IOU Respect

IOU Respect is more than a creative moniker.  It’s a program with compelling lessons relevant to today’s world.

The program was born in the aftermath of September 11th, and the deep gulf of misunderstanding between Western and Islamic cultures that it revealed.  HI-USA teamed with three other national hostelling associations to be part of the solution.    It started with the United States, Germany, Egypt and Tunisia.  Today, France and Lebanon have joined.

IOU Respect is about bringing together Western and Islamic young people for a two-week personal journey together.   The hostel stay is at its core.   Organized activities and workshops focus on building dialogue and understanding.   But there’s also plenty of unstructured time for conversations, sightseeing, shopping and fun, too.

2013 marks the eighth annual IOU Respect Program.  I’ve been fortunate to have been engaged with most of them and observe first-hand the impact on the participants.   During last year’s program in Chicago, I was deeply moved by the collegiality, and the wisdom, and the optimism in the room.   Do you want to feel good about the world’s prospects?   Read this blog post about last year’s program.

IOU Respect works.  In the words of one of last year’s  American participants, Alexandra Ponton:

“I got to engage in intellectual, fun, and respectful dialogue with the participants from varying countries about topics as taboo as religion, politics, stereotypes … Despite moments of unease, everyone maintained a state of open-mindedness.   We realized that despite religious, cultural, and political backgrounds we are all very similar and have the potential to connect.  IOU Respect was a very rich experience, not only because of the fabulous people I met, but because of the intentionality behind developing active global citizens with open minds.”

IOU Respect is held this year in Germany from August 16-30.  And we now are accepting applications from young Americans between 18 and 23 years olds who want to participate.  All costs in Germany are covered.  HI-USA offers a travel stipend to help with the airfare to Germany.  Applications are due on May 15th.

Someday the world may no longer need programs like IOU Respect.  Unfortunately, the recent Boston Marathon tragedy is an example of how far humanity has yet to go.  Help us do our part.   Tell your friends and neighbors about IOU Respect.

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