Dear Seeds of Peace Community,
Since I joined Seeds of Peace nearly a year ago, we have been working together to respond to a pandemic and chart a future strategy for Seeds of Peace that builds on our pioneering legacy and rises to meet the challenges and opportunities of this moment.
- More than 500 alumni, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders shared their ideas and input through focus groups, coffee chats, and other consultations.
- We created innovative online programs which kept our youth and educators connected, in conversation, and learning from each other even while physically distant.
- We added new members to the Board of Directors, including Seeds of Peace alumni, and we updated our governance and management practices.
- We integrated Kids4Peace into the Seeds of Peace organization as a program for younger youth with special expertise in interfaith work.
- As we begin this new year, I’m proud to share a preview of Seeds of Peace’s new strategic priorities, as well as our plans for this spring and summer.
VISION & STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
Our updated strategy is rooted in a commitment to developing courageous leaders to work in solidarity across lines of difference to create more just and inclusive societies. This impact aspiration will be the guiding purpose for everything we do, and it will be the criteria by which we measure success.
Seeds of Peace has always been about life-changing dialogues and human relationships. That will continue to be the core of our work. But achieving peace requires one more thing: a commitment to work together for sociopolitical change. That’s especially true in the face of rising extremism, protracted conflicts, ongoing occupation, structural inequality, and so many other obstacles to peace.
In the coming years, we’ll be more explicit about fostering relationships that lead to action and equipping our leaders with the skills and supports they need to achieve large-scale impact in the places where we work.
Our vision is that by 2023, Seeds of Peace will be a more visible and influential force for change in deeply divided societies around the world. Our leaders will be working across lines of conflict to catalyze the personal and social transformations needed for peace. Our fast-growing programs will be shifting social norms in key communities, and we will be seeing measurable impact at the sociopolitical level.
- By 2023, our youth leadership programs will reach 5,000 new Seeds per year (10x growth) through an integrated curriculum of dialogue, skill building, and action-taking, delivered in each region.
- Emerging leaders from across lines of conflict will meet each other through an expanded portfolio of cross-border programs, including Camp in Maine and other international opportunities for advanced-level dialogue, solidarity-building, and cross-cultural learning.
- Our structure will shift to prioritize regional leadership, so Seeds of Peace becomes a locally rooted organization with a trusted brand and contextually relevant activities.
- Our strong and respected organizational voice will challenge injustice and offer a hopeful vision of peace for all the places where we work.
In the coming months, we will map out detailed plans around three major strategic priorities:
1. Codify and scale our leadership development programs.
Seeds of Peace has produced transformational educational experiences. In order to grow, we will distill the essence of our method into replicable program models. Once updated and codified, we will train Seeds, educators, and partners to adapt and deliver these Seeds of Peace programs in their communities. A layered programmatic approach will connect participants across local, regional/national, cross-border, and multinational opportunities. We will also update our dialogue model and educational methods to align with our core purpose.
2. Mobilize our community to achieve measurable social change.
Seeds of Peace has shaped the lives of thousands of emerging leaders from around the world, but these individual changemakers are working in fragmented ways. We will integrate the disparate elements of the Seeds of Peace community (youth, educators, alumni, fellows), provide a platform for collective action-taking, amplify our organizational voice, and measure our performance on action-oriented metrics.
3. Root our organization in the regions where we work.
Seeds of Peace is an international community, but with a reputation for being a “New York organization.” We will shift greater authority and responsibility to regional leaders, diversify organizational leadership, define regionally-specific strategies, and adopt best practices of the most professional and effective international organizations.
As we roll out this strategy, we will maintain our current geographic footprint in the Middle East (Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan), South Asia (India and Pakistan), the United States (with expansion to the Midwest/South), and the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, while seeking out new opportunities for growth. We will roll out Kids4Peace programs for younger youth across our regions and expand offerings for adult changemakers through GATHER, creating a lifelong pipeline of involvement.
As we continue to face the reality of COVID-19, it has become clear that we cannot host campers from outside the United States at Camp in Maine this year.
Instead, we will bring a new generation of nearly 400 Seeds into our community through a regional leadership program in each of the places where we work.
These deep and impactful programs will include at least 50 hours of dialogue, leadership skill development, and action-taking, and graduates of these programs will have access to all Seeds of Peace resources, opportunities, and networks, including international experiences and alumni programs.
We are still finalizing the details, but we expect these programs to be a hybrid of virtual and in-person activities, during the school year and the summer, including two sessions of Camp in Maine for youth from the Northeastern part of the United States, as well as regional seminars and multinational programs across the Middle East and South Asia, when those become possible again. We’ll share program details and the application process by mid-March.
We’re excited about these new program offerings, which will reflect the language, culture, conflict dynamics, and specific needs of each region, while offering all new participants around the world a common set of skills and frameworks that will prepare them for advanced programs. We plan to resume Camp sessions in Maine that include youth from the United States, United Kingdom, Middle East and South Asia in the summer of 2022.
