Though Camp UP is a major highlight for campers and staff alike, the work of Ultimate Peace happens in the Middle East all year round. The Coaches in Training program works to develop the leadership and presentation skills of the amazing young people that are selected to represent UP throughout the world. They truly are the product of all we work for—our face to the world, our ambassadors—as they speak of their experiences, their lives, and the power of the relationships they have developed here.
Assistant coach Stephanie Malcher has traveled from Australia to be at Camp UP 2014 and had a profoundly moving experience as she had the experience of hearing the CITs speak about the power of Ultimate Peace:
The first shivers and lump in my throat for camp UP 2014 happened for me yesterday. I’ve always considered the program in terms of big impact potential (of which there is plenty) without too much thought about each individual camper, Coach in Training (CIT), or staff member. Yesterday, I was slapped in the face with the significance of this program for young Israeli Arabs, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians.
As part of a cultural sensitivity session, during which we heard from camp jester and deep well of Middle Eastern knowledge Jez, I had the absolute privilege of hearing six local CITs and assistant coaches talk about about their experiences. It was informative, sincere, and heart warming without becoming an exercise in navel gazing.
What was shared proved that not only do these kids walk the talk, this program has changed the way they see the world. To be clear, these young adults are exceptional and they’re also just regular teenagers. They live with their families, go to school, hang out, eat, and sleep. To me, it’s this part which makes hearing their stories so wonderful. A couple of paraphrased quotes from the evening will highlight this better than I ever could:
Yonatan was proud that he had visited an Arab friend (a co-CIT) outside of camp, something he never would have done without UP.
Shadda shared that she can now see that two people can have differing opinions about something but doesn’t mean they have to fight about it. She went further than this though. She followed up with recognizing that it’s those differences of opinion that make this world we live in necessarily challenging, vibrant, and wonderful.
Raz spoke about her transformation from camper, to CIT, to assistant coach. Of her discovery that people listen, and that her opinion is valid and valuable despite, and because of, her ethnicity, her age, her gender, and her stature (something I can relate to!).
So while the cheering, the singing and the dancing is fun (and necessary), when it comes down to it, it’s window dressing to something much more. Something which has an extraordinary potential to create change. Something for which Ultimate is the incredibly effective tool.
It’s going to be a great week.