For many, life in a bunk is one of the most fundamental parts of summer camp. New campers arriving at Seeds of Peace are no different, waiting with anticipation and excitement to discover which bunk they will spend the next two and a half weeks in. Particularly throughout the duration of such a strange camp session, full of new restrictions and protocols to keep campers and staff safe and healthy, our bunks are an important component of life at Seeds of Peace.
Each bunk is made up of around 7-10 campers, with whom you quickly develop strong connections and friendships, as you spend the majority of your time together during meals, dialogue sessions, rest times and activities. It quickly became apparent that despite the fact that all the campers during session two of Camp currently live in Maine, we present a diverse group, each contributing to our bunk communities with our own unique backgrounds, perspectives, and beliefs.
After a while, being at Seeds of Peace, the personality of each bunk truly begins to make an appearance. Part of this is through the pre-determined bunk theme ranging from Ice Castle to The Library. Each bunk also collaborates to create a cheer that represents it. It always brings smiles and laughter hearing which animal Bunk 6, the Animal Planet, has decided to impersonate that morning. Or to hear bunk 18, The Apollo 18, quietly say “Spacee” whenever we take attendance.
Every day after morning lineup and breakfast, every camper heads to their bunk to begin bunk cleanup. Although it may sound like tedious chores of sweeping and making our beds, it is really a time of fun and bonding with the campers and counselors in your bunk. We blast the music, singing and dancing as we tie up our shutters, joking and telling stories while we fold our clothes, laughing through it all. There is a strong sense of collective responsibility, teamwork and bunk pride we each work together to clean our bunks and make small “wow factors,” consisting of small notes and drawings of animal characters for Boni, our Bunk Inspector. Later on, every camper can be seen holding their breath when our bunk scores are announced at lunch lineup.
Some of the more memorable and enjoyable moments at Camp are bunk nights. The first few nights at Camp we spent our evening activity time in our bunks, getting to know our new bunkmates and counselors. We eat shared snacks and candy, play games such as Uno and Heads-Up, and share funny stories and memories. During our most recent bunk night, my bunk (bunk 12) ventured the short walk to the Small Hall to have a movie night watching Mamma Mia. Afterwards we met up with Bunk 5, the bunk we combine with for dialogue sessions and activities, for a small bonfire at lineup, s’mores, and photos taken with disposable cameras.
Being in a bunk means a sense of belonging to many, a sense of security that although the people in your bunk are initially strangers, they will soon grow to be companions at Camp and sometimes even life-long friends. Despite how strange a camp session it has been, campers have taken advantage of the new restricted situations and formed deeper and stronger connections and friendships with the people in their bunk, perhaps more than any session before. We will leave Seeds of Peace in a few days, having become a better person and leader because of it.
The meaning of Community Action is in the name. Community, a place one associates with home and action, to do something or anything. In this instance, the word “action” is used to mean the bringing of change.
Community Action at Camp provides a period of time each day for you and your peers from the same community to discuss what could make your community better, why it needs to change and what makes it great already.
“Community Action is the art of amplifying the voice of the collective,” said Danielle, Co-director of Community Action.
Community Action helps by establishing a plan, creating a timeline, identifying the people with authority to bring change and finding ways to lobby for change. For any endeavor to be successful, you need a plan. For any plan to be successful you need the will and the drive to see it through. Community Action teaches campers to devise a plan and protect it.
“It’s a great opportunity to get together with people from your community to talk about real issues within your school and come up with really beneficial solutions,” said Marin, a camper.
Community Action is a new activity organized in 2021 for first and second sessions.
“I’m really excited that we were able to introduce Community Action to Camp this summer, to link what campers are experiencing, hearing about and sharing at Camp with what they experience at home and for our young people to leave Camp with a stronger sense of shared responsibilities for their own community and a deeper belief in their collective power to have impact in their communities,” said Stoney, Co-Camp Director.
In Community Action, the goal for me is to have concrete and realistic plans to bring change and improvements to my community and my school. I feel that Community Action allows me to be reassured, organized, inspired and ecstatic that my fellow peers and I have a solid chance at bringing positive and undeniable change in myself and my community. Community Action provides a plan, a way to enact the plan, confidence that the plan will work, and a purpose.
“I think Seeds of Peace helps people find their purpose,” said Bobbie.
For me, having a purpose is one of the biggest gifts a person can receive.
Community Action has been tough, but not because of Seeds of Peace. Community Action has been tough because there are so many problems that I want to fix, but don’t have enough time to do so before this session of Camp ends.
“Community Action has been described as a wonderful, productive space for the campers to discuss issues in their community and make a plan to fix them,” said Jamie, Bunk 5 counselor.