Given our strategic priority around regional leadership, I’m excited to introduce you to our global team of Program Directors. This diverse and skilled group will be driving Seeds of Peace’s growth and development in the coming years as we root our organization locally.
Fr. Josh Thomas | Executive Director, Seeds of Peace
Also in this edition
- Meet our Program Directors
- Camp 2021 update: dates and delegations
- Seeds of Peace joins peacebuilding coalition
- Kids4Peace leaders join Seeds of Peace Board
- GATHER wraps 2020 Fellowship
- Kids4Peace Jerusalem welcomes new members
- US winter virtual series kicks off
- Director’s Forums explore a divided country
- Seeds of Peace Community in the lead
Meet our Program Directors
Our programs are guided by dedicated local leaders experienced in education and peacebuilding initiatives.
They share why they are excited to work with Seeds of Peace in this moment:
“I’m very appreciative of the new strategic shift of empowering the regions of interpreting the top-level vision and localizing the impact objectives from a regional lens. I’m also appreciative of the renewed attention and commitment from the organization to channel more focus on the South Asian region with all its vastness and promise. We have made some ambitious and excitement plans and along with the local community here, I am pumped to realize them in 2021!”
— Qasim Aslam, Pakistani Programs
“Ever since I was a camper in 2006, I have always known the potential of our Seeds of Peace community. In this moment, more than ever, we are on the brink of change and I am excited and honored to be part of doing this work with Seeds of Peace for our collective liberation and towards inclusive just societies for all of us.”
— Monica Baky, Egyptian Programs
“We live in times when moral courage is being constantly attacked by the loud populists and nationalists. Yet Seeds of Peace is not intimidated by their demagoguery. I join Seeds of Peace in resisting fear, and I am excited to be part of this movement that is dedicated to developing morally courageous young leaders.”
— Farah Bdour, Jordanian Programs
“I am excited to work with Seeds of Peace at this moment because things have changed for the better. I feel more supported in my work and there is a strong commitment for the allocation of more resources in our region. The model is shifting from centralized authority to decentralization of authority and empowering the regional leaders to be at their best. I’ve experienced remarkable change in the processes and my engagement with the senior management has increased manifold.”
— Sagar Gangurde, Indian Programs
“I am excited to work with Seeds of Peace in this moment because in the midst of the pain, division, and uncertainty I see in our country and world, I also see hope. I see hope in the faces, the wisdom, and the energy of our youth leaders. I see hope in our community that is so invested in this work continuing. I am excited to dive into the possibilities of this moment and to work collectively to continue building justice, equity, and peace.”
— Hannah Hochkeppel, United States Programs (West)
“I’m excited to work with Seeds of Peace at this moment because I get to work with brilliant people, from all across the world, and imagine together a world that is better for all of us. I get to meet brave teenagers who, despite and against all powers that work to separate them, work intensely to buckle up and be in solidarity with one another, and stand together against systems that oppress all of them.”
— Jonathan Kabiri, Israeli Programs
“With American political polarization and the urgency of racial justice coming more to the forefront of people’s consciousness this year, I feel especially lucky to be on a team that centers dialogue, community, youth leadership, action-taking, and other critical skills and practices that can be powerful parts of the solution.”
— Eliza O’Neil, United States Programs (East)
“With change happening in the Middle East and abroad, it is a very interesting and crucial time where young, future Palestinian leaders will get the space, time, and support needed to allow an indigenous understanding and experience of leadership to emerge so that they may tackle local and global challenges with a deeper understanding and practice of solidarity.”
— Antwan Saca, Palestinian Programs
Camp 2021: Updates and Delegations
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges to how we run programs, we are deeply committed to offering opportunities this summer, both in-person and online, that are safe and meaningful for all.
In the United States, we are planning for both virtual and in-person options following American Camping Association and Maine COVID-19 guidelines. The Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine will be open to youth who live in Maine, the greater Boston area (including Vermont and New Hampshire), the greater New York City area (including New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut), and Syracuse.
Tentative dates for Camp 2021 are:
- Session I: July 11-28 for campers from greater Boston & New York City, and Syracuse.
- Session II: August 1-18 for campers from Maine.
For youth in other parts of the United States, we will offer a variety of robust and dynamic virtual programs throughout the months of June, July, and August.
MIDDLE EAST, SOUTH ASIA, AND EUROPE
We are working to plan local programs for youth in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and France, and we hope to release more information on those programs in the coming weeks and months.
Seeds of Peace joins peacebuilding coalition
We’re excited to share that Seeds of Peace just joined the U.S. Youth Peace and Security Coalition, run by Search for Common Ground. This formally connects us to a much larger network of likeminded organizations in the United States, and allows us to officially add our voice to legislative advocacy being done by Search for Common Ground to enact the Youth Peace and Security Act.
