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COMMITTED TO SERVICE: JPB participants present speeches at Jerusalem high school

As part of following through with JPB's Service-Learning program, participants were tasked with taking their service speeches back to their home communities and sharing them with family, friends, and neighbors, thus reaffirming their commitment to leadership and peacebuilding. At the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School in Jerusalem, three alumni had the opportunity to present their speeches to their classmates during both an all-school assembly and our recent adult pilgrimage in late-October. Because we were so moved by these speeches, we are going to share one with you now:

" If you ask a group of people what the word service means, you will see that everyone will have a different answer. This shows that the definition of the word 'service' differs between each person and culture. Some people might say service is to give, to be kind and generous whereas others might define it using only the word help.

From the beginning of all monotheistic religions, service has been very significant. It's one of the few things that is commonly shared between people of different backgrounds. It does not matter what you have faith in because believing encourages you to serve.

In Islam, we've seen different types of service in the Quran and Hadith. Service is when you treat someone the way you would like to be treated, for instance, when you share a warm smile with others. Simply, every good deed is service and charity. Similar to Islam and Judaism, Christianity teaches one how to be generous and merciful. Each religion teaches people the correct way to live as mentioned in the Bible, the Torah, or the Quran.

'We learned how service is our duty; to tend to those in need. We learned leadership, respect, sharing and gratitude. We learned how to speak confidently. But most importantly we learned how to listen.'

One of the ways that this program helped us improve our leadership skills and how much we serve others is by having field activities. For example, we visited IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services), a local refugee facility, and helped foreign families to learn English and to move into new apartments.

We've also learned to serve by volunteering in the Christ Church Soup Kitchen. Food was made by kind volunteers who despite their busy schedule came on a daily basis and cooked for the homeless and the needy. Each and every participant had the opportunity to assist either by filling up empty metal trays, by giving away small slices of bread or by seating the ones who came. At the end of the day, we gained an unforgettable experience which involved meeting the homeless, listening to their stories, and feeling their pain.

As participants of this wonderful program, we learned MANY important life lessons especially during the dialogues we had almost every night. We learned how service is our duty; to tend to those in need. We learned leadership, respect, sharing and gratitude. We learned how to speak confidently but most importantly we learned how to listen. One of my peers named Mohammad said, 'I can't wait to share all the skills that I've learned throughout this program back at home, serving my community, my people, and yours.'

Strangers who we never even dreamt of meeting suddenly became our closest friends. We lived like a one big family, joked around; laughed with, shared personal stories and cried with. Food was eaten around one very long table and the bread was shared. We even had ice cream for dessert! My peers and I learned a lot from each other and all of a sudden became our own teachers. Now those are memories one would never easily forget.

By the end of this program, I became aware that people are not that different. From what I've observed, I learned that too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. Conflict and culture do not determine who we choose to be and who we choose to be with! I believe that this life-changing program that was founded by two people has had an impact on our lives and hopefully will on others throughout the years ahead. Just remember, peace starts with you."

~Sarin, Armenian, Christian

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