Because Children Really Do Become "Us"
When Others Are Us began in 2002, we evolved our first program based on six core premises whose validity was strongly substantiated by anecdotal evidence collected by facilitators during the course of the project plus pre- and post-testing over the years. Here are our core premises along with illustrative quotations. The response of our earliest program participants provided the inspiration and motivation we needed to continue to refine our approach and add new programs.Premise 1. Without opportunities for personal contact and interaction, children have no real idea of what other people, places and cultures are like and are susceptible to accepting stereotypes and misconceptions.
"I think the Middle East looks like a playland. It's a place where you play and go on rides." (3rd grade)
“Is Puerto Rico in the Middle East?” (4th grade)
Premise 2. Children would look for and find similarities and things in common while getting excited about differences.
"I think that you wear normal clothes and like candy because everybody likes candy." (3rd grade)
"Do you ride camels to school?” (4th grade)
Premise 3. Through friendly and open communication, people would emerge as people and positive connections would be made.
“Well it has been a long time since I have written to you guys. Did you hear about the attack in your country? Well if you did, I feel VERY BAD FOR YOU (emphasis in original). And September 11, 2001. (to Saudi children two days after the Riyadh bombing on May 12, 2003)
Love, Niomi (3rd grade)
PS. MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU
Premise 4. Children would empathize with each other about the difficulties in their respective lives and look for solutions together.
“I don’t think it’s fair that I live in safety and comfort and other children don’t but I am not sure what to do about it. Do you have any ideas?”
Kiya, grade 5 (in response to Ghada Issa Amer, Ramallah)
Premise 5. After the program, the participating children would bring their new perspectives, newfound tolerance and eager openness back into their homes and communities.
“I am very encouraged to be fully involved in your projects for the positive feedback I received from my students and their parents. The exchange in thoughts either through a drawing or a story helps to bridge the gaps of different parts of the world. We need to encourage our new generations to learn about different cultures and peoples. Through this dialogue, I believe the world would be one step away from fundamentalisms, terrorism, and all other sorts of mayhems.”
Majda Abdulrahman, Principal, New School, Yemen
“This is the second year in which Union Church has worked with Others Are Us and there was quite a bit of eager anticipation among our members and friends based on our ongoing partnership. Children, preteens and adults gathered on Saturday, July 12, at the Union Church of Bay Ridge….they wanted to convey their desire for peace and mutual understanding. Participation in Others Are Us has led to a connection with one of the mosques in our neighborhood.” (emphasis in original)
Rev. Mary Speers, Pastor, Union Church of Bay Ridg