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  • Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Kentuckians to visit Leverett again as part of dialogue project

LEVERETT — A project that started two years ago to bridge political and cultural divides between Leverett residents and people living in Letcher County, Kentucky will continue during the Oct. 11-13 weekend.

Hands Across the Hills, formed in October 2017 as a means of getting people with different partisan viewpoints to speak to each other, resumes when guests from the Bluegrass State will stay with Leverett families and participate in dialogues facilitated by Paula Green, founding director of the Karuna Center for Peace Building in Amherst. Green has over 30 years of experience working with groups in war-torn nations such as Rwanda, Serbia, Croatia and Myanmar.

The latest effort, which comes as an outgrowth of the lingering bitterness from the 2016 presidential election, will conclude with a public forum, “Celebrating the Bridging of Two Communities,” Oct. 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Leverett Elementary School, 85 Montague Road.

During the three days, participants will discuss stories, connections and how their views have evolved over the past two years. Leverett voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while people in Whitesburg, Kentucky voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in that election.

The Kentucky visit in October 2017 gave hope to organizers that people could see beyond stereotypes and care about the well-being of others. The project continued in spring 2018 when Leverett folks visited Whitesburg.

Hands Across the Hills in 2018 received a “U.S. Peacebuilding Award of Excellence” from the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Peacebuilding, a 15-year-old international organization that has been focused largely on global peace work.

The original organization was broadened this year to the Bridge4Unity project, which has focused on racial attitudes. Area residents traveled to Beaufort, South Carolina in January, and in June people from South Carolina and Kentucky came to Springfield to continue the talks.

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