Story from Tim Pilgrim

I couldn’t really believe my ears! Sally, the kids’ theatre director at our church, was asking about our son, Matthew.

“Do you think Matthew would be interested in joining Kids4Peace? It’s a group of local kids and other eleven-year-olds from Galilee—Christians, Muslims and Jews—who are brought together to discuss peace? Really interesting program. The kids go to a camp for a week with outdoor camp activities and then all sorts of discussions about peace and international friendship … They learned about each other, each other’s culture, religion—see what’s important in peaceful interaction. I thought it would be the kind of thing that would interest Matthew.”

Are you kidding? Interest Matthew?! He loves the outdoors—and the idea of meeting other kids from foreign countries from different backgrounds at a summer camp! “Matthew would likely jump at it, Sally. Is it expensive?”

“Well, actually, all the money is privately raised to cover the kids’ expenses. They fly the Galilee kids and their supervisors over and pay for the all the kids’ camp activities. The last three days they tour Niagara Falls and the CN Tower. The only thing you do is billet one of the Galilee camp kids for a couple of days at the end of the program and show him around.”

No cost? Have a kid from the Middle East hang out with us? This was not a tough decision. “I’ll talk it over with Carol and Matthew, but I can’t see anything that would stop him from jumping at this.”

What an amazing opportunity! Why hadn’t we heard about this? The conversation at our dinner table didn’t last long. Carol was thrilled that Sally had thought of putting Matthew’s name forward. Matthew was already very excited, especially about having a foreign guest, a camp buddy, stay with us a few days. “We can talk him to a baseball game! Do they play baseball in Galilee? Too bad it wasn’t winter; they likely haven’t seen a hockey game!”

We made the application and Matthew had his interview …. Great news. He was in! He could barely count the weeks before the kids from Galilee arrived, but on a balmy evening in July I took him over to the church where the kids were to spend their first night before heading off to camp. He disappeared in a flash with a brief wave goodbye.

A short week later they returned, all twenty-four of them, twelve from Canada and twelve from Galilee, twelve girls and twelve boys. What a marvel! And what an energetic burst of enthusiasm met us as we entered the auditorium to experience the Abraham Tent performance that the kids had worked on for days while they were away. It was hard to imagine that these children represented the very same cultures and religious backgrounds that now experience such hardship and conflict … if only we could all learn form their example. This is why Kids4Peace came into being, I thought. Someone had the foresight to see the openness and heartfelt insights of our children carry some of the hope for the future.

It gave me much to think about, as did the many moments over the next three days when Matthew and his pal from Galilee, Majd, romped around being the boys they were, playing ping pong, baseball—and yes, video games; eating falafel together one night, pizza another. Moments of hilarity; moments of confusing communications—no fault of Majd who held us together with his tales of Nazareth, his home town. I hoped I was seeing the beginning of a life-long friendship, even in spite of the huge distances… and differences … so many differences. When it was all over, we had all been deeply affected by the experience. We were very grateful for what had been offered and what had bloomed over the remarkable ten days.

I continue to be astounded that very few people know about Kids4Peace … that Kids4Peace not only is challenged to raise money, but even sometimes has trouble getting the kids to fill the program. What!? Trouble getting the kids to participate? How is that possible, you ask? Well, if you’re unknown, it sometimes doesn’t matter how good you are.

Creating peace takes time and energy, hard work, volunteers and money. Some of us have different things to give. My son and his Kids4Peace friends gave their enthusiasm and their unabashed ability to engage with each other and create new ties and relationships. But we all need to step up. I decided that I too should make an effort, not only to express my thanks for our experience but also to apply myself where I could make a difference. This meant becoming a Kids4Peace volunteer to help spread the word. Fortunately, our numbers in Kids4Peace (Canada) are growing with others who also give what they have to offer: religious leaders, priests and pastors who organize and provide direction, school teachers who help create the annual programs, business men and women who have access to resources and contacts. And above all, the kids … our children who still embody the hope of a peaceful future for our world.

If you are a parent contemplating Kids4Peace for your child, I urge you to join in. Not only will you’ll give your child an opportunity of a lifetime, you’ll help give peace another stake hold in the future.

Tim Pilgrim
Parent and Kids4Peace (Canada) Marketing Manager