By: Sofia Islas, La Jolla, CA – July 15, 2018
After only a few dialogue sessions, the Hands of Peace participants loaded the bus to head to UCSD and participate in their popular ropes course program. The participants arrived feeling anxious for the day ahead of them, knowing that they would be asked to face their fears. Upon arriving the participants were asked to get in a circle where Denise, the lead coordinator of UCSD’s ropes course, told the students that “most life changing events happen outside of our comfort zone” and asked the students to be ready for a challenge.
The students began the day split up into multi-cultural teams where they participated in trust building exercises and team building games. After playing fun games, the students were faced with the daunting task of climbing a sixty-foot rope net which led to a rigorous course of wires and obstacles that could only be crossed through team work. Denise asked the students to imagine that each step is a success, and that even if they didn’t make it all the way up they should still be proud of themselves.
From below you could here screaming and laughter as the students began taking their first steps on a tightrope, having only each other to hold on to. It’s at this point the participants realized that they needed to do more than conquer their own fears, but rather help each member of the team feel safe and supported. Those who felt comfortable enough to jump up and down on the ropes course were now met with the responsibility of supporting those who couldn’t even look down. While on the ropes course Spencer, an American XL, was moving in front of his team to help each member get across a particularly difficult portion of the ropes course. Though appearing like a fearless leader, looking down Spencer mouthed, “my hands are shaking”. However, despite his fears he was holding out his hands to make sure each person could get across, because that is what it means to be part of a team.
What the participants learned when on top of the ropes course was not only courage, but also selflessness and trust. Up in the air, despite begin wrapped up in incredibly safe equipment, it still feels like the person who is holding your hand is protecting your life. This powerful connection that is created each year on the ropes course is transferred to the dialogue room where the participants know that they can trust each other. Once on the ground, the participants are ready to embrace any challenge the Hands of Peace program has to offer.
Sofia Islas was a 2016 Hand and an XL in 2017. She stays actively involved in the San Diego Alumni Club.