Kids4Peace Boston (K4PB)educates, trains, and inspires Christian, Jewish, and Muslim youth from diverse backgrounds, ages 12-18, to become interfaith peace leaders. K4PB creates opportunities for both youth and their families to build relationships from across faith and other boundaries and become ambassadors for coexistence and justice. kids4peaceboston.org;
Kids4Peace Boston offers a year-round, six-year Peace Leader Program focused on the peace building aspirations of middle and high school youth from more than 20 different urban and suburban communities throughout the Greater Boston area. Through a sequence of summer programs and monthly school year activities, and by using an experiential learning approach, K4PB equips participants with the knowledge, skills, and relationships to promote interfaith understanding, advocate for social change, and take action for peace in Boston and beyond.
Among interfaith and peace education efforts, Kids4Peace Boston programs are distinctive:
● The first entry point is age 12, engaging the natural openness of youth to develop friendships based on mutual respect and understanding and allowing relationships to form among their families as well.
● During monthly school-year activities, 7th through 12th grade participants gain and practice leadership, communication, and peacebuilding skills; develop insight into pressing issues of peace and justice; strengthen their appreciation for the faiths of others; and build community by having fun together!
● Through powerful summer overnight camps and programs, participants have the opportunity to gain a global perspective on peace through interactions with Israeli and Palestinian peers, learning together how faith can nurture peace and understanding.
Peace Leader Program Goals
● Learn more about your own faith, and develop a deep-rooted appreciation of the beliefs/religious practices/traditions of others’ faiths.
● Increase your self-knowledge, clarify your values, and evaluate the ethics of decisions you make.
● Create and maintain relationships based on trust, shared experiences, and friendship that support you in your efforts to become a Peace Leader.
● Cross boundaries to learn from and delight in the diversity of people who are from different religions, neighborhoods, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
● Learn and practice communication skills, including compassionate listening (putting yourself in the other’s shoes), being able to hear multiple perspectives even if you don’t agree with them, framing discussions, probing, presenting, and conversing with others different from yourself.
● Practice leadership skills including collaboration, problem-solving, making diverse others feel welcome and included, and facilitating when conversations get awkward or tense.
● Use conflict resolution skills to manage and resolve conflict.
● Get involved -- on your own or with a group -- in a project that serves others.
● Develop a global perspective. Learn more about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and other conflicts, in the U.S. and around the world. Learn about peacemaking efforts. Appreciate complexity and multiple viewpoints.
● Apply Peace Leader skills to your own life when you’re not with the Kids4Peace group. Have confidence to take a stand or take action that helps create a more peaceful, respectful world.
Kids4Peace Boston Learning Model
Foundational Themes of Kids4Peace Boston:
High Expectations of Being a Changemaker: 12-18 year olds learn they can and need to make a positive difference in the world, starting now.
Religion as a Uniter, Not a Divider. We teach youth to promote interfaith understanding in Boston and beyond.
Engaging activities bond diverse group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim 6th - 12th graders and families. Community is based on friendship, shared values of the Abrahamic religions, and commitment to a common vision of peace.
Experiences and challenges call forth collaboration, empathy, and crossing religious and other divides.
Peace and Social Justice Issues
Skills and commitment gained in social justice and peace actions include hearing multiple perspectives, resolving conflict, and advocating for change.
Application of Learning in Each Youth’s Life
Youth apply knowledge, attitudes, and skills to their own lives in ways appropriate to their age, interests, and talent.
Leadership Skill Development
Immersion in more advanced challenges, require leadership skills gained through workshops and guided experiences – examples include facilitating difficult conversations, making presentations, and planning group events.
Gaining Global Perspectives
Perspectives are broadened through engagement in summer programs with high school youth from Jerusalem, focusing on advocacy, service, and peace.
Application of Leadership Skills, Knowledge, and Perspectives
Youth lead within Kids4Peace Boston community and in outreach programs in Greater Boston with youth and adults from area temples, churches, and mosques.
