Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Intern's Reflection

As an intern at Tuesday’s Children, I have had quite the emotionally moving summer with regards to the research I have done, and people I have worked with.  But there is no way I could have been prepared for what I was to encounter at Project COMMON BOND.  The program was one of the main reasons I was so interested in applying for a position at Tuesday’s Children, and being invited to help out at PCB seemed to be the icing on the cake for my summer intern experience.  In all honesty though, it wasn’t.  It was so much more.  Project COMMON BOND and everyone I came in contact with have truly changed my life.  I was so moved by the strength and openness of the participants, the care and thoughtfulness of the facilitators, and the engaging demeanor of the counselors.  I cannot think of a time when I was more greatly impacted on such a powerful level and in such a short amount of time.

One of the most amazing aspects of the program is how everyone manages to make such a deep and intense connection to those around them despite the weeklong time constraint, the planned activities and group assignments.  Most of all, the language barriers that no doubt existed in several situations, were ultimately tiny matters compared to the care and support that were far from constrained.  I witnessed young men and women, most only a few years younger than I, create lasting bonds and move towards peace in a way incomparable to any effort I have ever seen before.  These young people have left the largest imprint on my heart and my mind; I know I will never forget this experience.

In future years, I would be wasting my time if I did anything else during the week of PCB other than attend as a counselor or volunteer in some way.  I have met the most amazing people from all over the world, many whose countries are still in conflict and in some cases with the home countries of other participants.  For these youth to be able to attain a level of understanding and compassion great enough to exist in peace – and make strides to building peace in the future – at this program is an unbelievable feat.  Project COMMON BOND, a necessary program under the worst circumstances, is the most phenomenal and life-changing experience I have ever been a part of.  The discussions, games, and peace-building talks and activities have the power to bridge gaps across oceans and lands for the generation of our future, and PCB supplies this opportunity to heal and promote peace.

Tara Greeley
PCB Counselor 2011
TC Intern, Summer 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

From the Head Counselor...

I am sitting on a bench outside the cafeteria with a participant who wandered out from dinner. We’ve only been at PCB for a week, but it feels like a month since we first arrived at Foxcroft. PCB always has this effect; the feeling that we’ve been here forever, yet the experience is too soon over. However, the beauty of this program is that the effects extend far beyond the confines of camp classrooms and a week of time. Lessons learned about other cultures, how to treat others with dignity and how to build peace rather than simply fight war are priceless and do not fade.

This camp is not a Utopia, there are hard conversations, conflicts and moments of extreme difficulty and pain. It is a world of its own. The magic here comes from the ability of 77 brave and beautiful (in every sense) young adults from 10 different countries, to create a space of peace, love and respect despite those difficulties and differences. They are peace in the making and they know better than anyone else could, the consequences of conflict. So they are dedicated to peace, problem solving and they are, I hope, finding comfort for their pain in one another.

A participant said to me that a world of peace would look like PCB. I have to agree. It is indeed difficult to express exactly what happens here. Perhaps because we as a people are more accustomed to conflict than we are to large, diverse groups working towards understanding. The magic in two people having a conversation when they do not share a language is small, but wildly significant. It is through small, separate acts that we all bond here and through small, separate acts that we achieve peace and understanding in the world.

I have been with PCB for four years. It is my favorite week of the year, hands down. Peace, trust, patience, understanding, and curiosity—these things are addictive and they grow and flourish here. PCB is a place of quiet miracles. Each moment is a gift for me. I hope I am able to give back even a portion of what I receive. This place is important to the participants who have suffered terrible tragedy, but it is also important to the world. In these participants I see our future Nelson Mandelas and John Lennons and a generation of people capable of spreading peace. They know conflict, terror and loss and at PCB they know peace. They have chosen to support the latter. That takes incredible courage, heart and wisdom. If that is not worthy of every amount of possible support, I don’t know what is.

If our world looks like PCB one day, we will be in good shape. I for one am inspired daily by the people around me here to work for that goal. For now we start with each new day. Waking up, putting into action what we’ve learned here and knowing as individuals and as a people we can do better.

Rachel Balma
PCB Counselor 2008-2011
Head Counselor 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Counselor's Perspective...

