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Alumni Perspective: Why Standing Rock Matters

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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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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Thursday, July 31

To our Building Bridges community:

After we made the heartbreaking decision to cancel our summer Middle East/U.S. program, we were overwhelmed by the kindness and support you showed us. We were excited to tell you about the 22 alumni who quickly came forward wanting to join us instead, adults from Israel and Palestine who wanted to reconnect, re-engage, and continue our work in a new way.

Sadly, multiple flight bans were put into place last week and we were forced to cancel even those alumni sessions.  Our U.S. staff and facilitators were already on the way to Turkey, along with a couple of Israeli and Palestinian facilitators coming from places other than Tel Aviv. We decided not bring anyone else to Turkey because we can’t be sure that we could get them home safely.  Additionally, we believe that the emotional fatigue caused by the ongoing and worsening conflict would make it challenging to do the work.   Those facilitators who are in Turkey now are receiving advanced training in facilitation and program leadership, and are planning for the coming year, including:

  • Using innovative on-line tools to allow our current participants to continue their cross-community work,
  • Planning and recruiting for the MEUS 2015-17 program, and
  • Growing and strengthening our Legacy alumni program.

It is a huge disappointment that the violence is preventing our work from happening in the way we had hoped, but our commitment is unwavering. It takes enormous strength and courage to seek out other perspectives in a time of conflict. Together, we must strive to make the voices of our participants, alumni and facilitators heard. They are the voices of people who do not wish to perpetuate the cycle of hatred and violence, and are seeking a different path.

We will keep you updated as the year progresses.

With hope,
The Building Bridges Staff
Amani, Amy, Deme, Erin, Jen, Jes, Mimi, Rawan, Tulie, and Yafa
and the Building Bridges Board of Directors

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Ready to Listen

In Jerusalem, Odessa, and Ferguson, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and even within our families, the assumptions we make about one another drive us apart. Building Bridges believes that segregation is at the heart of the hatred, discrimination, and violent conflict that impact lives all around the world. Our participants sit down face to face to listen, really listen, to people who look, talk, and think differently from themselves. They do it to be able to understand the ‘other’ more deeply. And when they do, it transforms conflict from a problem to solve to a relationship to cultivate.

We call this the Practice of Empathy.

It’s a practice, because it takes a lifetime to learn, and because it’s really, really hard. It’s empathy because it assumes that every human life has equal worth, and that assumption will lead to a more just and inclusive world. The practice of empathy begins when you are ready to listen. Let us know you are ready.

Click here to donate and unlock a $25,000 gift on indiegogo, and hear more from Building Bridges staff, alumni and participants, and share the campaign with your community.

Amani image

Hear what Amani has to say here.

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Building Bridges alumna Gal and Rawan featured on Public Radio International’s TheWorld.

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My So-Called Enemy

Have you seen the incredible film about our work? It’s a film by Lisa Gossels called My So-Called Enemy and you can learn more about it here.

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