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Planet Pic: Solving conflict, one camper at a time
Sunday, August 11th, 2013

It’s a summer camp with a mission.

That pretty much sums up Seeds of Peace International, a global organization with offices in New York, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Lahore, and – every summer – a camp in Otisfield, Maine.

But this isn’t your typical summer camp.

At Seeds of Peace, teens from conflict regions around the world converge in the deep woods to better understand their “enemies,” and to see long-running and complex conflicts from their opponent’s point of view.

For the past 21 years, campers from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, India, Pakistan and the United States have shared cabins and meals.

Their traditional camp activities – think swimming, water skiing, tennis, art and others – are designed not only for fun, but to encourage open mindedness, fairness and commonality.

To see how it all works, GlobalPost sent photographer Aynsley Floyd to Maine.

Here’s what she found: 

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Campers sit in a circle for a daily dialog session. The sessions are organized by conflict region and facilitated by a trained moderator. Campers are encouraged to openly discuss their personal experiences, thoughts and opinions about their political history and the political history of others.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Seeds walk through camp together. Campers are invited, and most receive scholarships to attend.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Dalia Abu-Lafi, from Palestine, left, and Shiri Abadi of Israel, right, create artwork together. Campers were asked to draw silently. Others in their group were then asked to guess what they were attempting to draw. The exercise is designed to demonstrate different perspectives on the same thing.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Seeds from conflicting countries share meals and cabins together.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Mohammed Ramadan helps a friend dress in traditional Palestinian clothing before a talent show performance. The annual show gives kids the opportunity to express their cultures in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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A camper waits to perform backstage during the talent show.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Campers phoning home.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Dalia Omran of Egypt, left, and Orlando Arellano, from the United States, participate in a dance activity.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Palestinian Yasmina Masri compliments another camper as part of an exercise where kids, seated in a circle, pass a string along to a camper who positively influenced them during camp. The activity results in a complicated web, a symbol of the bonds they have created.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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The notion of teamwork is encouraged for campers during the group challenge.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Egyptian Bahira Amin hugs a new friend at the last meeting of her group activity.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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Bonds formed at Seeds of Peace continue long after camp. Many campers return year after year.

(Aynsley Floyd - GlobalPost)
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