To Everyone,
It has been really amazing to watch everyone from different countries and backgrounds become friends over this past week. Despite language barriers, everyone has found ways to form bonds over games, dances, and conversation. It makes me feel so full to see everyone being so joyful and inclusive with everyone else here, especially people who may have started off a little more shy or hesitant and have now opened up to all these new people and experiences. Between individual conversations I've had, soccer/flag football/dodgeball in the sports activity sessions, World Cafe, D.C., mealtimes, meetings, and everything else - I'm so glad to have come here to meet all of your curious and genuine spirits. But I've also learned that it's not just about meeting people, but really getting to know people. I am so happy to now know so many of you. I will leave here with so many memories of amazing people, laughs and conversations, new ideas, and so much inspiration and motivation.
My grandpa used to tell me not to say goodbye, because it sounds like you will not see the person again. So I hope to see you all later.
Thank you so much to everyone here.
Sasha Cronin
PCB Counselor 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Project Common Bond on FOX News DC!

Washington, D.C.

From the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the walk of the Vietnam Memorial, from the front of the White House to the US State Department and the Institute of Peace--participants represented Project Common Bond all over our nation's capital today. Spending the day touring Washington, D.C., PCB participants found themselves inspired by peace-builders from the past and present, and empowered by their own confidence in their mission here at Project Common Bond.

PCB programming was complimented by inspiring presentations and workshops at the US State Department and the Institute of Peace. With the help of this week's programming so far, our young adults came out of their comfort zones and became the global leaders we knew they could be today. When asked to participate in discussions with Congressman Ed Royce, Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Robert F. Godec, and David Smith at the US Institute of Peace, PCB participants were articulate, intelligent, and incredibly captivating. They showed their knowledge of what they had learned from our facilitators and each other with ease and talked of world peacemakers with the inclination that they, too, had become ambassadors for peace.

The day concluded with a gift to the US Institute of Peace from Project Common Bond 2011 in the form of an illustrated banner depicting the collective definition of peace from the participants created at our World Café session. Couldn't have asked for a better trip to our nation's capital with PCB!

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff 2010-Present

The World Café

The dining hall here at PCB was transformed on Wednesday night for a global and engaging discussion called the World Café. The World Café is a collective conversation encouraging participants to contribute their thoughts about posed questions by moving between tables, meeting new people, and discussing new insights. Facilitators conducted a conversation involving three questions about world peace and how to obtain it. As participants moved tables, took turns as 'ambassadors' (table speakers) and shared thoughts, an artist was illustrating their words and phrases to create a large mosaic of thought. This resulted in three unique illustrated pieces defining a collective answer to a single question. PCB participants, facilitators, and staff then decided to present one of the banners to the Institute of Peace as a gift from Project Common Bond 2011.

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PCB Poetry

During this week of Project Common Bond the drama elective has been focusing on themes discussed in the morning sessions. To do so in a dramatic way, the groups have created metaphor poems that use images and ideas to express how the participants understand the complex notions of dignity and conflict.  Each participant in the elective gave one or two metaphors that capture their in-the-moment conception of these themes.  The poems are a beautiful testament to the incredible work being done at PCB and the insightful, imaginative participants we have the opportunity to work with. Here they are:

Conflict Is…
By Tuesday Drama Elective
Like a firework—it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it explodes.
It is a multicolored bracelet that jingles whenever I shake it.
Like gravity, it’s always holding you down.
Conflict is what keeps us from perfection.

It’s like a match—the tiniest spark can become a wildfire.
It’s like a bitchslap—it hurts at first and gets better over time.
Like an elevator—it goes up and down.  It can keep elevating or resolve itself.
Conflict is a nail in the tire of life.
El conflict es encoutnarse una pared en la vide, que podes aprender a paser o debes volver atrós.
It is the worst and the best of me,
The road and the pothole.
It feels like a rock in someone’s stomach.
Conflict is the storm that allows us to recreate ourselves.

Conflict Is…
By Drama Fixed Elective
A problem.
It’s fire.
Like opening Pandora’s box.
It’s an excuse,
A hairline fracture.
Conflict is natural.
You both need it and you don’t need it.
You can’t get anywhere with it, and you can’t get anywhere without it.
Conflict is reality.
It’s ever-present.
An open-minded fire.
It’s where the rubber hits the road.
The source of passion and creativity.
Conflict is everyday life.
Both the hill and the valley.
It’s chaos and confusion,
The end and the beginning.
Conflict defines us. 

