Seeds of Peace
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Seeds of Peace is a peacebuilding youth organization based in New York City. It was founded in 1993. As its main program, the organization brings youth from areas of conflict to its international camp in Maine. It also provides regional programming to support Seeds of Peace graduates, known as Seeds, once they return home. Its mission is to empower youth from conflict regions to work for a better future.
Seeds of Peace began as an idea of the American journalist John Wallach. At a state dinner with politicians from Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, Wallach toasted them, then inspired them to pledge to bring 15 youngsters from each of their respective countries to a new camp he was founding in Maine. These 48, including 3 Americans, ranging in age from 13 to 18, comprised the first session of the Seeds of Peace International Camp, founded on the site of the former Camp Powhatan in Otisfield, Maine.
The campers from 1993 were later present at the signing ceremony of the Declaration of Principles (better known as the Oslo Accords) in Washington, D.C. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat were photographed holding Seeds of Peace T-shirts.
Since its inauguration in 1993, the International Camp has produced over 4,500 Seed graduates. There are now Seeds from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Maine, Cyprus (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus/Republic of Cyprus), and the Balkans. The Balkan programs (Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo) and the Cyprus program (Turkish Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey) have been discontinued.
Seeds of Peace camper selection process
The selection process to become a Seeds of Peace camper is very competitive. The selection takes about half a year, with most of the participants being 14–16 years old. Typically, applicants to Seeds of Peace apply through the school systems in their home countries. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and leadership skills, local politics, and are selected on the basis of interviews and written essays. Many of the first time campers are chosen by the Ministries of Education or other government agencies in their respective countries.
John Wallach's vision focused on leaders of the next generation—on Seeds who will one day be in positions of power. In the first years of the camp, it became clear that to realize this vision the organization needed the support of people in the regions of conflict in positions of power now. This need to establish legitimacy on the ground at home inspired the creation of the Delegation Leaders Program. Delegation Leaders are educators from the countries in conflict; they take part in the selection and orientation of Seeds at home. They accompany the Seeds to and from camp. At the camp, they are they eyes and ears of the parents, of their communities; at the same time, they engage in an intense encounter experience of their own. After camp, they are invited to join the growing circles of support for Seeds of Peace.
These many years of conflict resolution programming has produced an impressive cadre of Seeds working in international affairs, politics, business, medicine, nonprofit and media. Headquartered in New York City, Seeds of Peace also has offices in Amman, Cairo, Gaza, Jerusalem, Kabul, Lahore, Mumbai, Otisfield, Ramallah and Tel Aviv.
While at camp, participants speak English, the common language of the camp, in order to open the lines of communication between national and ethnic groups.
Camp is the potential beginning of a long process, of relationships that grow. The adjustment to life at home after camp can be difficult, especially when the political conditions are less than encouraging. To aid in this transition, the organization supports returning Seeds with year-round programming, including dialogue sessions, cross-cultural visits, educational and leadership development workshops and outreach events. These activities work to sustain the relationships and ideals developed in the International Camp, supporting the Seeds' lifelong commitments to sustaining promoting dialogue and understanding in their home regions.
In 2001, Seeds of Peace expanded to South Asia. Seeds in this region are active leaders through various programs that bring together conflicting sides from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
On October 2, 2000, Asel Asleh, an Israeli Arab and graduate of the program, was killed by Israeli security forces during a demonstration. He was wearing the Seeds of Peace t-shirt at the time of the shooting and was subsequently buried in a Seeds of Peace t-shirt.
John Wallach, the founder of the organization, also served as its president until his death in 2002. He was succeeded by former State Department official Aaron David Miller, who left the job early in 2006. Later, Janet Wallach, wife of John Wallach, was named president emeritus and Steven Flanders served for a time as the executive officer in charge. Starting in the spring of 2007, Nicolla Hewitt served briefly as President, until her departure in 2008. In the fall of 2009, the organization announced a new Executive Director, Leslie Adelson Lewin.
Seeds of Peace maintains a strict policy of remaining apolitical. This is essential in order to create the safe environment for individuals to express their ideas and opinions. Seeds of Peace activities are funded mainly by donations, with specific activities receiving earmarked funds from governments and large philanthropies. In September 2009, the organization successfully completed a set of USAID funded programs.
The organization's U.S. headquarters is located in New York City. Seeds of Peace also has opened central offices in Tel Aviv and Ramallah and smaller offices in Amman, Lahore, Mumbai and Kabul. With the support of Seeds of Peace staff, and growing networks of older "Seeds," Delegation Leaders and parents, the young graduates of the International Camp continue activities across borders and within their own communities. Programs for older Seeds—people in their 20s—are expanding as the organization meets the needs of Seeds moving through new phases of life.
The Olive Branch
Life after camp
Approximately 350 new Seeds graduate from Seeds of Peace every summer. After camp, the organization runs year-round regional programs for graduates in their home countries that focus on "four of the most important assets and abilities that leaders in conflict regions need to create meaningful change: strong relationships across lines of conflict; a sophisticated understanding of core conflict issues; practical skills in communication, critical thinking, and change-making; and the ability to take action on behalf of peace."
- "Seeds of Peace Program Overview". Seeds of Peace. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- "LIFE Magazine Photo Archive - Israel-PLO Peace Agreement Signing". LIFE Magazine. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- "List of Current Seeds of Peace Areas of Operation". Seeds of Peace. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- "Post-Camp Activities". Seeds of Peace. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
- Greenberg, Joel (15 June 2001). "Police Killings of Israeli Arabs Being Questioned by Inquiry". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
- "Regional Programs". Seeds of Peace. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
- Seeds of Peace official website
- For 130 Arab and Israeli Teenagers, Maine Camp Is Where Peace Begins New York Times, 3 September 1995
- In Search of Peace On Common Ground New York Times, 29 August 1999
- Mideast teens plant Seeds of Peace CNN.com, 14 August 2001
- Seeds of Peace camp plants seed of hope CNN.com, 19 July 2002
- Arabs, Israelis Hold Peace Reunion Fox News, 16 August 2005
- Peace Camp's Sense of Hope Unshaken Washington Post, 7 August 2006