This is the time of year when one class says goodbye (for now) and another class begins their year with Hands for a Bridge. For a look back at this wonderful year with HFB please read the latest HFB Newsletter produced by students from the 2014 class (attached).
Featured in the newsletter are reflections on the student's travel and the important work that followed. Upon their return students propose and complete Activist Projects to explore an aspect of their own community that needs social change; they are better equipped to do this work because of what they have learned from the dialog with their peers in Northern Ireland and South Africa. Below is an excerpt from the newsletter that discusses one of these projects:
Challenge Day by Chris Harris: Challenge day is an event based off of an MTV show called “if you really knew me”. It is an event during school hours where any student is welcome and students are encouraged to engage in conversation with people that they normally wouldn’t. It took place on June 4th in the little gym and lasted all day. We hope that through this event people will realize that they have more in common with people around them than they thought. Also we want them to realize that we are all more similar than we are different. We hope to accomplish these goals through targeted games and both small and large discussions. The event went very well and all of the participants felt better about the Roosevelt community after they left compared to when they came in. We were very happy that we attracted a wide arrange of people and we hope that this event will become an annual occurrence.
The Seattle HFB group has just returned from our 2014 travel! Half of our students went to Northern Ireland and the other half to South Africa from February 13 – March 1, 2014. The purpose of our travel is to build bridges of understanding in areas where there historical conflict has divided communities. The Troubles in Northern Ireland and Apartheid in South Africa have had lasting effects in these countries and our challenge is to further the dialog of peace and reconciliation.
The challenge is a great one, but the HFB approach is pretty simple: get a bunch of high school kids in a room together and let them hang out :-) Getting them there is not as simple, over the last 12 years HFB has worked hard to establish relationships with schools and educators willing to participate, and create a program that students are eager to join, despite their differences. Students in these countries do carry the weight of their history, the fears of their parents, and the walls of their society, but they are young enough to change. While we are visiting, the students play games, sing songs, write, paint, dance, and start to talk. They talk about their lives, talk about their differences, talk about their futures, and eventually fears fade, walls come down, and they start to find similarities; they start to understand each other as humans. After we leave those relationships continue and another step on the bridge has been formed.
Both trips were incredibly powerful and the students have returned to Seattle with new purpose. One part of the mission of HFB is to build community in South Africa and Northern Ireland, but equally important is for HFB students to emerge as transformed global citizens with vision and resources to affect vital change in our world. What will they do now? How has this experience changed the way they see division in our communities in Seattle? What change do they want to inspire? We look forward to seeing how the relationships we fostered abroad continue to strengthen, and how our HFB alumni move forward into the world as young leaders and activists.
Dear HFB Supporters,
We’re back from an amazing couple of weeks abroad. Half of our students went to Northern Ireland and the other half to South Africa. In both places students engaged in deep dialog with their international peers about issues surrounding historical conflict, race, privilege, division, forgiveness, understanding, and building a better future. These discussions, although heavy at times, happened amidst lots of singing, laughter, dancing and the formation of powerful friendships. We’d like to share with you some student writing about their experience:
“Even though everyone eventually revealed their true selves, it did not come without struggles or difficulties. The walls within our group developed feelings of exclusion and isolation. People didn't know how to break down the barriers. It took an uncomfortable conversation on Friday night for people to reveal their emotions. After this discussion, people began to make a conscious effort to create a community where no one felt isolated. Suddenly a trust was developed, and deeper conversations were held. Once this challenging dialogue occurred, we realized how much we valued each other. People showed their appreciation through singing, poetry, and dancing at our open mic. An incredibly strong relationship was developed. Going on this journey made me realize how grateful I am to have participated in this exchange.” - Bella Merrit (Northern Ireland Traveler)
“Though there were definitely difficult divisions throughout the retreat, the most special part of it was to watch the kids from each school break down the barriers that had been created by an ugly history. Each day, hour, and moment words were exchanged and a little more trust was formed. I remember looking around the dining hall during one of our first meals and being startled by the separation inside the room. I think a huge part of this was the language barrier. This difference created a lack of communication and trust, and that seemed to win the battle over efforts to join together. Over the course of a couple days, however, all of us started to see past the skin colors, the languages, and instead of ignoring each other’s cultures, we began to embrace them… Seeing everyone sitting interspersed at the last meal, without having made any announcements, was to me a testament of the power of love, and the difference that a little conversation can really make.” – Agueda Dudly-Berrios (South Africa Traveler)
Thank you for supporting this program and the important dialog it generates!
We would like to sincerely thank everyone for their generous donation to Hands for a Bridge during our December campaign. Due to your generous support we now have a permanent spot on Global Giving and have the opportunity to reach a wider audience and have a deeper impact.
In April 2013, students in Northern Ireland and South Africa will host students and teachers from the Roosevelt community to continue the essential dialogue between traditionally separated groups in these regions. The students are beyond excited and have been introducing themselves to their friends across the ocean on our Hands for a Bridge International Facebook page, shared by students from all 3 regions.
One student from Northern Ireland recently wrote: “What's happening! (Such a Derry phrase) As you can see I'm Kealan! I'm 17 and I'm an upper sixth (senior) at Oakgrove College and I'm currently studying Maths, Physics and Physical Education. I live a wee bit outside the city with my parents and my big ginger dog Finn, My ma comes from a Protestant background and my Da is a catholic, and I was raised as a Catholic. I have a sister who's 22 and a 4 year old niece. My hobbies include playing Gealic Football (which is THE best sport in the world), a bit of basketball, and I also play the guitar and a very little bit of mandolin. I went to Seattle last year for what was probably the best week of my life! Long story short I can't wait to see you all in April!"
This traveling class is still working on raising funds for their trip and will be screening the film, “My So-Called Enemy” at Roosevelt High School on March 2 2013. This film follows six Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls committed to justice and mutual understanding. It documents how the young women’s transformative experience, of knowing their “enemies” as human beings, meets with the realities of their lives back home in the Middle East. The message of this film strongly parallels the work we do with Hands for a Bridge. For more information about the event please visit our website.
In January and February the Roosevelt High School students, parents and teachers gathered for animated and enlightening discussions of social justice issues from the books Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog and Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life by John Conroy.
We’ll have more news, photos and video after our upcoming trip!
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