In July, four Dishoom-wallas went to Maine to visit the Seeds of Peace summer camp. We’ve been working with this amazing charity for three years now, and this was an opportunity for us to learn more about how they are breaking down barriers and building a more peaceful world. Very quickly, the trip became far more than a visit to a charity partner… rather, the team left inspired and in awe of everyone they met. Here’s a little about the trip, and what they learned.
Every day should start with a greeting from Dindy. (Dindy is an all-round Seeds of Peace champion and was our expert and exceptionally lovely chaperone while we were there.) When we arrived at camp, a little fuggy from our journey, she greeted and hugged each of us as if we were old friends.
After an orientation session where we walked around the camp, admiring how beautiful and calm a space it was, we sat down to learn more about Seeds of Peace.
We already knew that they had a big mission: to inspire and cultivate new generations of leaders to transform conflict and build peace. But until our visit, we couldn’t quite put our finger on what this meant, or how they might go about trying to ‘build peace’.
However, as we sat – rapt and listening to some of the children, some of the returning seeds and some of the counselors and fellows – we were completely struck by the enormous wisdom and maturity that was being generated and nurtured at the camp and in Seeds of Peace.
From chatting with many of the kids, it was clear that this camp (which brings together roughly 400 teens and educators from Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, Jordan, America, Egypt for three weeks of facilitated dialogue sessions) teaches the children to respect and accept one another; to find their own voices; to listen without agenda; to resolve conflicts through dialogue; and ultimately, to break down barriers. The process that these kids go through – sleeping, eating, playing, and talking with ‘the other’ – is designed to encourage them to consider things from a different angle. It forces them to see ‘the other’ as a human, to engage and empathise.
Many of the seeds that had taken part in the camp years previously, shared with us what they had appreciated about their experience, and whether it was Will, or Daniella, or Ashraf or Mayanne – there was so much to learn from. Everyone was so alive, so thoughtful and somehow so centered in the middle of the conflicts that they live with every day. There was something common in everyone’s eyes – an awareness and determination.
Seeds of Peace run this camp because they believe that developing respect and dignity for others is a precondition for peace. And this was the most powerful takeaway for us as a team. This camp and Seeds of Peace are without doubt fostering more tolerance and peace in society by arming smart children with compassion, kindness, and justice, and encouraging them to build meaningful relationships across lines of conflict. Is there any more important work that needs to be done now?
We were utterly humbled by the entire experience, and so very grateful to all the children who kindly accepted our invitation to tie rakhis on each other – as a symbol of protection. For us, this is an incredibly powerful gesture, with great significance.
After the few days we spent there, each of us left harbouring thoughts of giving up our jobs and going to work for Seeds of Peace!
Thank you so much Dindy, Leslie and everyone who chatted to us, for allowing us to see a little of your experience. We cherished every interaction with every one of you.
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.