Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teresa Dovalpage, from Taos to Miami

Summer camp brings Israeli, Palestinian girls together

Above: Sixteen young women, age 15-17, from Israel and the Palestinian Territories
 attended Creativity for Peace’s 2010 summer camp in Santa Fe .
Itaf Awad, left, a Palestinian living in Israel, and Dalya Yohai,
a Jewish Israeli  now living in Santa Fe, serve as housemothers
 for Creativity for Peace’s annual summer program in New M e x i c o .

By Teresa Dovalpage
(para el blog Gaspar, El Lugareño)
Publicado originalmente en The Taos News

“If you educate a man, you educate a person, but if you educate a woman you build a good nation.” This African proverb was the inspiration behind Creativity for Peace, an organization founded in 2003 by Rachel Kaufman and Debra Suger man.

For the last eight years, Creativity for Peace has orga­nized a summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian girls in Santa Fe. Every summer, 16 girls between 15 and 17 years old come to New Mexico to learn to know each other, take field trips and share life stories for three weeks.

Itaf Awad, an energetic woman with a ready smile and a confident attitude, is par t of the camp’s dedicated staff. She is from Daburia, a Palestinian village in the north of Israel.

“Almost all of them have lost a family member in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on both sides,” she said, on a recent stay in Taos. “Here, they learn to see the other one as a human being, instead of ‘the enemy.’” Awad said she hopes to br ing the campers to Taos next sum­mer.

The granddaughter of a mid­wife, healer and peacemaker, Awad started taking care of her family when she was twelve years old. Now she holds a master’s in political science and belongs to the Leadership Council in Israel and to several peace organizations.

As a licensed facilitator in Marshall Rosenberg’s nonvio­lent communication method, Awad is the ideal person to be around the girls, who often arrived at Santa Fe with mixed feelings toward their camp­mates.

One hundred sixty two camp­ers from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza have par ticipated in this effort to strengthen Jewish and Arab coexistence and to cross cultural and religious bar­r iers.

Counselors, art therapists, reconciliation facilitators and ar tists help the teenagers devel­op leadership and communica­tion skills. They practice com­passionate dialogue. They work together in art projects. Above all, they make fr iends in a safe space.

Awad is a house mother. Her mission is to ser ve the girls, to feed them and to take care of their emotional well-being.

“The first time I came, in 2004, I was angry,” she said. “I took ever ything to my hear t and I got ill. But I worked on that. I lear ned to listen to other people with all my body, without judg­ing them.”

Now she nurtures the next generation of female leaders from Palestine and Israel.

“The girls feel they can talk freely about their fears, traumas and dreams,” she said with a spark of hope in her eyes. “They discover a common bond with former ‘enemies.’ At the end, they take their new understand­ing to their families, neighbor­hoods and communities. And, together, we create a founda­tion for peace.”

Awad is also a fir m believer in the power of the human touch.

“It is as a healing tool,” she said, “a connection to our shared humanity that helps us to build br idges and to heal old wounds.”

In order to develop leader­ship skills among the campers, ever y year new girls get involved in the Young Leaders program. The Young Leaders receive additional training and attend gather ings in their homeland. Some come back to the Santa Fe camp and ser ve as junior counselors.

“Many of the girls are now practicing what they lear ned here, being peacemakers and leaders in their countries,” said Dottie Indyke, Creativity for Peace’s executive director.

Indyke has 35 years expe­rience in nonprofit manage­ment, marketing, public rela­tions, and the arts. “The Young Leaders is an ongoing program that does not stop when the campers go home,” she said. “The girls receive year-round training.”

After the last summer camp, Indyke took threeYoung Leaders on a speaking tour. They went to Las Cruces, Albuquerque and El Paso where they talked to local audiences about their work.

“We’d like to bring some of the Young Leaders to Taos next summer,” said Awad. “We want to spread the word about what we are doing — shattering ste­reotypes, fostering empathy and building long-lasting rela­tionships.”

To learn more about Creativity for Peace, call (505) 982-3765 or visit its website

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