I had the pleasure of spending this past week at the Rickman Conference Center near Jefferson City, Missouri as part of their CYF Camp. Through this camp, I met some of the most amazing youth I have ever encountered as the Peace Intern, a Camp Counselor, and one of the Pink Panthers family group leaders.
While the week started off with the challenge of a broken hot water heater (cold showers for all!), it truly put things into perspective for me. I am lucky enough to have a warm shower and running water every day from my home in Orange County. However, these are challenges that are a part of daily life all over the world. Also, after lugging my suitcase through 3 airports, I finally have discovered that I have too much “stuff.” While I considered one suitcase and a backpack as light packing for a summer of traveling, it is in fact too much. It has begun to put into perspective what I really need versus my mere wants.
During the week I was given the opportunity to lead 4 interest groups:
On Tuesday: I started off Tuesday with a group of 5 campers for a discussion on Peace and playing some cooperative games.
On Wednesday: On Wednesday I was originally worried to only have 3 campers sign up for a poverty simulation, but it ended successfully. In this simulation you take the campers through the experience of what it would be like for them and their family to become homeless, a situation facing families across the country. This also led into a discussion on “Who is
my neighbor?” and what we can do to
be better neighbors and servants in our communities.
On Thursday: On Thursday I led a workshop on stereotypes to make sure campers could begin to see the social justice issues in their daily lives. This incorporated two main activities. The first included having campers place a card on their forehead facing out and go around and treat people according to their value. A second activity involved having campers divided into two groups. The first group is positioned in a circle facing in with their eyes closed. They have a stereotype on their back. The second group circles them and whispers behind their back about the stereotype, then the groups switch. This was to give campers an experience both as the stereotyper and the stereotyped. Then we held a discussion about stereotypes in our schools and towns.
One Friday: I was shocked when I had 14 campers sign up for my interest group on Interfaith Dialogue on Friday. I started the discussion off by asking what exposure the campers had had to various other religions. While many had experienced the Catholic tradition, their experiences beyond the Christian tradition was limited. I lead the group through a Buddhist Tonglin Meditation on compassion, and left the last 45 minutes of the group for an open dialogue regarding other religions, misconceptions, and allowing the campers to ask questions in a nonjudgmental environment.
Overall my experience in Missouri was phenomenal. From glow stick capture the flag, to tons of new camp songs, to Mess night (mud volleyball, water balloon battleship, and shaving crème wiffle ball) to Night of Silence, I never ceased to be stunned by the insight of the campers. While they may have come from different cities and not have known anyone, or if they have known people their entire lives, everyone was a family by the end of camp. Missouri was a great way to jump-start my summer as a Disciples Peace Intern.