By Diana Bowley of the Bangor Daily News: DEXTER - Sharing a bunkhouse for three weeks with students from different cultures and beliefs was a life-altering experience for five Dexter Regional High School seniors.
The students spent nearly a month last summer at Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield with about 150 other campers.
They learned that listening and communicating can solve many problems and help foster world peace.
The camp experience made all of the Dexter students eager to promote world peace one person at a time, according to Mindy Harding. The group learned that despite nationalities, children around the world have similar interests and dislikes, she said this week.
"It not only changes your own life, but it gives you the opportunity to change other people’s lives as well," Harding said of the camp experience.
As part of Maine Seeds of Peace, the group conducted a workshop for the school faculty, and members intend to do the same with students. In addition, the Maine group will present a list of issues and concerns to the Maine Legislature later this year, according to Jana Kenney.
Among the local issues that may be addressed include the need for universal health care, the problem Maine has with drugs, especially prescription drugs, and alcohol, education, and the need for a time limit on welfare.
"We really went to camp not knowing what would happen," Rebecca Fick said. What did occur was a greater understanding of the conflicts in the Middle Eastern countries and the impact they have on children, she said. "We see the conflict on TV and through the press but we’re not getting the true picture," she said.
What amazed the students was how quickly they formed bonds with their foreign counterparts. "You form very strong friendships," Gavin Cote said. Leaving those new friends was probably one of the hardest things he had to do, he said. He intends to continue to foster those friendships via e-mail or telephone.
"Everyone made an impact on me," Michelle Chapman said of her camping experience. "It’s like amazing."
Kenney agreed. "The whole camp became like one giant family at the end," she said. "It puts life into perspective."
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