The work of Kids4Peace began in Jerusalem in 2001 in response to escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians following the collapse of the Oslo Peace Initiative. In this divided city, educators created unheard of opportunities for Jewish, Christian & Muslim youth to meet face-to-face, cross social divides, and share stories of their lives and their faiths. In these early years, Jerusalem youth, ages 12-13, began their Kids4Peace journey at a summer camp program hosted in the US. (more information here)
The Kids4Peace chapter in Boston was founded in 2010 by Peggy Stevens, a gifted educator, former middle and high school teacher, and an active member of the local interfaith community. Peggy mobilized Boston-area volunteers, donors, and youth, as well as her colleagues at the American Youth Foundation (a leading U.S. youth development and camping organization), to undertake K4PB’s first initiative in 2011, hosting a two-week peacebuilding camp for rising 7th grade Palestinian and Israeli youth from Kids4Peace Jerusalem and for their interfaith peers from the Boston-area.
After a successful first summer, Boston youth and their families requested ongoing opportunities to build community and continue their skill-building. As K4PB’s reputation for providing meaningful experiential youth programs grew, so did the interest and trust of many local churches, temples, mosques, schools, and organizations. As a result, K4PB has grown to offer an integrated, year-round, six-year Peace Leader Program focused on the peace building aspirations of Boston-area middle and high school youth, as well as community outreach activities. While the program is primarily focused on serving Boston-area youth, high school participants have opportunities to develop global perspectives on peace by joining Israeli and Palestinian peers for summer programs.
Kids4Peace Boston collaborates with many partners including Kids4Peace International (Kids4Peace Jerusalem and other American Chapters), Jerusalem Peacebuilders, The American Youth Foundation, and many Boston-area churches, mosques, temples, and other organizations.
Summer Camp (Middle School)
Currently, Kids4Peace Boston offers a week-long Peace Leader Summer Camp for rising 7th and 8th graders from the Boston area. Campers not only experience activities such as hiking and kayaking; they also learn skills for solving the kinds of problems that keep people in Boston and around the world from understanding one another.
School Year Program (7th-12th Grade)
The Peace Leader School Year Program enables lessons learned during the first summer of camp to take root back at home. Over the next six years (during 7th – 12th grades), youth gather monthly for recreational and community-building activities, interfaith dialogue, leadership skill development, and community service projects. There are separate programs geared to the interests and abilities of those in middle school and those in high school.
Kids4Peace Boston middle school and high school youth can be found working towards justice and peace in the greater Boston area by taking leadership roles in annual Kids4Peace Boston programs that are designed to impact youth from faith communities in the Greater Boston area (click here for one example); helping their peers understand ways all can take action on issues they care about (see examples here); conducting workshops about the three Abrahamic faiths for youth at local temples, mosques, and churches (click here for more information); and engaging in service projects.
Service with Refugees ...MLK Day 2017
Summer High School Programs with Partner Organizations
High School participants can apply to take part in additional summer peacebuilding opportunities (by grade-level) including urban service learning, a global leadership training institute to learn advocacy skills, intensive dialogue training, and counselor-in-training programs. These programs, run by Kids4Peace Boston partners (Jerusalem Peacebuilders and Kids4Peace International), help teens develop a global perspective on peace through interactions with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian peers not only from the US, but also with Palestinian and Israeli youth.
Global Institute meets Senator Warren
Outreach Programs and Additional “Entry Points” to Become Involved in K4PB
K4PB offers outreach programs so more youth can learn about the three Abrahamic religions and gain the skills and positive attitudes to spread interfaith understanding and work for social justice. In addition to at least one, large annual program open to youth in the Greater Boston area (such as the 2017 High School Interfaith Conference and the Day of Action to be held in the Spring of 2018), K4PB high school youth lead programs for youth groups and classes at local mosques, churches, and temples. Click here for workshop details.
To increase impact on and accessibility to more youth, Kids4Peace Boston is currently experimenting with having more opportunities to join the program throughout middle and highs school. Beginning in the fall of 2017, youth who are not regular K4PB participants have been invited to join some of the monthly programs and certain summer high school opportunities are open to youth who are new to K4PB.
Kids4Peace Boston builds bridges among individuals, families, and communities in Greater Boston who would not interact without our facilitation. Participants represent a wide spectrum of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious practices, ethnicities, and races and come from more than 20 urban and suburban neighborhoods. Building a diverse community is a priority. K4PB removes financial barriers by significantly subsidizing program costs, offering a sliding scale for modest program fees, and providing program and camp tuition scholarships for those in need.
