Our Themes and Objectives

This was our first international Summer Camp involving students from our schools programme from all four geographical areas of the project: Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine.

We expected opportunities for dialogue and friendship between all student groups:

  • cross-community (Belfast students)
  • cross-border (Dublin and Belfast students; Palestinian and Israeli students);
  • international (Palestinian + Israeli with Belfast and Dublin students)

All the participants had been active students throughout the SAB schools programme of 2008/9. We therefore promoted the summer camp as a great opportunity to build on the sucess of the past year.

The main themes selected by the students for further exploration were :

  • Interdependence
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Global Justice
  • Crossing Borders
  • Roles and Power of Young People

Schools Across Borders had been working towards staging this event for three years. First we held a Cross-Border and Cross Community Summer Camp in 2007 for our participant Dublin and Belfast students. In 2006 we brought the Israeli and Palestinian Coordinators and teachers together in Amman to help strengthen our joint strategic objectives.

It has been a long and winding journey, but worth every step of the way!

The Summer Camp aimed to the build on the progress already made. For the participants, it would be a means of building on their achievements within the school year programme…

It would remain to be seen whether our grand aspirations could be met. If it succeeded, it would be a huge step for everyone involved..and serve to show future participants just what can be achieved by young people who are prepared to cross borders and work with each other and for each other.

All our expectations were well surpassed! Read on…!

The Participants

The students who made this Summer Camp such memorable experience, were:

Murali Rathinasabapathirajendran
(Marian College, Dublin)

Chloe Twomey
Niamh McCarthy
(Mount Anville, Dublin)

Darragh Quinlan Pluck
Mark Fox
Martin McCarthy
Dillon Mulligan
Jamie Stewart
(Oatlands College, Dublin)

Nick Judd
(St. Killian’s, Dublin)

Patrice Russell
Aimee Rattigan
(St. Louis High School, Dublin)

Jamie Linton
John Smyth
(Belfast Model School for Boys)

Natasha Walker
Laura Frederick
(Belfast Model School for Girls)

Louise Kincaid
Nicole Blackburn
Anjali Babu
Adam Maguire
(Lagan College, Belfast)

Danielle Monaghan
Emma O’Callaghan
(Little Flower Girls’ School, Belfast)

Adham Abuaisha
Dirgham Amro
Rand Tahboub
Woroud Dana
(Palestinian students)

Alona Atias
Elazar Symon
Yarden Gali Ishai
David Heller
(Israeli students)

The group leaders who accompanied and provided support to all the participants:

Nike Ruf
SAB Senior Project Facilitator

Ruth Bar-Sinai, Jerusalem
Ruth is a teacher at the David Yellin Teacher Training College, Jerusalem

Adli Daana, International Palestinian Youth League (IPYL), Hebron, West Bank
Adli is the Director of IPYL, our partner organisation in Hebron and is the Palestinian Coordinator of the Schools Across Borders programme in Hebron.

A very special thanks also to all those who made our programme such a success.

Please see Programme Schedule below for full details of Facilitators, Speakers and organisations involved in the Summer Camp.

Pre-Visit Preparations

To ensure that the Summer Camp programme would be student-centred and student-led, all participants were invited to set out their own personal expectations and aims for the camp, the types of activities they would like to have, and any other activities that they would like to lead themselves.

This advanced planning exercise also served as an opportunity for the participants to share and be aware of each other’s views and feelings on these core aspects.

In addition, we facilitated an exchange of written messages between the Israeli and Palestinian student groups. This exercise helped to confirm the mutual sense of common purpose and enthusiasm for the forthcoming encounter.

The following extracts from our collated data indicate the range and depth of their personal objectives and the kinds of challenges expected from the participants:

What do you want to achieve from this summer camp?

  • Learn more / gain understanding about the conflict ( both N. Ireland and Israel/ Palestine)
  • New friends/friendship/ strengthen existing friendships
  • Express my myself/views
  • Hear other people’s views on conflict
  • Really communicate and listen for this to work
  • Gain better understanding why young people are separated
  • Gain better understanding of cross border and cross community issues
  • Gain better understanding what this project is about
  • Get to know people from different parts of the world
  • New experiences
  • Discover talents
  • To gain better understanding of other’s feelings
  • To be active as a young person
  • Meet people who live really near me but who I don’t have a chance to meet
  • Learn more about myself and how I function in discussions
  • I hope that peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be brought about in my generation and I would love to play a small part in that
  • The chance to go on from there and make a change

What do you see as the challenges?

