By Gillian Graham
OTISFIELD | On their first morning of camp, 70 teenagers wearing matching blue and green Seeds of Peace sweatshirts gathered on the field where more than 7,000 campers before them have come from across the globe to talk about deep divides and how to find common ground.
But this summer, for the first time in its 28-year history, the camp is devoting a session exclusively to teens from Maine.
Originally created to bring together Palestinian and Israeli teenagers to seek common ground, Seeds of Peace has expanded over the years to include other Middle Eastern countries and teenagers from the United States. But the pandemic kept the camp in Otisfield closed last year, and it’s still not possible for international students to travel to Maine because of COVID travel restrictions.
Campers and counselors at Seeds of Peace approach the field for opening ceremonies on Monday. Campers will explore the deep divides in American society, including race, religion and political differences, while developing the skills and confidence to address conflicts in their own schools and communities. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
“They come from across the state, from urban and rural areas, and a variety of backgrounds. We have New Mainers and people whose families have been here for generations,” said Josh Thomas, the executive director. “We’re bringing young leaders together across deep divides. This a chance to have the conversations that are hard to have in everyday life.”