April 6 – 16, 2016: Washington, DC and Denver, Colorado
A dynamic multicultural group of 20 youth leaders from the Middle East visited the USA in April… sharing their experiences and insights as emerging leaders within Ultimate Peace programs and in their communities. The annual Friendship Tour offers the rare opportunity for US audiences to meet and interact with exceptional and diverse teenagers from the Middle East.
Since 2009, Ultimate Peace has built bridges of friendship, understanding, and leadership among hundreds of young Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the region, using the character-building sport of ultimate as its tool. One of the fastest growing sports in the world, ultimate prioritizes sportsmanship and requires conflict resolution, as there are no referees. Ultimate Peace’s groundbreaking program optimizes this unique dynamic among Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians from the West Bank .
The Friendship Tour arrived in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 6 and continued to Denver by Wednesday, April 13. The teens met and spoke with Americans in homes, schools, and places of worship; they played other high school teams in the sport they love; and they visited important educational and historical sites.
- Thursday, April 7 – Speak and Scrimmage at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Host Fundraiser at Busboys and Poets Takoma
- Friday, April 8 – Visit the US Institute of Peace then Three Schools: Sidwell Friends, The Field School, and HB Woodlawn Secondary
- Saturday, April 9 – Participate in Women’s Combine and a Clinic with top DC ultimate players
- Sunday, April 10 – Attend a DC Breeze Game at Gallaudet University’s Hotchkiss Field
- Wednesday, April 13 – Speak at Horizon K8 in Boulder, Colorado
- Thursday, April 14 – Speak and Scrimmage at Monarch High in Louisville and East High in Denver, then Host Meet and Greet at Jefferson County Education Center
- Saturday and Sunday, April 15 and 16 – Compete at East Invite Juniors Ultimate Tournament in Commerce City, CO
Some numbers from the Tour:
- More than 100 attendees at four fundraisers, including invite-only and open-to-the-public events in both Washington, DC and Denver, CO
- Twenty LITs traveling from the Middle East – 8 boys, 12 girls, 8 Israeli Jewish, 12 Arab Israeli
- Nineteen host families for LITs – with homstays lasting five nights in DC, and four in Denver
- Twelve days of activities – split between presentations, competitive ultimate, touring and learning, time with host families, and internal reflection, retreat, and down time
- Six US LITs – from Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington state
- Four senior staff, including UP’s Middle East Regional Director and the LIT Program Director
- Three-night retreat in Louisville, Colorado – providing necessary rest, rejuvenation, and LIT group and staff cohesion
- Two junior staff, responsible for LITs’ reflection, liaising with host families, and more
The two junior staff, Noa and Yasmeen – themselves graduates of UP’s three-year leadership program – reflect the greatest transformation possible through UP and their struggle this year on the Tour. These two staff had many tasks assigned to them for the 2016 Friendship Tour: recording a live video update every day for Facebook, preparing a “TED Talk” to give to one special audience, running hour-long reflections for LITs about their ongoing Tour experience, and liaising between UP and host families. Nearing the midpoint in the Tour, both junior staff expressed how they wanted greater support, role clarity, and harmony within the Tour staff.
So, during the group’s retreat in Louisville, CO, despite spending much of the day working with LITs, Noa and Yasmeen participated in two staff-only meetings. The first featured an emotional conversation about how we appreciate and depend on each other. We also aired how we sometimes disagree, and what happens when our conflict styles differ. We finished the retreat with dinner together, with plans for both communicating better and improving our coordination over the remaining days. Overall, LITs and graduates of the program continue to impress the world… The Friendship Tour 2016 was just one avenue for that.