UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) is hosting its annual Bon Voyage Celebration on August 21 to raise money for and bid farewell to its fourth group of student ambassadors who will be leaving for the Middle East on August 29.  The afternoon celebration will include a Middle Eastern-themed luncheon, silent auction and presentations by OTI students. Special performances by comedians Amir K. and Mike Batayeh of the Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief will kick-off the event.

August 21, 2011
12:00-3:00 p.m.
University of California, Irvine Student Center, Pacific Ballroom (building 113 on campus map)

The Olive Tree Initiative is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental student, faculty, and community initiative that promotes dialogue and understanding about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through experiential education. Since its founding in 2007, OTI has sponsored three group trips to the Middle East to provide students an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the conflict through discussions with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian academics, politicians, religious authorities, community leaders and activists. Upon their return, students share their knowledge and experiences with the community through campus dialogue sessions, community forums and an annual education week and UC-wide student leadership summit. To date, the group has raised more the $450,000 to fund their experiential learning work.

OTI has been highly lauded for its efforts; awards and honors received include U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy and State Department recognition as a top citizen diplomacy program; the inaugural UC Office of the President Award for Outstanding Leadership; UCI’s Anteater Award for Best International Organization; the Paul Delp Peace Award; the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s Community Leader Award; and a UCI Living our Values student team award.   OTI now has active groups operating on UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles with additional branches in the works at other UC campuses and universities nationwide. OTI’s work served as the foundation of the new UCI undergraduate certificate program in conflict analysis and resolution which offers students academic credit for work leading up to and following their Middle East trip. The program’s first graduates are already working at NGOs and in politics in the Middle East and the U.S.

To learn more, visit http://www.olivetreeinitiative.org.  For further information about this event, please contact Daniel Wehrenfennig, director, dwehrenf@uci.edu.

The Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief is the longest-running Middle Eastern comedy show in the U.S. The comedic performance is being sponsored by the Levantine Cultural Center which is in its 10th year championing the Middle East and North Africa through arts and educational programs.

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