Common Bonds and Friendships Form at Dude Ranch in Texas
January 13-16, 2023
The Mayan Dude Ranch, Bandera, TX
This wasn’t a typical weekend at the ranch. It’s not every day that teenagers impacted by trauma and loss from various countries can band together, and bond together, while riding horses, dancing to country and western music, roast s’mores around a campfire and, most importantly, form friendships that can withstand the test of time.
Tuesday’s Children hosted 20 Project COMMON BOND Winter Session participants during this impactful weekend retreat. Through workshops focused on dignity, peacebuilding and diversity, Gold Star teenagers from North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Michigan and California connected with international participants from Afghanistan and Belgium impacted by terrorism and mass violence. All shared the common bond of having lost a loved one in the military or due to global targeted violence.
The scenic dude ranch provided a safe space for guided activities, hayrides, scavenger hunts, and games to help the participants connect. But these young people already had an unspoken connection. The 16 U.S. participants in attendance were Gold Star Family members who had lost a parent serving in the U.S. military. The international participants included Afghan refugees and a Belgian participant impacted by global terrorism. Pain is its own language, and, for these teens, grief is common ground.
Throughout Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, these teenagers formed connections that defied cultural differences. They grappled with the ways that trauma and grief had put them on a rocky trail but took comfort in their shared experiences.
A 20-year-old Gold Star participant took it upon himself to help make one of the Afghan refugees feel welcome by teaching him different American traditions and culture, shooting basketballs and learning new slang. This Afghan participant reached the U.S. after the fall of Kabul, but his family was left behind. Living with another Afghan family in the Austin area, this is the first time he has ever been to an overnight camp or retreat. The weekend left a lasting impression on him, and he left with new friends and invaluable bonds.
Tuesday’s Children’s 2023 Winter Session of Project COMMON BOND was made possible by generous support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grants Program, the Sarita Kenedy East Foundation, Teledyne FLIR Defense, the Campagna Family, H-E-B and the Drew Ross Memorial Foundation.
Since 2008, Project COMMON BOND has united 1,000+ young people from 34 countries who share a common experience, trauma or grief. These friendships transcend borders and promote peace. This program makes vital connections for Gold Star Children, children impacted by terrorism and mass violence, and refugee children who have fled conflict.
Young people who share the “common bond” of trauma or grief due to terrorism, mass violence, war, or its aftermath, share more than just experience. They share pain that many cannot imagine, and they shoulder a realization that safety, family unity, and community are fragile concepts. Through each other, they find resilience and understanding that goes beyond words, beyond language and diversity.
At Project COMMON BOND, these young people become change makers and peacebuilders. Leaning on each other, they turn their experiences of trauma and loss into positive actions that can help others exposed to similar personal and public tragedies.
With turmoil and tragedy continuing to impact the lives of children in the U.S. and around the world, Project COMMON BOND continues to welcome more participants. Learn More about Project COMMON BOND.