Building Leaders 4 Peace founder and Steamboat Springs resident introduces “Paint 4 Peace” event
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – During a Building Leaders 4 Peace camp in Iraq, Steamboat Springs resident Kendra DeMicco said she remembered one man from Northern Iraq, Zebari, who was at the university there, which ISIS had invaded.
During the open fire of mass murdering, he witnessed five of his family members die in front of him.
“I do not want to carry the heaviness, I want to release the bitterness and the hate and live in peace,” said Zebari, one of the participants of the camp in Iraq. “We should forgive them. I want to be a man of peace, so I forgave them — ISIS.”
“It’s unfathomable to me, the bravery and courage it takes to lay down their bitterness and pain to choose forgiveness,” said DeMicco, who helped found Building Leaders 4 Peace, or BL4P, a humanitarian group, in 2016.
“I’ve seen transformation that has happened in me and these people,” she continued. “If that can happen in these regions of conflict, then it can happen anywhere.”
From Hayden High School English and theater teacher to following her passion for peace, the last few years have led DeMicco to Turkey, Colombia, Iraq, South America, Berma, Indonesia as well as Lebanon and Germany next year, through BL4P’s week-long camps.
The camps, she said, offer a way to open up discussion, allowing for conflict transformation as well as collaboration across regional lines and cultural, lingual, ideological and religious divides.
“It starts a conversation about peace,” said DeMicco.
This week, she plans to bring the inspiring stories and compassion of the organization to Steamboat with the fundraiser, Paint 4 Peace, today and Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Steamboat Art Strokes.
There will also be an informational event about BL4P at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Steamboat Christian Center.
The Paint 4 Peace events, she said, will specifically raise money for the BL4P camps this year in Turkey and Iraq with a goal of raising $10,000.
Compelled to do something after discovering the tragedies occurring in Syria and the large number of Syrians forced to flee their homes in search of safety, DeMicco started BL4P’s young adult leadership development programs with the intent to inspire a future of peace in conflict regions around the world through friendship, reconciliation and service.
Once they arrive in a conflict region, she said, they’ve never not felt welcomed with open arms.
“We don’t come thinking we have something to teach,” she said. “We just want to facilitate a space where everyone feels safe to engage in a dialogue about peace.”
In its first year, the BL4P camp started in Turkey with about 25 volunteers and 50 participants. Growing in scope through word of mouth, the organization has grown to 40 volunteers and 80 participants for the camp in Turkey this year.
“It’s incredible and so wild to think that we are in our third year,” DeMicco said. “I never would’ve imagined — we thought it would just be a one-week thing.”
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