At the end of April, PPI – ME’s teams from East and West Jerusalem came together for an overnight retreat at Kibbutz Sdot Yam to learn about the new Junior Leadership Development Program (LDP Jr.), where excellent participants are selected to become the next generation of youth leadership. The participants had the opportunity to hear from current and former members of the older Leadership Development Program (LDP) as well as to work with coaches in the Coaches for Reconciliation (CFR) program. Naturally, when there are so many different groups together it can be a bit awkward at first. The bus ride was filled with light chatter but mostly girls talking to their own teammates. It was easy to see who belonged to which team or community. During the introduction and icebreaker name game, there was lots of giggling and pauses as the kids could not recall the names of the people they just met. As the meeting and evening progressed, the awkwardness started to fade and it was clear the kids were becoming more comfortable with each other.
On the first night, the participants got a chance to go through multiple practices organized by LDP and CFR members and then grade each practice based the fun factor and energy. The LDP Jr. really enjoyed the variety of drills and effort put forth by the coaches to prepare fun practices. Next, as the LDP and CFR prepared for the activities for the following day, the LDP Jr. had an impromptu dance, soccer, basketball party! Some of the highlights were Director Karen Doubilet’s amazing robot, Nagham’s (an LDP Jr.participant) amazing belly dancing skills, and the huge dance circle. The ice had been broken and that awkward that lurked at the beginning of the day had turned into awesome. The night ended with some basketball relay races and smiles. It was hard to get the kids to sleep because they were so busy talking and laughing together.
The next day after breakfast, the LDP Jr. were split into groups and raced to complete a scavenger hunt. The main goal was team work, leadership, teaching the kids more about PeacePlayers and fun! Some of the stations were building a sand castle, walking with an egg on the end of a spoon in your mouth through an obstacle course, partner ring toss, and getting the basketball from one side of the court to the other without dribbling and using the entire group. Each team could not advance to the next station without first answering a question. Some of the LDP and CFR went around with the group of kids and it was hard to tell who was more excited and eager to get the next clue and advance to the different stations. After a quick lunch the LDP Jr changed into basketball clothes and participated in a basketball tournament. The competition was high and the teams were evenly matched. Many of the games came down to a last second shot to pull off the win. Everyone was working as a team and the separation which was once so easy to see was unrecognizable. There were so many high-fives and lots of cheering; it was hard not to get sucked as a spectator. It was the perfect way to end a great weekend.