“This program gives me an opportunity to make friends from all over the world. Palestinians are supposed to be my enemy. Here they teach you to see each other as humans rather than just the face of a country,” said Tal Golinsky, 17, of Israel. The articulate teenager was speaking of her two year experience at the well-respected Seeds of Peace, an international camp for teens in Otisfield.
Golinsky was part of a large group of co-eds from the camp giving an enthusiastic send off to their counter-parts on the Portland waterfront last Tuesday, July 3rd. Her counter-parts were eighteen students about to embark on a three week sail aboard the “Spirit of Massachusetts,” one of three yachts in an Ocean Classroom program. The students are evenly split between Israel, Palestinans and Americans; three of the latter students are Maine natives. There are five educators aboard as well as the Captain Christopher Flansburg. The “Spirit” is on a three-week cruise to New York Harbor and back.
Alyson Graham, the education director for the Ocean Classroom program, said these students will have numerous learning opportunities aboard ship. They can climb to the top of one of the masts or not. But they will have to learn how to get along together in small quarters and under some tough conditions on the water as well. “I think there is far too much rudeness in this world today. It doesn’t work well on a ship like this,” said Graham.
During the month of July, there are two programs on-going at Seeds of Peace Camp. One is the dialogue program where sessions, professionally facilitated, deal with conflict through personal experiences. “It can get very emotional at times. But that keeps it very real,” said Eric Kapenga, communications director, for the Camp. They have to confront their histories and talk about them.” The other program which was developed last year, is the “Seas of Peace” program for which the send-off was planned at Portland Yacht Services on the waterfront; the day before a storm hit the Portland coast.
Monica Balanoff, a co-founder of the Seas of Peace program, circumnavigated the world a few years ago. A graduate of Dartmouth College, who majored in Middle Eastern Studies, she approached her alma mater about some seed money to start the program last year. Dartmouth College came through and Balanoff said: “This is exactly what I wanted to do,” smiling.
For more information, please see www.oceanclassroom.org, or call 1-800-724-SAIL.