Building Bridges: Middle East, U.S.

A program to help end discrimination and conflict

Loralee Bandy, Staffer

Building Bridges is an organization designed to create “bridges” between international youth and empower them with the tools they need to help solve matters of global conflict. The Building Bridges Middle East, U.S., or MEUS, program is the longest running program, which has existed since 1994.

“It’s a summer program that lasts two years,” junior Ismaat Klaibou said. “We gather Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans to discuss world issues, including Middle Eastern conflict.”

Klaibou is the only Smoky Hill student currently in the program. There is one student from Cherokee Trail, but many of the students come from the Denver Center for International Studies. The 2013-2015 session is ending, but a new session of the program will pick up this summer with about 70 new members and alumni.

Klaibou writes her group's names in Arabic and Hebrew on their Building Bridges awards
Klaibou writes her group’s names in Arabic and Hebrew on their Building Bridges awards

“Over the Summer we did a retreat in Fort Collins and spent two weeks together in a safe space to discuss whatever we wanted without societal pressure,” Klaibou said. “We were going to go to Turkey last Summer, but the conflict started up again and it was too dangerous.”

According to the Building Bridges MEUS website, the program is only for women entering grades 10 to 11 and includes two summer intensives, two overnight retreats during the school year, and monthly meetings in home communities. As Klaibou adds, it’s also a program in which one can make many friendships and learn more about one’s self.

“Its purpose is to create a dialogue between people who normally don’t get to talk to each other and show different sides,” Klaibou said. “It also builds leaders and helps create open-mindedness. A lot of people think it’s to change people’s beliefs, but we’re strong in our beliefs and the point is to create dialogue.”

So far, over 2,000 youths have participated in the various Building Bridges programs. The goals of the programs are to create individuals with the communication skills, leadership, and global knowledge necessary to create more inclusive communities and break down the walls of discrimination and conflict. The organization’s main values are transformation, empathy, empowerment, justice, and evolution.

For more information on Building Bridges or MEUS, visit