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Happy National Coming Out Day!

By Kim Jackson, Building Bridges Intern

Today, on National Coming Out Day, I would like to start a dialog about bullying within the LGBTQ youth community.

Imagine…

…picking up your child after school. And when you ask them how their day went, they burst into tears. You ask what is wrong, and they tell you that one of their classmates told them that they don’t want to be their friend anymore because their moms are lesbians, and that being gay is wrong. They pick on her because one of her mom’s doesn’t fit into what society tells us a mom should look like; they tell her that 2 women cannot get married. This is a true story that happened to my daughter.

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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.

A green bar over a photo of paper bags labeled “Black, White, Latinx” says, Phrases like we’re all one race the human race or why can’t we all just get along both sound great, but don’t address any of the history that created the problem or the social systems that maintain them.

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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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

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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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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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