Kids4Peace leaders join Seeds of Peace board
Bringing a wide range of experience in business, philanthropy, communications, and peacebuilding, four former Kids4Peace board members were recently elected to the Seeds of Peace Board of Directors: Maysa Baransi, Susan Bloch, Richard Dale, and Teresa Tanega-Ignacio.
We invite you to join us in welcoming this passionate group to the team, and to explore their biographies.
GATHER wraps 2020 Fellowship
It wasn’t the high-energy social affair that capped off previous fellowships, but the 2020 cohort of GATHER Fellows had much to celebrate when they logged in for the final virtual session of the program in December.
Whether they were standing up to gender-based violence, creating bridges between divided communities, or empowering refugees, every single Fellow in the program for adult changemakers had to find ways to pivot, realign and re-emerge from the impact of COVID-19. For many, GATHER provided the tools and support to do so.
“Personally, I never felt alone during my recovery from COVID due to the support from this group. Professionally, I was able to create stories with female superheroes on social issues and take them to a large audience,” said Saurabh, a Fellow from India.
The GATHER team is hoping to hold an in-person summit at some point in 2021, but in the meantime, opportunities for GATHER alumni are expected to launch this winter, including programs that offer continued development, support, and connection, and an alumni advisory council.
Kids4Peace Jerusalem welcomes new members
A new generation of interfaith peacemakers gathered in Jerusalem this past December to begin their journey in striving for peace and equality with Kids4Peace.
In their first meeting, the Palestinian and Israeli sixth graders celebrated the festival of Chanukah by lighting a special Chanukiyah created by the Iraqi-Jewish artist Oded Halahmy. These Palestinian and Israeli youth believe that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness—and sharing fun and sweet treats is one way to start!
US winter virtual series kicks off
The series of US winter virtual programs are off to a promising start, with the first two sessions—one focused on the first 100 days of the Biden administration and how participants can use their voice to lobby their elected officials, and the second focused on using dialogue as a tool for social change—wrapping up last week.
These timely and relevant programs are rooted in the topics of community-building, dialogue, action-taking, and leadership, just like all seven of our Winter 2021 Programs. The workshops are free of charge and open to all U.S. students in grades 6 through 12, regardless of whether they have previous involvement with Kids4Peace or Seeds of Peace. New participants are most welcome! Visit k4p.org/winter2021 to learn more.
Director’s Forum explores a divided country
In the United States, the presidential election results have been verified and a new administration sworn in—but as we’re all too aware, deep divisions persist across the nation.
How can Seeds of Peace help build bridges across these many divides? Alumni, supporters, staff, and community members gathered with thought leaders in a series of virtual forums in the weeks after the election to address this question.
From Ali Velshi, award-winning MSNBC journalist, we heard the importance of verifying facts with multiple sources, seeking out different viewpoints, and listening to youth.
Hurunnessa Fariad invited her friend and colleague—an evangelical pastor—from the One America Movement to join the call, demonstrating the friendship and solidarity that Muslims and evangelical Christians have built in West Virginia through their shared struggle against the opioid crisis.
Our next series will kick off later this winter with a focus on Seeds of Peace’s work in the changing Middle East—keep an eye on your inbox and social media for dates and signup information. We hope to see you there.
Seeds of Peace Community in the Lead
• Lior (1996 Israeli Seed) was recently named one of the 40 Under 40 by Globes for leading Civic Leadership, the umbrella organization for the third sector in Israel which has led the fight and advocated for government funding and support for all nonprofits which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
• Micah (2004 American Seed) reports for Forbes on an anthem for voters in Georgia, a feature on a Croatian artist and how music can help heal a divided America.
• Jonathan (2011 Israeli Seed) spoke in December at the ALLMEP Shine a Light virtual gala as part of a youth peacebuilder panel.
• Ali Haris (2018 Pakistani Seed) recently facilitated a four-day virtual leadership program for 16 students that included activities and dialogue on topics of leadership, goal orientation, and career planning.
• Sahar (2001 Pakistani Seed) is an advocate of the Lahore High Court and was part of a group who successfully filed a petition to ban virginity tests for survivors of sexual assault in a landmark ruling that’s the first of its kind in the country.
• Ahmed (2009 Palestinian Seed) is connecting Palestinian entrepreneurs, farmers, and artisans to a global market through his new import business, ROOTS Palestine, which ships products like olive oil, za’atar, and sage directly from Palestine to the U.S. and Canada.
• Ilan (1998 Israeli Seed) is co-editor of Public Diplomacy and the Politics of Uncertainty, part of the Palgrave Macmillan series in global public diplomacy. The book was released on January 20.
• Pious (2008 Educator) was featured on a Local Leaders & Racial Equity panel for the 40th Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance.
• Ahmed (2000 Palestinian Seed) posts regularly and publicly to his Facebook page about scientific data on COVID-19 vaccines. A molecular biologist with experience in oncology and immunology, Ahmed’s analysis allows access and explanation of what seems like complicated data and is especially useful in relieving the stress around an incredibly stressful time.
How are you taking action for change? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.