet setting, the group came back to Manhattan—not so quiet!—and spent a few days visiting media companies and social change agencies to learn more about visibility and best practices in telling the story of the work they do. Fellows also had the chance to mingle and dine with other changemakers, supporters, and members of the Seeds of Peace Board of Directors, engaging in deep conversation over an incredible meal cooked by 2019 GATHER Fellow Nas.
While the formal structure of this year’s Fellowship has come to a close, the relationships built and nurtured over the past year will remain steady, and grow as the Fellows continue to support each other in their work to lead change.
Learn more about each of the 2019 Fellows by reading the #FollowtheFellows blog series.