Seeking Healing in a Time of Strife
Dear PYE Community,
We in the PYE US office have been reeling with the impact of the US election and the overt racism and misogyny validated by its outcome. At two trainings in the past few weeks I spoke with youth workers, teachers, counselors and artists who work with immigrants and youth of color in the US. At our European facilitator training in October, I had long conversations with leaders from Turkey, Greece, Spain, South Africa, India, and the UK. Stories of increasing incidents of racial and ethnic strife in all of our countries abound.
Yes, there is distress, but I also witnessed a courageous resolve on the part of our facilitators and trainees to keep up the good work of building social, emotional, and cross-cultural resiliency in young people.
Seeking healing across of lines of difference was a core impulse for starting our Creative Community work twenty years ago. We had been told that even in culturally diverse high schools, students kept to their own. We were convinced that the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds is an essential life skill that would become increasingly important in our globalized world. And so it has.
The ability of young people to take on this challenge was evident at our first Power of Hope Camp in 1996. Thirty youth from a wide range of cultures and life situations came together with a similarly diverse group of 15 adults. In the months following the camp we heard a common refrain: “I now feel confident in getting to know kids who are different than me.” One parent told me this story: “I was dropping my daughter off at school,” she said, “and I saw a disheveled boy, head down, wearing a trench coat. I found him scary. My daughter pointed to him and said, ‘I bet you think he’s weird.’ I had to admit, ‘Yes.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘because of Power of Hope Camp I made a point of getting to know him this year. He’s smart, he’s kind. He might be one of the most interesting boys in my class. And I never would have known that if I hadn’t gone to camp.’”
The ability to befriend the other—to cross divides of difference—has been a documented outcome for youth in Creative Community-based youth programs across the world. To be interested in the other. To see ourselves in the other. To be willing to get to know the other. This is not a cure-all for the full range of challenges facing us. But it might just be a key lever for moving us toward a more socially just, compassionate world.
Our work with young people—helping them become a force for peace in an uncertain world with increasing demographic shifts—is more important than ever. The impact could never be greater. We stand with you as you continue your good work, and we encourage you to keep the faith that taking what sometimes feels like small steps will make a big difference for our young people and our future.
Peggy Taylor for the PYE team