International Leader View
“Growth occurs When Individuals confront problems, struggle to master them and through that struggle develop new aspects of their skills, capacities and views about life.”
"Throughout the time I have been involved with Friends Forever I have saw how the programme has been enhanced and the impact among communities in Belfast is much greater. As a leader within the programme for me it is no longer about creating friendships alone but creating effective leaders. As I reflect on the impact the programme has had on the lives of the young people I have went through the programme with I often feel overwhelmed with the successes they have achieved. Throughout their time in America the participants face many challenges and the biggest challenge is being together 24 hours a day. Upon founding Friends Forever Bob Raiche said: 'If you want to really know someone, take the seat next to them in a life raft.'
Anyone that has participated as a leader or young person in the Friends Forever programme will know how true this statement is. I however would take it a step further and say that the participants do not only get to know others but they get to know themselves. As this happens the participants often become more aware and accepting of the people around them. This helps break down the barriers that are present within the group and build a bond among the members that will continue to grow.
Over the years we have saw the participants impact their families through how they have changed. This has been through confidence being built, helping more at home, and their attitude towards life in general has been changed. This has helped break down barriers and mind-sets among family members and many have went on to getting involved in community relations programmes and encouraging others to do so. Another impact Friends Forever has had is on the communities the participants come from. Since beginning working with the organisation in 2011 there has been an increase in people getting involved in community relations programmes within the area our organisations work in. Many participants have come home and volunteered within their youth clubs to various degrees, this has led to the organisations being able to work with children as young as 8 years old on a community relations basis. This is due to the participants coming home from America and putting the skills and life lessons they have learnt into practice.
Along with tackling issues related to sectarianism the young people who are coming through the programme are now beginning to tackle other issues they feel are important to them in the areas they live. Over the past number of years these have included drug use, anti-social behaviour, homelessness, mental health and social inclusion. This is a direct impact of the Friends Forever programme and gives a little insight how the Friends Forever Formula is now impacting a more diverse population in Northern Ireland than ever before."
Written by Paula
Friends Forever Leader, Blackmountain Action Group
"Living in Israel sometimes makes you feel like there is no hope. No hope for peace nor for a better future, but for us it all changed this summer when we decided to participate in Friends Forever's program.
Our amazing journey started right at the outset of the program, namely when we attended the overnight seminar we had back in our homeland, a marvelous experience that one night made us feel that we knew each other forever, it brought us closer.
You must have never thought your life can change in a period of two weeks, but somethings can make it happen, like living with people from both sides of the conflict, people you have never thought you could get along with. Living in one house made us friends at first, it's never that hard if you consider brushing your teeth together every morning but the conversations into the night made us talk about the hard things knowing that whatever one will say the other will be open minded to it, accepting each other's point of view, understanding where it comes from.
Furthermore, through the program we acquired new tools that enabled us to deal with conflict management and diversity. Our group grew stronger day by day until we had the strength to affect others as a group, at the same time we were affected by many special people we met through our time in the US who made us feel we really can change the world.
Now we have hope, we are no longer sitting aimlessly. We have the power to change our reality by our own actions, and we are working on it."
Written by Siba and Noam
Friends Forever's 2016 Israel Program
Community Members Thoughts
“Friends Forever is allowing the young people to take a step outside of their world and see themselves as a powerful individual who can make big change happen.”
- Lisa, Collective Focus
“There was a sense of hope and welcoming and positive inquiry that was present for all of us.”
- Lori, Abbey of HOPE
“We are always pleased that we can provide one of the settings and experiences that helps make the FF magic of helping young people see each other as people first.”
- Neal, Living Innovations
“We are inspired by their dedication to peace and improving their communities despite all of the adversity/conflict they have already endured at home.”
- Susan, Community Member
“I felt a pain in my chest and a lump in my throat as I realized that this was the end of the Life Raft experience, and that I really had friends for life. It hit me how much I’d bonded with these people and would miss waking up every day and spending time with them…it was a beautiful moment.”
– Friends Forever Participant, 2015
“When people ask me how it was, with a big smile on my face I tell them it was so enormous—the biggest thing I’ve experienced in my life.”
-Amit, Israel 2016
“I have now heard stories from group members that have made me realize that people from both communities have experienced terrible injustices, and that it is naïve to believe only one community was affected.”
– Eve, Northern Ireland 2015
“Friends Forever teaches a lesson of the importance of co-existence and that opposing views and opinions should not cause division but friendship.”
- Niamh, Northern Ireland 2015
“Friends Forever is a great and unique way of getting to know the “other side” to leave all the political and religious differences behind and just bond as people, living in one country and wanting to co-exist.”
– Alice, Israel 2015
“…I just want to let the world know that we are all one humankind."
- Heib, Israel 2016
“ I learned that leadership isn’t just being in charge. It’s about ensuring everyone is on task and no one is left out through activities.”
- Chloe, Northern Ireland 2016
“It's not about being friends, it's about changing the way people think using a group of people with different strengths.”
- Friends Forever Participant, 2016
“…when you help someone you will feel that you helped all the people in the world.”
- Ali, Israel 2016
“The Friends Forever program helped to break down a lot of misconceptions that I wasn’t even aware that I held.”
– Carla, Northern Ireland 2015