The Middle East Oleander Initiative

“The goals of this project are exactly the same as the desires of the citizens of Hiroshima. I hope that this idea will be cultivated, take root and blossom throughout the world.” - Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan

Months after the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, a small patch of red oleander flowers bloomed out of the irradiated rubble. Since then, red oleander has symbolized both the dangers of nuclear war and the hope of a more peaceful future. In a similar spirit, the Oleander Initiative, co-organized with the University of the Middle East Project, shares the lessons of Hiroshima with Middle Eastern and North African educators to promote awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. 

From August 2 – 9, 2016, the inaugural 2016 Oleander program leveraged "the power of place" of the city of Hiroshima—the first city to be devastated by a nuclear weapon—to awaken participants to the horrors of nuclear war and inspire them to create powerful anti-nuclear themed lesson plans for their schools back home. Among the highlights of the 2016 Oleander Initiative were the many interactions with atomic bomb survivors, plus local students and teachers from the city. The program enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Jogakuin High School, whose students led a tour of Hiroshima Peace Park for the Oleander educators. Also while in Hiroshima, participants attended the memorial ceremony hosted by the City of Hiroshima that commemorated the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing. And participants attended the Gensukiyo World Conference Against A + H Bombs. The conference includes nearly 10,000 attendees from over 50 countries and is the largest annual anti-nuclear weapons gathering in the world.

During the week-long program, participants continually modified and refined Hiroshima-themed educational projects for the students in their home communities. The fact that a city so utterly devastated - about 70% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed - was rebuilt into the vibrant cosmopolitan city it is today reflects a potent lesson about the power of resilience, a lesson that deeply resonated among Oleander participants. Oleander teachers are now sharing this lesson of resilience with their students. One teacher will host a speech-writing contest on this theme. Another will stage a theatrical performance in her school to highlight survivor testimony. In this way, the lessons of Hiroshima will spread from teachers to students across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

For media coverage of the Oleander Initiative, click here. For the 2016 Oleander flyer, please click here. And to apply to attend the 2017 Oleander Initiative, visit this site.

Physicians for Social Responsibility's Speaker Trainings on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons

To bolster domestic understanding of the catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons, the Otterman Foundation proudly supports Physicians for Social Responsibility's Speakers Bureau. With our support, PSR is hosting in 2017 several interactive workshops on health and humanitarian messaging to encourage individuals, faith groups, Rotary groups, and legislators to take action to abolish nuclear weapons. The first training took place in Boston on January 28, 2017, where PSR experts and a professional speaking coach helped more than thirty participants fine-tune their speaking skills and deepen their knowledge about nuclear weapons. Additional workshops will take place in the west coast and Midwest later this year. 

Treat the Pain: Rwanda

Treat the Pain, a program of the American Cancer Society, tackles the unmet need for pain relief around the world. With Otterman Foundation support, Treat the Pain is launching in 2017 their first-ever program in Rwanda. This initiative will provide staffing and technical assistance directly to Rwandan health ministries to bolster pain management programs across the country. The initiative will also improve the skills and motivation of individual clinicians by improving access to information and to other clinicians interested in pain treatment. 

The Last Hurdle Program

Implemented in Israeli public schools with a low matriculation rate, the Rashi Foundation's Last Hurdle program targets 10th-12th grade students who failed or are expected to fail the matriculation exam in only one or two subjects. Overcoming this last obstacle would therefore allow them to obtain the matriculation certificate, which is a prerequisite for academic studies.

The BSOF is currently supporting after-school programs for Bedouin students in the Negev. Studies takes place mainly after school hours and in intensive “marathon” days outside the school. With few exceptions, the teachers are members of the school staff who received specialized training. Since its inception in 2001, the program grew in scale from 80 to 1,500 students a year and from 4 schools to 50, while the success rate remained consistently high – more than 90% of the participants pass the matriculation exam in their "obstacle" subject. Moreover, after building a cadre of teachers who are trained and experienced in applying the principles of the program, the schools are eventually able to implement it independently with their own resources, guided by the program's professional team.