The Rotary Clubs of Wakefield, Saugus, and Reading teamed up again this year to sponsor a team of teens from Israel and Palestine through the Friends Forever, USA organization. Started by a Danvers Rotarian Robert Raiche, Friends Forever seeks to build long-lasting peace in war-torn countries by providing young people with personal experiences in peace. Based on the life-raft model, 5 Muslim teens and 5 Jewish teens visit the US and complete a service-based program. Their goal: to get to know each other, their differences and common interests, with the aim of gaining a life-long connection. When the teens return home, they will be challenged to keep their lessons learned here, alive in their home communities.
“This program is right in line with Rotary,” commented Wakefield Rotarian Judy Gordon. Gordon is the club’s Foundation Chair, and in charge of keeping the club aligned with Rotary’s 6 Areas of Focus, which include peace and conflict resolution. A Peace Corps veteran herself, Gordon added, “Long-lasting peace starts with young people. This program allows people from conflicted areas to get to know one another, on a deep and personal level. We love supporting it! Wakefield Club President Bob Mailhoit added, “For us, it’s also an opportunity to partner with our neighboring clubs and have a greater impact. By each of us contributing a portion, we were able to give more.” Friends Forever also has promoted these peace teams in Northern Ireland with Catholic and Protestant teens, sponsored by many Rotary clubs. Mailhoit added, “This year, given the conflict in Israel that is happening as we enjoy this lunch, we felt it was important to support an Israeli team.”
The 3 Rotary Clubs and teens were hosted by the Saugus Rotary Club earlier this month. The teens sat among the adults and shared personal experiences of life, family and friends. Two teens spoke to the group on behalf of their team and thanked the clubs for giving them the opportunity. To learn more about Friends Forever, USA, visit www.friendsforeverusa.org.