Sunday, May 16, 2010



It's exciting.

Newness, just by being new, brings new life. A new spark. Surprises.

What is more new than creating something that hasn't existed before?

Than meeting a new person, than making a new connection?

The YALA Peace girls are starting to guide younger kids in the kind of creative leadership and peace-building work that they were introduced to and that they fell in love with this past year. Taking it to the younger kids will be new. They will have to see them in a new way.

These children may be small, but they are all individual people with their own minds, anxieties, gifts, experiences, futures, loves, dreams...

The girls are now connecting with these children, helping them to create something new.

And all that newness brings...

They are creating new works of art, experiences, dances, encounters, community... and together, they are all making a bigger connection and creation.

Before the first mentor meeting, I invited the YALA girls for a special brainstorming meeting. They told me what creative areas they felt most excited about leading, and we revised our past activities to be used with younger kids. The YALA stars lit up to be working with me as partners, to be in it together. They took to the new responsibility like birds to the sky!

We decided together what to do with the children to help them open up, be creative without feeling limited, and to bond. They decided to create balloon faces.

We set up a colorful and exciting table and the girls set to work making balloon faces of their own to intrigue the kids at the American Corner, who usually get homework help from a few volunteers or play on the computers. The kids quietly and curiously came to see what we were doing. We invited them to sit with us and surprised them by banging our hands on the tables, smiling at the kids and gesturing to them to join, until everyone was making noise and feeling free and fun. This has become a tradition at the start of every mentor meeting. Then I quickly hold up my hands and everyone stops and we shout our names out in a circle. This soothes the restless kids and makes them laugh and feel comfortable. As we hold these mentor meetings at the Community Center's American Corner (with funding for materials coming from the Arab Jewish Community Center), the girls speak English, but then translate in Hebrew and Arabic if the kids don't understand.

At this first meeting, the YALA stars helped the children fill the room with colorful balloons. Everyone quickly became deeply engaged in making their little characters - balloons with goggly eyes and pipe cleaner glasses and motorcycle sticker earrings and red lipstick and mustaches and unibrows and so much life in their faces!

The YALA leaders took on an authoritative and comforting role so that the kids were clamoring for their help and opinions. By the end, the room was filled with different colored balloon faces, characters were born out of all the limitless creativity, little children were running around hugging YALA stars and the new leaders were beaming with pride and connection.

One of the small children, an inquisitive and bright little star named Sara, asked her new YALA mentors to contribute a drawing to a poster that she could hang in her room. As each person painted something, little Sara complimented them on what they had contributed and the YALA mentors praised Sara and showered love on her so that the room was shimmering with reflective light and colorful balloon faces and newness.

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