Guest Post: How to Plant a Seed of Peace

 

This guest post is by businesswoman Esta Singer (pictured above). She's one of my favorites in the social space. With decades of experience with nonprofits and foundations, she looks at issues from every possible angle and perspective. And that approach informs her guest post on her late fathers's efforts to bring people together, and promote global peace and cultural understanding. Enjoy!

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"How to Plant a Seed of Peace" by Esta Singer

 
Can one kid make a difference? Can one kid living in a country in conflict lead their country towards peace? What if we brought together a group of kids from countries in conflict to one place, and taught them acceptance, tolerance and leadership skills to return to and build their dream to live in peace?  What if there was such a place?
 
As a matter of fact, there is. A unique camp called Seeds of Peace was established in Maine in 1993. Teenagers, Palestinian, Israeli; teens from South Asia, Cypress, and the Balkans, converge in a safe environment; arrive hating and distrusting and yet, willing to set aside beliefs for the opportunity to learn acceptance, and how to be leaders that incite change. These teenagers leave with hope, friendships, and skills to make a difference when they return home.
 

Becoming a Seed is competitive. Of the over 8,000 applicants who apply each year, only about 4.5% of candidates are selected by their governments or through their schools to join a delegation to the International Camp. While a majority of nearly 5,000 Seeds are from the Middle East, a growing number—now over a third—are from other conflict areas. 94% reported having little to "no contact" with the other side before Seeds of Peace.

My dad had been passionately involved with the camp since the early 1990s.  A guy who grew up in the Bronx, and built a small cleaning supply business, used his hustle and street smarts to rally large vendors to donate palettes of supplies to the camp. He was inspired by Seeds campers from the moment they were introduced. Feeling their hope and hunger for change, he collected enormous donations of cleaning supplies each summer through and shipped the materials to Maine where they were put to great use. Year after year my dad tirelessly assembled goods, getting creative with products and knowing he was supporting a great cause.

He was the most generous, warm, fun-loving, quick-witted man I've ever known. I never heard a bad word from his lips towards anyone who had different beliefs, or different lifestyles. He embraced it all. Not wealthy, nor a politician (at least not professionally) he amassed a large following, and drove people to take action for "good." He set an example living his life by giving back to others. It was a perk that he was a fun, very cool, and street smart dad who knew how to get in, out, and around everything; a smart guy who always had my back, and made me  laugh every day.

Dad passed away in January. Battling cancer for 22 months; the guy didn't complain one time in all those days. Had you asked him how is doing weeks prior to his death, he would have said "fan-tastic." He held his positive attitude and humor until the very end. Within 24 hours, nearly 500 people gathered to attend his funeral. He was the true definition of influence in “social” without the “media.” A true testament to how many lives he touched.

Dad and mom were together 50 years; a very cool couple and, great team. Next to our family, closest to my dad's heart was Seeds of Peace. He instilled a “doing the right thing” attitude in his kids, grandkids, and set an example for all the kids at Seeds of Peace. My dad worked his whole life to do *good * in the world; to give back, to make a difference. He never needed, or wanted, recognition for all he’d given to others. He will no longer be hustling every year to rally supplies for the camp, or visit the kids he loved to see every summer up in Maine.

His dream for the future is a place for kids to have the same chance, to grow and thrive in peace.  We all want the same for our kids and their future. We’d each like the chance to plant planted a seed that will grow, and spread peace. Each of us now have a real opportunity to plant that seed, and give another kid a chance to become a leader, and grow peace.

In honor of my dad’s memory, our family established a Memorial Scholarship Fund that will enable one future leader to attend the Seeds of Peace camp this summer. We need to come together and raise $6,000.00 to plant one seed for the 2013 summer summit.

Years ago I asked dad “do you think there is more good in the world or bad?” and without missing a beat, he responded “good.”  Dad, thank you for all you have given to me, and to the world.

Please click the link to plant your seed of peace. Dad is listed as a Funding Partner on the Seeds of Peace web page.

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You can never do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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