Community Action occurs every day for 90 minutes. The entire Camp separates into community regions and discusses school and community issues. Community Action is an amazing opportunity that allows us to create real change. This new activity provides communication, openness and change. I feel myself included that the campers greatly benefit from this.
Dialogue is a primary focus in Seeds of Peace and brings numerous cultures, ethnicities, and experiences to Camp. The dialogue group focuses on expressing ideas through personal experience and sometimes complicated past or history. The 2021 Camp sessions are like no other. For the first time in Seeds of Peace Camp history, the dialogue groups were made from one’s own bunkmates. My dialogue group consisted of the seven members from my bunk, Bunk 5, along with eight members from Bunk 12. During session two, some bunks were split in half and joined other bunks to make up the dialogue groups.
One of my facilitators, Skylar, said, “I feel excited about the possibilities that dialogue opens up the chance to be seen and heard by others.”
There are a few common misconceptions about dialogue. Dialogue is a place of safety and confidentiality. In dialogue you can expect freedom, nonjudgmental expression, openness, and education. One misconception is that dialogue is the same as debate. But dialogue is not a place for right or wrong or correct and incorrect.
“Dialogue is a place to grow as a human and learn to accept others’ stories and opinions,” said Tyson, Bunk 6.
Dialogue is an important pillar of society and provides a way to share experiences and lesson hostilities and conflicts. The dialogue groups at Camp are overseen by two facilitators to make sure the groups stay on task and follow the self-established community agreements or things the group feels should be present in dialogue. The facilitators’ job is to focus the group, but at its core, the dialogue is controlled by the campers in the group.
The function of dialogue is to provide a space for discussion about conflict. Jafari, Bunk 7, said, “Dialogue is a place to learn about others and yourself through deeper conversation that you might not get otherwise.”
In dialogue huts, there are no passersby. Any discussion in the hut stays in the hut. Any discussion is confidential, and the confidentiality is monitored by the facilitators.
The purpose of dialogue is to discover and identify conflict, to come up with peaceful and socially-accepted resolutions, since the purpose of dialogue is to resolve conflicts. Friendships won’t be threatened, although you may have different perspectives. You are taught acceptance and understanding.
The Seeds of Peace organization is the soil or base. Dialogue is the nutrient found in the soil. You, the Seed, need the nutrients in the soil to grow and learn new ideas, cultures, religions, and perspectives found throughout the world.
Throughout the second session of 2021 Camp, dialogue has been a constant thought running through my mind. The ability to have a safe space to spread your own experiences is beyond the realm of words and description. “It’s always good to have a safe place to talk,” said Tyler, Bunk 5.
“I feel joy for the growth and change I see during dialogue as Seeds come into a great sense off self-awareness,” said Galen, a dialogue facilitator.
In dialogue, you can expect friendships, cooperation, fun, and relief. The easiest way to describe the Camp is “extraordinary.” Seeds of Peace Camp is creative, fun, unique and magical.
It’s Day 7 here at Camp and so much has happened. I think in just the first seven days I have seen what Seeds of Peace is all about. Seeds of Peace is an opportunity for you to find yourself in a place where you can be yourself. I’ve tried just about everything in Camp, like boating, gardening, eating the great food and just enjoying myself. My favorite part of Camp so far is Evening Activity. Evening activity is where all the campers participate in an activity planned by the facilitators (and/or counselors) and is a surprise to everyone. One that we have done already is called Café Night, where we got to go around and meet other campers. The way it was planned was so cool! I got to meet so many people that were all unique in their own way. I know that life here at Camp won’t last long, but I know that I am going to savor every last moment here. I always say, expect the unexpected, but life here at Camp is not what I expected it to be.
Here in the Big Hall of Seeds of Peace, campers are listening to a song that was made by campers and counselors from the first session, as they begin to explore the extensive musical possibilities. Because many of us are coming from various parts of Maine, it gives many opportunities closer, over a common interest.
Today, as I observed the music and songwriting group working with each other and using their teamwork skills to tune their guitars, I realized that there is so much more that brings us together than just the fact that we are all here to learn to be better leaders and have an impact on our communities. Although the work I am here to get done is important, I recognize the importance of being able to share and foster connection through my authentic self. I couldn’t help but be overcome with the utmost joy as the peace from listening to these campers all play together started emanating from the center of their circle. Here at Seeds of Peace there are always more and more opportunities to learn more about your hobbies and those of others.
On the pickleball courts, campers are using the well-known “rock, paper, scissors” game over the top of the net to determine who gets the first serve. As the campers are learning and perfecting their impressive pickleball skills, the energetic music in the background keeps the atmosphere positive and upbeat. Throughout the games, campers and counselors alike learn the importance of teamwork and communication outside of the dialogue setting.
