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Looking Back, Paying It Forward: Reflections from Liz Hamel

Looking Back, Paying It Forward: Reflections from Liz Hamel

From Liz Hamel, Director of Programs

Dear Community,

With a full heart I’m announcing that I’m leaving my position as Building Bridges Director of Programs as of August 20.  As I make this change, I’d like to share some of my many emotions and thoughts with you.

Reflective & Grateful

Image with a quote from the blog post, overlaid on a background of the northern lights.

  • When I joined Building Bridges as a Summer Facilitator in 2014, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was questioning where I fit in the social justice world, my naturally conflict-avoidant self wasn’t fully aware of how powerful cross-identity spaces could be, and I wanted to be a part of social change rooted in empathy, healing, and inclusion, not shame, denial, or dismissal.
  • In Building Bridges, I found that healing community—I could be myself and all my identities were embraced, and I was also challenged and pushed to grow. A place where power dynamics and tension were named so that systemic inequality and oppression weren’t just “society’s” fault, but were playing out in the room for us (and me) to own. A space where youth were the experts on their own lives and weren’t fed the “right” answers, but instead encouraged to speak their truth, question, disagree, and explore the line between difference and injustice. I built connections with the most amazing people I may never have met otherwise, who shared so vulnerably and listened so intently, even in the most painful moments when developing empathy is the hardest. I knew I’d found a place like no other I’d experienced and one that represented the world I want to live in.
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“White Polite” Against the Fight for What’s Right

by Amanda A Andrews

Imagine the moment where you felt the most vulnerable. Now, imagine sharing that feeling in a circle of 20 people you’ve known for one week.

For some people that can seem intimidating or even impossible, but for Building Bridges that kind of vulnerability is in the foundation of the organization.

Building Bridges was founded in 1994 to facilitate transformative dialogues between Israeli, Palestinian, and American young women. Each summer young women would join together for a two week intensive to where they could open up about their identities and the social systems that influence their lives.

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Abandoning the Shield of Perfectionism

[Image description: A dark plum colored square background with a faded graphic of a multicolored hearts in rows across the center. In the upper left is a circular closeup picture of a young adult’s smiling face. Under a blue quote mark image reads the following white text: “I am so grateful for a radically real team who challenged me to recognize the impact of my words and actions as a person with so much privilege, get over my immobilizing perfectionism, and begin moving toward personal transformation. I am learning that the oppressive systems I hope to change must first be radically transformed within myself.” Underneath the picture and quote is blue text reading: “Tabea Meyer, 2017-2018 Facilitator and Social Work Intern” Centered at the bottom of the graphic is gold text reading: “Invest Now in Youth-Led Change! www.buildingbridgesshift.org/donate” To the right of that in the bottom right corner is the Building Bridges logo, a multicolored (green, gold, plum, blue) kaleidoscope circular shape made up of layered quote box shapes with the text “Building Bridges” in blue text across the center.]

by Tabea Meyer

Wearing perfectionism like a self-defeating and conscience-soothing shield, I have found it easier to explore outward than inward for the causes of systemic oppression. I have unconsciously protected my perceived vulnerable self with excuses that maintain the status quo and perpetuate injustice.  I abdicated responsibility for the trauma I thought others had inflicted on those with marginalized identities for generations, thinking myself somehow above reproach.  How could someone else have been so unjust? What kind of person could have those thoughts or make those policies hurting marginalized groups?

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Cultural Appropriation and Yoga

A flyer posted on a electric pole reads invites passers-by to call to share their thoughts on cultural appropriation.

by Laura Engelman, MSW Intern and School-Year Facilitator

At the end of November, Building Bridges will host a yoga event to raise awareness of our programming and to start a conversation with the larger community around issues of cultural appropriation, accessibility and inclusion.

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Impact Story: Gabriella Bauduy-Salinas

[Image description: A dark plum square background with a faded graphic of rows of multicolored hearts in the center background. In the foreground on the upper left is a cropped off circular closeup picture of a person’s face smiling. They have brown highlighted hair and brown eyes. To the right of the photo on the upper right is a blue quote mark image. White text on the right side of the image reads: “Building Bridges, I can say with certainty, changed my life in more ways than one. I had never had this sisterhood before, this group of like-minded young women eager to make positive changes in their world. This program inspired and motivated me to never stop making my voice heard.” Under the photo to the left of the quote is blue text reading: “Gabi Bauduy-Salinas, 2014-2015 Alum.” Centered at the bottom of the graphic is gold text in two lines reading: “Invest Now in Youth-Led Change! www.buildingbridgesshift.org/donate” To the right of that in the bottom right corner is the Building Bridges logo, a multicolored (green, gold, plum, blue) kaleidoscope circular shape made up of layered quote box shapes with the text “Building Bridges” in blue text across the center.]

Gabriella Bauduy-Salinas, 2014-2015 Alum

Building Bridges, I can say with certainty, changed my life in more ways than one. I had never had this sisterhood before, this group of like-minded young women eager to make positive changes in their world. This program inspired and motivated me to never stop making my voice heard.

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Impact Story: Jaala Hemingway

Participating in Building Bridges at the age of 18 changed my life in profound ways.

I felt connected to the other young women who participated in the program and empowered in my own abilities to communicate with others effectively and to be able to exercise more compassionate and strong leadership. 

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Year-Round Transformation

2016 was a tumultuous year, with lots of changes for our organization, our communities, our nation, and the world.  The US Presidential Election held a mirror up to the conflict, discrimination, and biases still alive and well in this country.  What we saw was painful.  What we saw challenged us.  What we saw reaffirmed the importance of our work.

And what we saw motivated the incredible generosity of our community!  We are humbled and invigorated by the outpouring of financial support we received in December.  Raising over $30,000, this year-end campaign ensures that we can kick off the new year on a strong foundation.

We enter 2017 with gratitude and hope – gratitude for people supporting positive transformation and hope for positive social change towards a more just, inclusive society.

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Alumni Perspective: Why Standing Rock Matters

By Amanda Andrews, Building Bridges Middle East US 2013-2015 and Current Alumni Fellowship Member

In this era of social justice and progressive movements, it can be hard to keep up with all the changes. It can be overwhelming, even for those people who are interested in social justice movements.

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Building Bridges Colorado 2015 Summer Facilitators

Adiam Tesfaselassie's photo - CO 2015

Adiam Tesfaselassie

Aili's photo

Aili Miyake

 Amy Sevegny's photo - CO 2015

Amy Sevegny

Ananas' photo - CO 2015

Ananas Mustafa

Fadumo Adan

   Ilhan Dahir's photo - CO 2015

 

 

Liz Hamel's photo - CO 2015

Liz Hamel

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Marte Samuelstuen

Melissa Ivey's photo - CO 2015

Melissa Ivey

Raegan Quattlebaum's photo - CO 2015

Raegan Quattlebaum

Veronica Rael's photo - CO 2015

Veronica Rael

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Welcome to the Team, Megan!

Hello, friends!

We are excited to share that a new member has joined the Building Bridges team! This September, we Megan Devenportwelcomed Megan Devenport as our new Executive Director.

Megan is a community social worker with more than 10 years of experience. She brings a wealth of new expertise to our work; her background includes direct service with young people, community-building, and advocacy. Most recently, Megan was the Program Manager for Denver Shared Spaces, helping nonprofits connect commercial real estate with social impact. She has also worked as a counselor with young people and their families. This varied experience informs her work, and brings to Building Bridges a rich set of skills and expertise that will support the organization as we grow and work with young people here in Colorado.

With excitement and hope,
Jaala Hemingway
Building Bridges Board Chair and Alum

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