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.
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