As I walked into the field house, I saw a basketball shooting game happening. The game which involved shooting from multiple different angles had the goal of making shots from just inside the three-point line. As I watched, a free throw competition decided which team would start with the basketball. As I watched the game, I was interested to see how everyone seemed to be working toward a common objective and no one was derailing their team. Each team worked as a seamless unit. Despite not spending much time together, they seem to have developed chemistry in the passing of the ball. Aside from that, people seemed to genuinely enjoy what they were doing and even the counselors integrated seamlessly into the games and their respective teams.
The power of sports to make people happy and bring them together is particularly noticeable in this special activity. Supporting passes were frequent, as were lay-ups close to the basket. The athletes prevented the other team from stealing their ball with their back to their opponent, and generally whatever they were doing, which made me perceive that they had discussed form of strategy at some point.
The shooting form improvements were quite startling and showed the results of prior days practices. The activity’s culture was one of encouragement and the atmosphere was casual. Risky three-point shots are minimized when the game is casual and people generally prefer to pass rather than shoot. It seems that part of Seeds of Peace is to come together, whether that be in communication or sports or any other activities. The counselors helped with the team culture and showed the morals and ideals of Seeds of Peace. The passion with which they played was similar to the gusto with which many other activities were conducted at Camp. I think that sports have the unique power to unite people, which brings to mind the saying, “It takes a village.” This reminds us that it does “take a village” to succeed together, the village or rather the community of Seeds of Peace.
Observing other special activities can really tell you what other people are interested in. One of them could be “Draaake” and you are probably wondering what it’s about. Draaake is a special activity where you can listen to some of Drake’s songs. You listen to some of it and later talk about Drake as an artist and his story. One of the people who runs this special activity is Boni, the bunk inspector here at Camp. He thinks that this special activity can a way for people to learn about his music and how Drake came to be. I think this is a great activity to get to know people who appreciate not only an artist’s music, but also why they do what they do. There is such a variety of special activities to choose from here at Seeds of Peace, but this one is definitely unique. You listen to different artists’ music and understand how they are as people, through their music.
Seeds of Peace is a place where many different people come together. Since everyone is from all over, not everyone is exposed to a place to swim. We all took swim tests to decide what level of swimmers we are. If we got ranked a 1 or a 2, the opportunity for swim lessons surfaced. Counselors and sports leaders teach these campers proper form, technique, new methods, breathing techniques and how to stay afloat. For new swimmers, this can be overwhelming, but with the positive atmosphere, they seemed very relaxed. Counselors were very supportive, giving constructive criticism, and laughing along with the campers. The campers all seemed to be trying very hard and having a good time, as they were constantly smiling and encouraging each other. The area felt very safe and I believe the campers were relaxed. Swimming is a very hard skill to learn, but with the support from each other, the campers seem to persevere.
Arts and crafts are a big part of camp, as almost everyone has friendship bracelets, or flower crowns, or tie-dyed bags and so much more. Since it is such a large part of Camp, it became its own activity that campers can participate in. As is observed in the art shack, I saw many different activities – tote bag painting, drawing, bracelet-making and much more. It was a very creative atmosphere, as well as relaxed and stress-free. With everyone having different creative outlets, they helped each other with ideas. Nobody seemed down, as soft music played, and everyone was on task.
Callie interviewing Maggie and Faysal
Q. What were your initial feelings when told about Seeds of Peace?
Maggie: I was excited for the opportunity, intrigued, looking forward to skills that could be learned.
Faysal: I jumped right in, good to get away from home, a chance to be by myself.
Q. What does being at Seeds of Peace mean to you?
Maggie: It means a new opportunity to help my community and become a better leader.
Faysal: It means a lot. Stuff here is important to talk about. There needs to be change in the world and here is where that starts.
Q. How do you feel about what you have learned already?
Maggie: In general, different perspectives helps with realizing there are other issues outside one’s own community. This is a comfortable and safe place to be open and meet new people.
Faysal: I already felt like a leader. I learned more about better leadership skills, learning to be inclusive.
Q. How has the socializing aspect of Camp been for you?
Maggie: I miss snuggling with my cats and talking with close friends about new perspectives and experiences and memories.
Faysal: I am usually always on the phone. Being without it gives me more opportunity for human connection and to get to know nature.
Q. What has been a challenge for you at Camp?
Maggie: I had a fear that people won’t contribute to deep and important conversations. But people are willing to talk.
Faysal: Evening time because I never know what it is going to be.
