A few years ago we set an ambitious goal: to deepen Building Bridges programs and to allocate more resources where the majority of our community members live, in Israel and Palestine. We established a legal non-profit in Jerusalem under the name Building Bridges East. We opened our physical office in Jerusalem in October 2013. Social worker, activist, educator and alum Rawan Zaitoun led the effort with the skilled and thoughtful help of fellow alum and Building Bridges board member Gal Yaakobi (pictured from left to right above Erin, Rawan, Gal and Jen).Having successfully transitioned leadership of our Middle East-US work to Jerusalem, we are proud to announce that we are moving out of our joint role as Executive Co-Directors in Denver. We could not be more excited that Rawan is taking on full executive leadership of Building Bridges East, overseeing all aspects of the Middle East-U.S. (MEUS) program that has been the heart of our work for more than 20 years! Rawan’s role as Middle East Director has expanded to take on additional responsibilities, including fundraising and strategic vision for Middle East programming. Those of you who know Rawan know that Building Bridges could not be in better hands. Rawan is supported by a phenomenal trio of local staff, Amani, Or and Yafa, all of whom are alumnae of the program. She is also assisted from Denver by Amy Stapleton, our wonderful Community Engagement and Development Director, who continues fundraising for both the Jerusalem and Denver offices.We also set out to test whether our program model was as relevant for a U.S.-only group of young adults as it has been for Middle East participants. The Building Bridges Colorado program was launched last summer. Led by our stellar U.S. Program Director Deme Yuan, and staffed by an incredible group of facilitators, twenty participants are now mid-way through their program year and the results are breathtaking. Participants are using the Building Bridges skills they learned to build deep relationships with one another, and make a difference in addressing segregation in their schools. As the public outcry around the events in Ferguson and Staten Island demonstrate, we believe now is precisely the time to build skills in crossing the cultural and racial divisions in our own communities. The challenge ahead for Deme, Amy, the Board, and all of us here in Denver will be to secure funding and explore partnership opportunities to make Building Bridges Colorado an ongoing program for our community.
Our time as part of the Building Bridges community has impacted our lives in immeasurable ways. While we will miss working with you on a daily basis, it is the right time for us both to move on to new chapters. We are more committed than ever to Building Bridges’ innovative work and we look forward to staying involved in new capacities, as strategic advisors on programming and revenue generation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, comments or concerns. You can continue to reach us at our current emails, Erin@BuildingBridgesShift.org and Jennifer@BuildingBridgesShift.org!
Thank you for your enduring support of Building Bridges. It has been a privilege to work for and with you these many years. And to the staff, participants and alum of Building Bridges, our heartfelt thanks to each of you for inspiring us with your courage, wisdom and vision.
With love and gratitude,