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Kids for Peace heads to Serbia

Two students from Elphinstone Secondary School are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and they're taking their moms with them.

Two students from Elphinstone Secondary School are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and they're taking their moms with them.

"My 15-year-old daughter told me she's going to Serbia to help her friends and asked me to go with her," said Cindy Reid, explaining she couldn't say no to the invitation.

Her daughter Caitlin was inspired by the recent local showing of Teaching Peace in a Time of War, after which she had the chance to meet some of the students from Serbia featured in the film.

"Caitlin and I volunteered at the Way to Peace Camp in Halifax and some of the students from the film were sponsored to come," said Reid.

She said Caitlin made friends quickly with the students from war-torn Serbia. She wanted to visit their homeland and experience their reality first-hand.

"I have read about war, and I have seen it on TV, but I want to experience what my friends have gone through first-hand. I know this experience will change me, and I welcome it," said Caitlin.

One of the friends she made at the peace camp is fortunate enough to have a computer at home. Since she has returned to Serbia, she has been able to keep in touch with Caitlin through email and MSN.

"They talk on MSN and exchange music. They are creating a real cultural exchange on the computer," said Reid.

Soon Caitlin made up her mind that she was going to visit her friends in Serbia no matter what. She started working at McDonald's to save money for the trip.

Her friend, 14-year-old Abi Kellett, became interested in Caitlin's mission and asked to come along.

It became evident that spring break was the time to visit, as students from around the world were coming together for a youth-run peace conference in Belgrade, Serbia.

In conjunction with this initiative is a film festival and fundraising concert by one of Serbia's top male vocalists. The proceeds from this concert will go toward sending more students from the area to Canada on cultural exchanges.

The pair of high school friends decided to invite their mothers along on this life-changing journey.

Caitlin's mom Cindy is a special education teacher at Elphi and the regional coordinator for the peaceful school initiative in B.C., so she was excited about the opportunity to experience the peace conference and festival with her daughter.

Abi's mom, Sarah Doherty, is an occupational therapist, but she may be better known locally for her participation in a 700 km peace walk in Spain. Doherty is equipped with specialized crutches to support her, as she has only one leg.

Caitlin, Abi, Reid and Doherty have been actively fundraising to come up with the $10,000 needed for their trip to Belgrade, Serbia March 12.

If you want to help, there is one more fundraising event planned before the four leave.

On Friday, March 4, Doherty will present her slides of the El Camino de Santiago de Campostela: The Way of Saint James at Chatelech Secondary School at 7 p.m. This is one of the most famous and revered pilgrimages in the world, winning Spain's national peace prize in 2004.

Accompanying the slide show will be a raffle for attendees. Doherty hopes the event will bring them closer to their $10,000 goal.

So far the group has raised about $3,200.