Dignity Is…
By Monday  Drama Elective
Trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve
It’s respecting yourself and others around you.
A snowman in the middle of a field.
It’s a treehouse.
Dignity is trying even though you might fail.
It’s hard and strong,
A handshake.
It’s protecting your own set of values,
And the sound of laughter for days on end.
Dignity is standing up for yourself.
For me, it’s being with my family.
It’s jewelry that I’m keeping for myself.
It is a sealed golden locket full of compassion that I wear every day.
It’s a cake full of rainbows.
Dignity is respecting your own morals,
And being brave.
It’s a steady hand,
And a million words stretched around the world.
It’s being a leader among followers.
Dignity is being true to yourself.

What is?
By Drama Fixed Elective
A long walk.
Getting recognition.
A child’s voice.
An awareness of others.
Flying high.
An expensive car that you can’t afford to get hit or scratched.
A beautiful ball among boxes.
Ever so carefully holding the world in your palm,
Something nobody can bear to lose.
It makes the small world big and the big world small.
A diamond,
A treasure.
It shines when we’re together.
And when we’re not together…I don’t know.
It’s unique and irreplaceable.
This is dignity. 

Morgan Geisert
PCB Facilitator 2011 

Special Guest Speaker, Michael Brown

Participants at Project Common Bond were surprised with a wonderful guest speaker on Monday evening. Michael Brown, friend of Tuesday’s Children, shares the same common bond with our participants—he lost his father in a terrorist incident in Spain on September 11, 1985. Michael came across Tuesday’s Children on a whim a few months back and was instantly touched and intrigued by Project Common Bond. He soon got in touch with us at Tuesday’s Children and graciously offered to speak to our young adults here at PCB 2011. What was unique about Michael’s talk was that it was more a conversation with the teens than a lecture. Everyone gave Michael’s story their undivided attention, which then ended with a beautiful discussion. All were moved by the connection they had with Michael and he with them. 

Thank you Michael.

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daily Afternoon Electives

After morning curriculum sessions, PCB participants get a chance to unwind and attend their chosen electives--a choice of five engaging, therapeutic, and fun activities including art, movement, music, drama, and sports.

The Art classes involve creating projects for the culmination ceremony at the end of the week, as well as drawing Postcards for Peace—individually designed cards representing personal interpretations of peace through art. The Postcards for Peace project is in collaboration with the Programming Department at Tuesday’s Children. All cards will be displayed at the WTC Tribute Center from August-October. We encourage all to visit the exhibit!

Movement classes are designed to engage participants in movement therapy with stretching activities, choreographed dances, and specific dance techniques. Those in the fixed dance elective may perform their piece for the talent show on Friday!

Participants in the Music elective are discovering the meaning of music and the way we relate music to life. Those in this elective will be putting together a group of songs that mean strength, dignity and resilience on a CD for participants to take home.

The Drama section is particularly interesting involving a role-play type approach to emotions and feelings, aiming to heal through Drama Therapy. Participants are asked to act out particular situations involving conflict and then asked to explore the best approach to resolving conflict by acting out the desired result.

Those in the Sports elective are enjoying a variety of physical activities in the afternoon sun. Participants have been playing soccer and football and gaining insight into teamwork and cooperation from each game.

Thank you to Matt for the photos!

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Monday, July 25, 2011

PCB 2011 Photo-Ops

Many thank you's to Matt Schmiemann, our professional photographer (and rock star counselor!) for capturing these wonderful PCB memories:

Preparing for the PCB Olympics!

Last night began the highly anticipated ritual of the PCB Olympics! From the 77 participants, 8 teams were created, each with their own color, and sent to the art room to get to work. Teams had to brainstorm and agree on a team name (using the color assigned), team chant, and team banner. Creativity was offered by all as everyone got theirs hands (and faces!) dirty. Team chants are secretive and will be kept so until the big day! Can't wait until Friday.

Photos: Matt Schmiemann

Stay tuned for PCB participant posts!

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Adventure Links and Campfire S'mores

For a good part of the day on Sunday, PCB attendees participated in Adventure Links, a team building adventure course designed to encourage teamwork, cooperation, and problem-solving. Teams were composed of young adults from each of the different countries which resulted in careful concentration to break some slight language barriers. Some games required no talking, others no sight, forcing the reliance on your partner to succeed. All teams showed cooperation and patience, resulting in a successful team-building day in the sun.

The evening brought a campfire in the Foxcroft Athletic Center courtyard, where PCB campers enjoyed a relaxed get-together with smores and music. Some of the foreign young adults had never experienced roasting marshmallows and making s'mores--it was a real treat for them!  A long day of activities culminated in participants loosening up, dancing, and playing games around the fire. Silly dances included the Electric Slide, the Macarena, and a new one, Rock the Boat-- introduced to the group by the Northern Ireland teens.

