W ill Steinberg, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, was a “Seed,” having attended the Seeds of Peace Camp in Otisfield, Maine in the summer of 2015. Like the 6,697 other alumni of the program, his experience with Seeds of Peace had a profound impact on how he saw the world, whose lives he touched, and the kind of man he was on his way to becoming. Seeds of Peace is an organization that inspires new generations of leaders to become the change they want to see in the world. For most of its alumni, the journey begins at a summer camp in Maine where hundreds of young leaders and educators from communities divided by conflict join together to engage with the “other” side. Sharing meals, living spaces, and traditional camp experiences, these future seeds of peace — Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis, as well as teens from Jordan, Egypt, the UK, and the US — tackle topics that fuel oppression, hatred, and violence, and ultimately develop new perspectives. For many, this type of interaction is impossible at home, and camp is the first time they are encountering peers from across lines of conflict. It may also be the first time that they find themselves in a safe place to own their vulnerability, find their voice, and have the courage to share their feelings or traumatic experiences. But as Seeds form relationships and gain insights into the root issues that divide them, they build trust, respect, and empathy, which inspires their commitment to work for change back home. Will first heard about Seeds of Peace from his father’s colleague, an Israeli who had gone to the Seeds of Peace Camp in 1999. The program appealed to Will’s budding interest in international relations and public policy. After attending in the summer of 2015, he returned to camp a year later to take part in an enhanced leadership training and an advanced dialogue program. Hasan, one of Will’s counselors, recalled Will as being someone who “looked after people in a gentle and careful way when it was clear they were having a hard time… by simply being with them, refraining from helping them until they were ready.” Seeds of Peace is more than a camp, however. With the belief that change takes root at home, the organization offers over 100
year-round local leadership development programs that include community dialogue and facilitator trainings, multi-narrative tours of conflict zones, capacity-building workshops for educators, and mediation and negotiation seminars run by Harvard Law School faculty. In January of 2017, Will traveled to Jerusalem to participate in a mediation and negotiation workshop, further deepening his quest to “move through this world with care, thoughtfulness, and true compassion for those around him,” as described by Seeds of Peace’s Sarah Brajtbord.
As nearly 6,700 Seeds of Peace alumni gain influence in their societies — starting companies and non-profits, making inroads in education, the arts, journalism and technology — they are increasingly positioned to challenge the status quo. So Seeds of Peace invests in these alumni and other TOP TO BOTTOM: ISRAELI, PALESTINIAN, AND AMERICAN SEEDS TAKING PART IN AMULTI-NARRATIVE TOUR OF JERUSALEM. PHOTO BYMADELEINE PRYOR; WILL STEINBERG IN JERUSALEM TAKING PART ALONGSIDE ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN SEEDS IN A 2017 NEGOTIATION AND MEDIATION SEMINAR. PHOTO BYMADELEINE PRYOR; SIGN MADE BY A CAMPER AT THE SEEDS OF PEACE CAMP IN MAINE. PHOTO BYMADELEINE PRYOR OPPOSITE: ARAB AND ISRAELI CAMPERS SHARE A MEAL OF TRADITIONAL MIDDLE EASTERN AND SOUTH ASIAN FOOD AT THE SEEDS OF PEACE CAMP IN MAINE. PHOTO BY BOBBIE GOTTSCHALK
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