By Lauren Monsen
Reclaiming hope from the embers of tragedy is a daunting task, but a nonprofit group called Tuesday’s Children helps people traumatized by terrorism connect with each other and rebuild their lives.
Created to meet the needs of families who lost relatives in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Tuesday’s Children has broadened its scope to help teenagers worldwide. The group’s program for this mission is Project Common Bond, which aims to unite young people aged 15–20 from around the world who have lost family members to an act of terror.
Launched in 2008, Project Common Bond has served more than 200 young people from Argentina, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Liberia, Spain, Russia, Sri Lanka and the United States, said program director Kathy Murphy. Participants from Russia — a country new to the program — are survivors of the Beslan school hostage crisis of September 2004, in which at least 334 people were killed, including 186 children.
Project Common Bond hosts an annual eight-day camp at which participants typically forge strong ties and learn to support each other through grieving and adjusting to their losses, Murphy said.
The camp’s curriculum, designed by Harvard University, teaches coping and conflict resolution. It features personal storytelling so young people can share their reactions to the terrorist incidents that changed their lives. “The kids loved it,” Murphy said. “Some have told us they’ll pursue [college] studies in conflict negotiation or global studies.”
Murphy said the camp participants learn how to listen to each other. “The skills they learn are important skills for any of us to have. They’ll take these skills home to their families, to their schools, and teach others to use them.” The curriculum, Murphy said, helps participants answer fundamental questions: “When you find yourself getting upset, how do you calm yourself? How do you take that pain and turn it into something positive?”
But there’s plenty of time for having fun. The program offers elective courses — art, theater, music, dance and sports — and participants stage a talent show.
This year’s camp was held at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, near Washington. The campers “were phenomenal,” Murphy said. “You could tell they all wanted to be there. One said, ‘This week gives me the strength to get through the whole year, until we meet again.’”
Many camp participants return year after year. When they exceed the age limit, some return as counselors to help newcomers.
The camp’s graduates almost always stay in touch, often through social-media networks, including a Project Common Bond page on Facebook. “It’s exploding” with messages, Murphy said. “They’re missing each other.”
To learn more about Project Common Bond, visit the Tuesday’s Children website.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. )