"To inspire and cultivate new generations of global leaders in communities divided by conflict and to equip those young leaders with the skills and relationships they need to accelerate social, economic, and political changes essential for peace,” is the mission statement of Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace is a leadership development organization that began in 1993 with one youth camp location in Otisfield, Maine.
But exactly how does this organization make their mission become a successful reality, especially in times of extreme conflict and diverse perspectives?
That is the question Caryl Gilman of Raymond asked herself when she attended the tenth annual UCC (United Church of Christ) Women’s Celebration X conference in April at Portland’s Holiday Inn By the Bay.
“The Executive Director of Seeds of Peace was one of the speakers at the conference,” Gilman explained. “What caught my attention during her presentation was how the perspectives of young future leaders changed over the course of their camp experience in Otisfield.”
Leslie Adelson Lewin, the Executive Director of Seeds of Peace, spoke to approximately 400 women at that conference regarding how the youth from across lines of conflict and difference arrive at the camp, often viewing others as enemies – but then through daily facilitated dialogue sessions, plus traditional camp activities, they begin to open up to new perspectives, building trust and empathy.
Gilman decided to find out exactly how Seeds of Peace successfully transforms individual perspectives during camp and to share that information with the Raymond, Casco and Windham communities and beyond. “I belong to the Raymond Village Community Church, so I approached our Pastor, Nancy Foran,” began Gilman. “I also spoke with Sheila Bourque (Board President of Raymond Village Library) and Mary-Therese Duffy (Raymond Arts Alliance) about the possibility of inviting a representative from Seeds of Peace to give us those details.”
A collaborative effort was created and put into place, resulting in the informational presentation that will occur on Tuesday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Raymond Village Community Church, 27 Main Street in Raymond.
Anyone who interested in discovering more about Seeds of Peace and how they successfully execute their mission can attend.
Briefly, Seeds of Peace began in 1993 by John Wallach, a journalist and Foreign Editor for Hearst Newspapers from 1968–1995. He believed that "If you begin to know your enemy, if you begin to hear your enemy, if you begin to understand your enemy, it is inevitable that you will begin to feel some empathy.”
According to the Seeds of Peace website, in the summer of 1993, “a group of 46 Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and American teenagers inaugurate the Camp [in Maine].” Soon after, President Clinton invited the attendees as their guests to the historic signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. And thus, the success of Seeds of Peace began.
To learn more about the informational gathering that will occur on Tuesday, contact
Gilman at 627-5073.
The Seeds of Peace informational gathering is free and open to the public. “Peace is the way life could be – not only internationally, but in the U.S. and right here in Raymond and Windham, too,” Gilman said. “I’d like to invite everyone to attend to find out just how Seeds of Peace does it.”