Several programs throughout the year offer opportunities for Kids4Peace Boston family members to get to know each other and take part in peace building discussions and activities.
Community outreach programs, led by K4PB youth and staff, for local congregations, Boston-area schools, and other organizations, enable participants to use their skills to promote interfaith understanding and share their message of coexistence and tolerance with the larger Boston community.
Annual public events enable the larger Boston community to hear K4PB youth speak about their peace building experiences and learn more about K4PB’s mission and work.
Impact on Youth:
In the face of rising intolerance in the United States and throughout the world, Kids4Peace Boston youth emphasize how their K4PB experience has had a powerful impact on them, as they:
● develop deep friendships across divides of religion, race, class and neighborhood;
● learn to lead in new ways, through seeing multiple viewpoints and differing narratives;
● take responsibility as needed actors and leaders in standing up for coexistence and making a more peaceful and just world; and
● internalize the relevance of their own religious upbringings in a peace building context.
Click here for examples of what community leaders, parents, and participants say about the impact of Kids4Peace Boston.
90% of the youth who start with K4PB in the summer before 7th or 8th grade stay in the program through middle school, and more than 50% stay through high school graduation.
Impressions from Participants: What Attracts Them to Kids4Peace Boston and What Keeps Them Coming Back?
Sense of being needed to impact the world in a much-needed way: building bridges across society's divides
Sense of belonging to an accepting community, joined together in common cause
Building interfaith friendships with kids who would normally not be in their friendship group in school or home community
Relationship with caring, fun, adults who love to be with them, have a great sense of humor, maintain a balance between high expectations and support, and solicit and value their input.
Tangible evidence that they are enhancing skills that they can use in their lives
Sense that they are acting on their religion’s values through being in Kids4Peace: love, hospitality, justice, service
Immersion in exciting, challenging experiences that call forth each their best selves
Fun! During the school year, most Kids4Peace Boston meetings are on Sundays. Youth have choices of many other activities, from relaxing, to hanging out with friends, to sports, to piles of homework (especially in high school). Fun is critical to choosing Kids4Peace on a Sunday afternoon.
Impact on Boston Area Faith Communities
Kids4Peace Boston outreach programs have spread interfaith understanding through presentations, workshops, and discussions at many different area faith communities and schools. K4PB youth and families take their experiences back to more than 25 churches, mosques, and temples throughout the Greater Boston area. In addition, K4PB has spread hope and interfaith understanding through articles in the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Jewish Advocate, as well as in an interview with 3 youth and the chapter founder on National Public Radio. Click here for links to news and media coverage.
Recommendations for Replication and/or Adaptation
● Start slowly to establish interfaith trust and relationships before attempting an entire program. If there are not interfaith relationships already formed among interested Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith communities, start small with an evening or afternoon event for adults or youth with an emphasis on getting to know each other, having fun, and sharing a few things about one another’s religions.
● Be sure that the organizing group starts by recruiting a similar number of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. It is much more difficult if only one or two religions are “at the table” at the beginning and the other religions are invited in later.
● Build a core group by offering an initial intensive, week-long, overnight interfaith program at the middle school level that continues during the school year.
● Leverage partnerships with like-minded organizations to offer robust sequence of summer programs that build on and enhance school year programs.
● Offer programs that focus on community-building and skill-building during middle school.
● Offer programs that focus on using and refining leadership skills during high school, including opportunities for peer leadership, leading younger participants, and outreach with peers in the community.
● Leverage connections with like-minded community organizations and faith communities to expand impact.
● Host community-wide and public events that are led by the youth and showcase their experiences and skills.
● Enhance learning by inviting diverse faith communities to be part of the program. Some examples might be Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox Jews and Reform Jews, and Muslims from different cultures such as Pakistanis and Arabs.
● While a year-round, six year program is powerful, there are a variety of parts of this program that could be adapted or implemented initially such as a middle school summer camp program with a limited number of school year activities or a high school program offered during a school vacation week, or an interfaith club at a high school. While Kids4Peace Boston draws youth from many towns and faith communities, it could also be adapted to start with youth from a smaller number of temples, churches, and mosques.
Sindy Wayne, Kids4Peace Boston Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org