Support Us


Abandoning the Shield of Perfectionism

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!” 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? I sat in judgment of others, consoling myself with the thought that my intentions were good.  I was committed to being a part of the solution, wasn’t I?

I could deconstruct, analyze, and critique social realities all day.  Always placing responsibility outward, at a safe distance.  But then, I attended a training at Building Bridges that challenged me to turn inward and recognize my role in perpetuating injustice.  Who, me? Perpetuating injustice? Yes.  Suddenly, I found myself in uncharted territory where my perfectionist shield was a symptom of my privileged white identity I needed to abandon.

Sure, I am passionate about social justice.  I want to change oppressive systems in my society.  At the same time, I have always struggled to know what change is most equitable.  I have struggled to know how to engage, and how to catalyze others to do the same.  At facilitator training, the reality set in that it starts with me.  I am slowly and awkwardly fumbling my way along this journey to become more conscious of my daily thoughts, interactions, and beliefs that perpetuate the privilege that raises up those with identities found most desirable while systematically oppressing those whose identities are considered inferior.

Prior to facilitator training I could tell you about this unjust system of oppression all day and never truly face my place in it.  The goal of this six-day training was to familiarize a team of summer intensive facilitators with each other and the program components and skills they would introduce to participants a week later.  The training accomplished so much more. I met beautiful people who challenged me to abandon my unconscious privileged complacency, get over my falsely fragile, immobilizing perfectionism, and begin moving toward personal transformation.

As I maneuvered a new space as a white, cysgender, heterosexual Christian, I was oblivious to the harm I caused these amazing people I was already learning to genuinely care for.  Claiming good intentions could not excuse me of responsibility.  Facing the immensity of my injustice echoing the chorus of centuries of injustice is overwhelming and heartbreaking in a way that inspires me to speak less, listen more, and make space for personal transformation.

At Building Bridges facilitator training, I came face to face with the harm I cause others by ignorantly journeying through life with privilege.  I am learning that the oppressive systems I hope to change must first be radically transformed from within myself.

Read more

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.

Admittedly, my first thoughts around cultural appropriation and yoga were defensive — “But yoga has benefits that everyone should be able to enjoy, it’s an individual practice, I try to honor where yoga came from when I practice.” How powerful resistance can be as a force working against seeing the truth, challenging our views and thoughts, and sitting with discomfort.

After reading and listening to some wise individuals speak on the topic, namely Jessamyn Stanley and nisha ahuja, one point got straight to the heart of it: if you’re practicing yoga and you’re not from a South Asian culture, you are engaging in cultural appropriation. Plain and simple. And imperialism and colonialism are the reasons that you feel comfortable doing that.

Read more

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!” 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.

Read more

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.  I felt a strong pull to do everything I could to bring peace with me in my interactions and to hear the stories and perspectives of people with whom I disagreed and potentially didn’t like very much, and I felt like I had the skills to begin to work toward these goals.

I felt these things because they were true; I had grown tremendously as a person in my very short time in the Building Bridges Summer Intensive.

However, the most impactful change Building Bridges had on my life was opening my eyes to the places where and methods through which I could put these skills and feelings to use.  I am the child of working class parents, one of whom graduated from high school, and one of whom did not.  I had always thought that my path to give back to the world would be through teaching.  As part of Building Bridges, I learned that there are many ways and many places that one can apply advanced communication techniques, understanding and empathy, and collaborative leadership skills.

I found my path in non-profit organizations, which I didn’t really know about until I attended Building Bridges.  I have found ways to utilize my communication skills from Building Bridges in ways that may seem unorthodox; one of those ways is through “translating” technological ideas to people who need to use the technology, and organizational tech needs to people who need to help implement solutions to those needs.  It could be easy to overlook the communication skills necessary to facilitate that kind of process, but I truly believe that Building Bridges gave me a leg up in being able to do that part of my work well.

I have been able to lean on leadership skills I learned in Building Bridges as a supervisor, a team lead, a group facilitator, and in many projects I’ve undertaken since then.  I have also had the great pleasure to be a part of the Building Bridges Board of Directors beginning in 2013, and to have served as the Chair of the Board since 2015.  I am the first Board Chair who is also an Alum in the US.

My experience in Building Bridges was not one I could leave as a static memory from almost 2 decades ago.  My experience in Building Bridges has profoundly shaped the course of my life, and helped me to define my purpose with more clarity and to carry it out more confidently.  I was able to participate because of generous donors who underwrote the costs of my participation.  I have since been able to become a monthly donor to the organization.  This work cannot be done without sustaining donors, and the impact of those donations is deep, but also far-reaching, as the skills learned are also skills that are often modeled for others and even taught to others.


Read more

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.

Read more

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.

All I knew about the Dakota Access Pipeline was that Native Americans were upset about it. When I travelled to South Dakota and camped alongside the self proclaimed “water protectors,” I didn’t know what to expect.

I learned quickly that the pipeline threatened to pollute the water and leak toxins into the land of the reservation. That has sparked outrage across the country and united thousands of Americans in support of native rights.

The campsite where the water protesters have gathered is called Oceti Sakowin. The camp is made up of hundreds of tents, tipis and RVs. Oceti Sakowin is run entirely on volunteer labor.

The sense of unity and mutual respect throughout the camp was palpable. It was clear that everyone shared a single goal: to do whatever they had to do to stop the pipeline.

My greatest learning experience didn’t come from the pipeline, it came from a group of moms I met in a 16 person tent. They were part of a non profit organization called Moms Across America. The organization works to get genetically modified organisms and pesticides out of foods to keep kids healthy.

I spoke with these moms about what inspired them to travel to Standing Rock. They spoke about their opposition to the toxins which would leak into the water if the pipeline was built. They went on to discuss how their opposition to toxins led them to stop vaccinating their children, based on the chemicals contents of the shots.

At that point in the conversation I was appalled and confused. I could not comprehend how people who didn’t see the benefits of vaccines could agree with me on anything. Yet, I continued to listen to them, and eventually the conversation moved a new subject.

What I learned in this situation is what I hope every social justice movement can also understand. In that moment, it did not matter that I disagreed so greatly with the group of moms because we were connected by something greater. We were all in South Dakota, in a tent, in the winter, to support native rights to water.

Ultimately the things that divided us were insignificant relative to what brought us together. I think if people hung on to that perspective during protests and daily interactions the world would be better off.

Whether the pipeline is built or not doesn’t ultimately matter. What matters is that Standing Rock has formed a community which will continue to bring people together for years to come.

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Join us on Friday, April 17th

Join us in Denver on Friday, April 17th for our 10th annual Circles of Change Awards event. By celebrating others’ accomplishments each year, we hope to demonstrate that positive change is possible and that the courageous acts of one expand into circles of change. We also hope to pass this belief onto Building Bridges participants and teach that the tireless acts of individuals are what create more just, inclusive societies.

Click here for event details and sponsorship information.

Click here to buy tickets online!

Read more

A letter from Jen and Erin

Dear Friends,
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, and!
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,
Jen Sarché and Erin Breeze
P.S. Colorado friends, save-the-date for Circles of Change Awards Luncheon, Friday, April 17th in the Seawell Ballroom. We’ll see you there!
Read more