Seeds of Peace is a multi-million dollar non-profit organization aimed at empowering young people to promote peace in their home communities.

Beginning with a four-week summer program in the United States, participants from some of the world’s most conflict-ridden countries come together to discuss regional and global tensions as well as to learn about other cultures and ways of thinking. Graduates of the U.S. program often returnto their home countries, where they continue to participate in Seeds of Peace programs at the local level. Many go on to have a significant impact in their communities’ peace building processes.

That is what I learned while attending Seeds of Peace’s 7th Annual Peace Market last Thursday night at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. A glitzy, glamour-filled evening aimed at raising funds for the organization, it left an interesting first impression on what Seeds of Peace is all about.

The evening included live music, an open bar, raffle andauction items, and celebrity appearances. Decorated to reflect a Middle Easternbazaar atmosphere, it was definitely a multicultural event. I spoke to a former Seeds of Peace program graduate from Pakistan, Maryam, who now lives in New York City and volunteered to help out that evening. She said “It really changed my life.

[The program] was the single most defining moment of my life.  [I learned] you can sit down with people who are ideologically on opposite sides of the spectrum and be friends with them.”

Through testimonies and interviews such as Maryam’s, I really gained a better understanding of Seeds of Peace’s mission and worldwide positive effects.

To be honest, though, I didn’t get the same feeling by walking around the Peace Market.  The event was obviously populated by very rich, successful people: Men in designer suits, women in designer dresses and fur coats, celebrities surrounded by expensive cameras, etc. I understand that an organization with a $6 million budget needs to find lots of ways to attract wealthy donors, but given the very humble nature of the program’s mission I felt a little awkward at the Peace Market’s posh display of wealth.

My first impression was a mixture of great appreciation and personal reservation. I had a good time at Peace Market 2012, but for me personally there are better ways to make a statement.

– Karina Schroeder