  • Listening to and appreciating points of views which I do not necessarily share
  • Discussions that may get serious and heated/ there may be tension between people (i.e. Israelis & Palestinians / Catholics & Protestants)
  • Meeting the “other side”
  • People from different backgrounds not having or wanting understanding of the other side/ to connect or agree on issues
  • Convincing other’s of my thoughts and beliefs
  • Being honest about my own point of view
  • Cultural differences
  • Getting on with people
  • I will struggle with the opportunity to communicate with the Palestinians and I hope this won’t take over and I expect it to be similar for the Palestinians
  • Being with Palestinians all day long – it will be the hardest but also the most meaningful thing
  • Meeting students from the North
  • Integrating with other students (Dublin, Belfast, Palestine, Israel)
  • Time restrictions
  • Different definitions of Peace
  • Leaving and going back home
  • Worried there might not be any agreement

What sorts of themes would you suggest for the group discussions?

  • How do you explain to someone who has never left their own local area about socialising with someone from a different religious background?
  • How is it to meet the other side of such a long and big conflict?
  • Do you think there is any way that we as young people can do to change what we want to change?
  • Living in fear (Belfast/Jerusalem/Hebron)
  • Each other’s realities
  • Similarities and differences
  • How we deal with conflict and how it affects us
  • Resolution to the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict
  • Peace Process in Northern Ireland
  • Religious Divides in the future
  • Discuss how the Israelis and Palestinians feel about what happened in the Gaza Strip
  • Compromises and giving up demands, from both sides (diplomatic and ideological steps)
  • The future and an end to the conflict and some general teenage stuff to remind us that in essence we are all the same
  • America’s input to the conflict

The Summer Camp Programme

The range of programme activities were developed with complementary objectives in mind.

We set out to provide spaces and opportunities for the participants, as follows:

  • to optimise interaction both within the wider group and between individuals
  • to engage with other role players outside the group
  • to plan and facilitate their own activities
  • to evaluate the progress of the programme and to direct and coordinate its final stages and objectives
  • to stimulate creative thinking and actions
  • to stimulate reflection and open discussion
  • to allow time off for individual and group recreation.

We organised interactive workshops, meetings with peace-building organisations, encounters with social leaders, peer group discussions, as well as recreational activities.

Student-centred, Student-led

We also ensured that students could organise and lead their own activities:

  • Adham, David and Mark gave a presentation on hip-hop dance;
  • Yarden gave a presentation on child educationalist Janusz Korczak
  • Dillon gave a demonstration on the the Irish sport of hurling
  • Murali and Darragh managed a video diary of student reflections

Our original plans included a final street campaign of drama-based actions.

However, by process of group evaluations and consensus, the participants decided that these vital last two days in Belfast and Dublin should focus on the following two actions:

1) to hold an open discussion on the realities and issues of conflict that the Israeli and Palestinian students needed to discuss further.

It was felt by all that everyone now felt ready and willing to discuss difficult differences of opinion.

2) to prepare and present a final group message which would be agreed by everyone as a statement of common principles, to represent each participant and the group as a whole, but also as a positive signal to all other future groups involved in the Schools Across Borders programme of what can be achieved by young people working together.

It was agreed that this Final Message, entitled “Our First Step” would be written up and filmed so that it could be posted up and viewed where possible in all schools involved in the programme.

Both final actions were carried out to the general satisfaction of all participants.

Here are some sample quotes from the participants’ assessments of the different programme activities:

Activity Assessment (sample quotes)

  • It helped me a lot to understand the others it also helped me to understand myself and how to listen and respect other opinions.”
  • “I listened to and met interesting people.”
  • “It was so interesting to hear people’s stories, their hopes and to share them.”
  • “We really asked what we wanted to ask.”
  • “We expressed ourselves and encouraged other teenagers to join the programme.”
  • “We expressed ourselves and shared our feelings.”
  • “The peer group discussion in Dublin helped to discuss how you felt and what you had learned.”
  • “They helped a lot to express my views…and standing up to present what our group felt was a personal achievement for me.”
  • “It was very important for me because I said everything I wanted to say in my heart; it was a really good experience to hear everybody talk.”
  • “They were all really interesting and touched on a lot of important issues, it was good to see how different people portray their emotions, more creative than the rest.”
  • “Something new and special and non material, expressing our feelings.”
  • “I also learned a lot about what goes on in Northern Ireland, which was extremely emotional.”

It is fitting that we add the Final Message decided upon by the group: