Hands for a Bridge was founded by three Roosevelt High School (RHS) Teachers in 2001. It began with a partnership with Isilimela Comprehensive High School in Langa Township, Cape Town, South Africa. Seventeen students and three teachers from RHS traveled to South Africa in February 2002 to create a dialogue about race and social justice with Isilimela peers. Using music, dance, poetry and theatre, the students set a foundation for lasting relationships. In November 2002, two Isilimela teachers, and five Isilimela students traveled to Roosevelt High School in Seattle to continue the relationship.
In 2005, HFB expanded to include an exchange with schools in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, again focusing on student dialogue about issues of social justice. Post “Troubles” Northern Ireland is yet a place with deep divides between Protestants and Catholics. Currently HFB is partnered with Oakgrove Integrated College, one of the few schools in Northern Ireland that is inclusive of all religions. Oakgrove Integrated College has developed its own HFB program and has traveled to Roosevelt several times to participate in dialogue revolving around issues in both Seattle and Derry/Londonderry.
In 2006, Hands for a Bridge created a relationship with Bellville High School, a former apartheid era all white, Afrikaans speaking school located in the comfortable suburbs of Cape Town. HFB formed a “bridge” between these two very different schools and communities that carry the legacy and scars of apartheid, and now, years later, they are sister schools continuing the idea of dialogue across difference.
The HFB Foundation was established in 2009 to enhance the program so that it’s not simply a travel opportunity for students, but an investment in deep dialogue, personal growth and lasting social change. The Foundation is a registered non-profit, and is governed by a board of directors. Students participating in the program, and their families, are asked to make financial contributions as they are able to fund-raise for their travel. The Foundation supports all other vital components of the HFB Program.