Tomorrow starts the beginning of the CoRE curriculum focusing on the Dignity Model, designed by Donna Hicks at the Weatherhead School at Harvard University as well as the elective classes including art, movement, music, sports, drama programming.

Lights out,
PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Day One

After a wonderful inspirational speaker in the morning, everyone was ready kick-off a day full of fun activities. Throughout the morning we were split into groups and ready to work as a team to accomplish the challenges we were faced with. There were many activities that involved concentration, teamwork, and trust. We used these activities to accomplish a common goal. We learned how to break the language barrier and connect with people from other countries. When every group completed these activities, they chose one person to tell what the group has learned. After a tiring day, everyone was able to relax. Some activities were basketball, soccer, football, swimming, running and relaxing with your friends. After dinner, we once again were put back into groups to start planning for the PCB Olympics!

Alexis, Age 14
PCB Participant, US

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Night Kick-Off Dinner!

The arrival of the US participants on Saturday brought together a total of 77 Project Common Bond attendees in one room. Old friends gathered to catch up while others made new acquaintances and learned names of their new peers. Kathy Murphy, Director of Project Common Bond, welcomed each country and their group to cheers and applause, while everyone enjoyed a home-made Southern-style cookout. Introductions to group counselors were made and teens took a short walk across the campus to their rooms shortly after dinner. Many enjoyed a late night swim in Foxcroft's beautiful pool facility before settling in for a good night's sleep before our first big day! 

Tomorrow starts bright and early with a motivational and inspirational speech by Foxcroft's Assistant Head of School, Sheila McKibbon. Sheila will be leading the group in fun and engaging ice-breakers to make introductions easy and getting to know one another fun. All are looking forward to the week ahead!

Lights out at Project Common Bond,

PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff 2010-Present

International Participants Arrive!

Friday afternoon welcomed the international arrival of our Project Common Bond participants. Welcomed by Foxcroft School members, PCB staff, and counselors were teens from Argentina, Israel, Liberia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, Spain, and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans logged a total of 22 hours of travel time--the longest journey to Project Common Bond!


PCB Counselor 2011
TC Staff Member 2010-Present

Friday, July 22, 2011

The purpose of this blog...

Project Common Bond was born out of a simple idea from a few of the children of 9/11 victims.  They wanted to meet other people from around the world who had experienced their similar loss - a loss of a loved one to an act of terrorism.  They wondered how their experiences compare and how they cope. 

Tuesday's Children took on the challenge to create a venue where these young adults could meet.  This one of a kind program became Project COMMON BOND (PCB).  Tuesday's Children made it more than just a social experience and, by integrating curriculum focused on peace building and conflict resolution, created a program that provides life long tools.  This program is based on sharing experiences, building character and most importantly healing.  This has been the goal of Tuesday's Children since its inception in 2001 after the events of September 11th. 

In 2008, the first Project COMMON BOND program was hosted at Bryn Mawr College outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania uniting over 60 particpants from 7 countries.  For one week, these young adults had the time of their lives - bonding over tragedy but ultimately just being young adults that wanted to get to know each other and have fun. 

The result?  After the program was over, the teens constantly communicated on Facebook, wished each other well during the year, exchanged "miss you's," skyped, and counted down the days until the next PCB. A special international community was born.

And now we are in Year 4!  Project COMMON BOND has grown leaps and bounds since then - it has integrated curriculum created by Harvard Law School's Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program, has added a new focus based on the Dignity Model designed by Donna Hicks at the Weatherhead School at Harvard University, has forged new partnerships with international intermediary organizations to secure participants from new countries and territories like Russia, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Palestine and has even hosted the program overseas in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  This program will continue to grow and continue to expand its reach. 

This year's program is being held outside of Washington DC at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia.  80 participants from 10 countries and territories will bond and grow over the next week.  This blog will explore day-to-day happenings and showcase pictures and testimonials so parents, supporters and the curious alike can learn more about this life changing program. 

Today's events in Oslo, Norway show us that terrorism is a reality we can't escape.  It shows us that we need to equip the next generation with the tools they need to make a difference and promote peace.  We send our condolences to all those impacted.

Stay tuned...

PCB intern 2008
TC staff member 2010-present