Blog

Year-Round Transformation

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.

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.

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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

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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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How to survive the tough path of life

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Donate your woolens this winter

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A single person can change million lives

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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!

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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, 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,
 
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!
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Colorado and MEUS participants are teaching others the Building Bridges skills and approaches they have learned.

Colorado and MEUS participants are teaching others the Building Bridges skills and approaches they have learned. Since school resumed last September they have: facilitated open race dialogues in school; brought Building Bridges activities to a student council when they noticed all the voices weren’t being heard; organized a student walk-out in response to Ferguson; conducted Building Bridges activities in their social studies classrooms – and all of this before they begin to execute their planned change projects later this spring.

Planned change projects include photo projects, race dialogues, class discussions, public murals, youth worker training and more.  Check back on the site for updates on how those evolve.

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