Personal change begins at the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine.
Each summer, hundreds of teenagers and educators engage with each other across lines of conflict—sharing meals, living spaces, and learning experiences in a traditional summer camp program.
For many, this type of interaction is impossible at home, and Camp is the first time they are engaging their peers from the ‘other side.’
During daily dialogue sessions guided by professional facilitators, campers confront each other over competing historical narratives, share personal experiences of conflict, and tackle topics that fuel oppression, hatred, and violence in and between their communities.
It is here that personal and interpersonal change begins, as perceptions and attitudes shift in the face of a new reality they create at Camp.
As participants find their own voices, form relationships, and gain insights into the root issues that divide them, they build greater levels of confidence, trust, respect, and empathy, which inspire their commitment to work for change at home.
For 115 minutes each day, campers engage each other directly in small-group dialogue sessions organized by conflict region. Together, they tackle the most painful and divisive issues defining their conflict, sharing their personal experiences, reflecting on competing narratives, and challenging each others’ prejudices.
No subject is off-limits; campers discuss topics ranging from war and military occupation to suicide bombings, Partition, gender, refugees, racial profiling, the Holocaust and immigration. The immediate goal of Camp dialogue is not agreement or consensus, and there is no expectation that campers adopt or even embrace each other’s viewpoints.
Through dialogue, campers reflect on their own identities and gain insights into the dynamics that perpetuate conflict. In doing so, they lay the groundwork necessary for exploring and addressing these dynamics through local Seeds of Peace programs once they return home.
Dialogue sessions are run by professional facilitators, many of them older Seeds who graduate from a year-long Seeds of Peace training course.
Advanced Leadership Program
Several dozen Seeds return to Camp each summer to activate and sharpen their leadership skills. These “Paradigm Shifters” engage in a multifaceted dialogue program that emphasizes developing critical listening skills, a deeper understanding of what makes a strong leader, and fresh insights on conflict and conflict resolution. These returning campers also lend support to and mentor first time campers.
The Group Challenge component of the Camp program complements the dialogue sessions—it is dialogue conducted in physical form, or ‘dialogue in action.’ The series of group activities reinforces trust, cooperation and communication, thus forging stronger bonds between dialogue group members and enhancing the dialogue sessions.
The program is designed to be flexible and is constantly reevaluated and adjusted to meet the needs of the young people and to best impact group dynamics as the dialogue process unfolds.
Leadership development activities
Parallel to the Camp dialogue program are athletic and arts activities designed to develop leadership skills, foster creative expression, and strengthen the values of respect, good communication, and teamwork across lines of conflict.
Religious and cultural events
The diversity of faiths at Seeds of Peace presents unique learning opportunities. Campers are invited to witness their peers’ religious practices first hand and engage in interfaith dialogue.
Religious services for Muslims, Jews, and Christians take place weekly, and we also support individuals of other faiths to organize services at Camp.
On special nights during each session, campers share their cultural heritage and traditions with one another, while enjoying a dinner of their favorite dishes from home.
“At Camp, I learned to listen to people, even if I don’t agree with what they say. I learned how to understand other opinions, respect them, and became more open-minded.” — Shai (Israeli)