The Olive Tree Initiative is a university-based organization whose mission is to promote conflict analysis and resolution through rigorous academic preparation, experiential education and leadership development. OTI provides students, faculty and community participants with the education, training and experiences needed to better understand, negotiate, and resolve conflicts.
On Friday, August 17, 2018 HasNa hosted 10 students from the University of California, Irvine’s Olive Tree Initiative, along with Dr. Daniel Wehrenfennig, the Director of the program. On their way back to California from their study tour to Turkey and Armenia, the group of students stopped in New York, DC, and Boston, to meet with scholars, practitioners, and nonprofits engaged in peacebuilding, foreign policy, and conflict management in Turkey and Armenia.
Rukmini Banerjee, President of HasNa, gave the students an overview of HasNa’s model and past projects implemented in Turkey and Armenia, such as Crafting Peace (2012), Side by Side: Digital Stories (2013), and Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA: 2013-14). The students posed several questions regarding the challenges faced in the field, any push back received from families on either side of the border, and also the overall feedback on the projects. The students and Dr. Wehrenfennig also presented interesting insights into the challenges faced in their personal reasons for joining the Olive Tree Initiative. Rukmini also talked about HasNa’s experiences working with Turkish and Armenian diaspora in the US.
The conversation ended with an examination of the current political climate and US-Turkish relations, memory and memorialization, and a stronger resolve to continue working at the grassroots level to create positive, micro-level change.