When I hear the words Middle East, something inside of me just shuts down. Sometimes it seems like theres only bad news coming out of that region of the world, and the constant media bombardment of what is going wrong makes it hard to remember people of the region, and not just statistics. Which is why Im looking forward to the McGill Middle East Peace Program Fellows Visit. From Feb. 8-10, graduate fellows from McGills Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building will be visiting the Champlain Valley region. The same organization visited about two years ago, and they gave a memorable presentation that reminded me of the human face behind the headlines. Ten graduate fellows nine young women and one young man; Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian and Armenian will be the guests of 10 host families for the weekend. These fellows were hand-picked by Jim Torczyner of Willsboro, director of the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building, to attend McGill Universitys graduate program in social work for one year. Together they learn peace building skills to advocate more effectively for the poor and dispossessed in their individual towns or refugee camps, in the conflict zones of the Middle East to which they will return this summer. While in the Adirondacks, they will be participating in three forums, and its worth it to make the time to attend at least one. On Friday, Feb. 8, from 1:30-2:30 p.m., Willsboro Central School will host a multi-school assembly which will be open to the public. The forum, Civil Society and Peace Building in the Midst of Conflict, will be led by three of the 10 visiting Middle East Fellows and Torczyner. The assembly will introduce area students and adults to the Middle Eastern Fellows through three personal stories about choosing to learn civil means to address conflicts and inequality in the Middle East. The students prepared questions will be answered. The assembly is open to all interested parents and other adults. That same day, St. Johns Episcopal Church in Essex will host a second public forum from 7:30-9 p.m. A short reception will follow, to meet and greet the fellows who will be spending the full weekend with families in Essex and Westport/Wadhams. Theres also a special presentation on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 7:30-10 p.m. The Whallonsburg Grange will be open to the public to come share music and a potluck dessert with the fellows, who will bring selections of their Middle Eastern music of several types to talk about. Any area musicians are encouraged to come and jam with acoustic instruments. Its no secret the North Country is an isolated region, and sometimes its hard to look beyond the local issues to whats happening around the world. To me, the only way to begin to understand a problem is speak to someone who is directly involved. Having this kind of opportunity is priceless.