Deven interviewing Maggie and Faysal
Q. What has been your favorite experience so far at Camp?
Faysal: Evening activities, especially the Staff Talent Show and Café Night.
Maggie: I like when we are not with our bunks, like Café Night, field time or a basketball game.
Q. What has been your most challenge experience so far at Camp?
Faysal: Getting settled at Camp because I have never done anything like that.
Maggie: Canoeing because I have never gone in one before and it was challenging to do back strokes.
Q. What is your favorite part of the day?
Faysal: Special activities because you get to choose the one you want and can go outside your comfort zone or not.
Maggie: Rest hour because we are all chilling and hanging out and evening activities.
Q. What has been your biggest growth area so far?
Faysal: Socializing with people and trying to get to know more people.
Maggie: Socially, I have never really walked up to someone and asked to be friends.
Q. What are you most looking forward to at Camp?
Faysal: Community Action.
Maggie: All the skills I am going to learn and I will bring back home.
Camp seems like a good place to meet people and really get to know them. It seems like this is what really makes this place is the spirit of the people in it. The enthusiasm, but also the reactions of the counselors, helps us develop leadership and stepping-back skills, which enhances the culture of the place.
Early bird activities are a special time for me, as I like the solitude sometimes and the tranquility, whether I am running, walking or doing a number of other things. I am starting to feel at home at Camp and I think Bunk 7 is really starting to come together, whether that be telling stories about Deadly Deer around the campfire or rowdy games of UNO before bed or rest time.
Swim time and field times are unique in that in that it gives the opportunity to meet people outside dialogue groups and bunk groups. I love swim time especially because it’s so personal and uplifting shown by how I observed bunkmates teaching a level one swimmer how to swim and learn new strokes. Field times on the other hand, I see people from different bunks, but also different identifying sexes come together in sports or chill time.
Dialogue, although we haven’t yet reached the meat of it, has the distinct power to bring out conversation and get people talking who wouldn’t necessarily be doing so otherwise. I can already tell that my group, Group C, will have some very serious and illuminating discussions together. Although there is a lot of hesitation coming from people who aren’t bunkmates, I can see that this is initial difference that will quickly matter less and less.
As I first walked into Camp, I wasn’t expecting everything and everyone to be so welcoming. All the staff were excited, which made others around me excited, creating a very happy atmosphere. The fact that they were welcoming everyone with open arms and smiles on their faces made me relax. I had the expectation Seeds of Peace would be a lot less camp-like, and stricter and more direct, such as school. But as the days went on, it became clear to me that that expectation was wrong. It’s only day four and I have a lot more to learn and see, but it already starts to feel like a second home. At first my feelings were mixed, with fear, stress and concern, but now I’m just excited for what’s next. It was one of the best first impressions I’ve ever experienced and will stick with me forever.
You know what they say about first impressions and when I got here, I was intrigued. My first few days here and I have already seen so much of Camp. My bunkmates are kind of an interesting bunch and to think we are the smallest bunk. I was definitely nervous the first day because I didn’t know what everything here was going to be like. I soon got comfortable realizing how much fun I was having here. Line up here can really be a time you can look around and appreciate Seeds of Peace.
Oh, I forgot to say what my name was. My name is Faysal and everything about this camp is amazing! The food, the staff, activities, and every single other thing here is not what I had imagined it to be. The counselors and facilitators make this wonderful place the place to be. Make every moment count because it can go by fast. Take it from me who is writing this on only day four of Camp.
When I was first told about Seeds of Peace, I was intrigued about the opportunity presented to me. As the application and interview process carried out, it started to become more real. But that feeling couldn’t compare with how real Camp feels now that I’m here and not reading emails about the countdown to Camp. As was recently pointed out to me by a very influential person in my life, making the decision to leave home for 18 days on my own with complete strangers in hopes of gaining skills and relationships to change the world I live in is a choice that takes a lot of courage and bravery.
One thing that scared me the most was the daunting dialogue sessions that nobody seemed to want to tell me about. I’ll get to more of that later, but I want to talk about all the advice I’ve been given and what it meant to me when I heard it and what it means to me now.
During the opening ceremony for Camp, many past campers and counselors gave advice. One piece of advice made me realize my reason for being here was this: “You are here to learn the skills to make change in the world. You cannot hope to make your community more just and inclusive, if you are not willing to be the embodiment of what you stand for.”
Each morning at Camp from 10-11 a.m., campers participate in special activities of their choice. This morning, I observed two of them: Swing Dancing and Singing 101. In Swing Dancing, I saw six campers, split into pairs. There were lots of spins, turns, steps, and moves. I noticed a little confusion, but that was cleared up by the counselor, who went around helping campers when needed. In preparation for the upcoming Camp Talent Show, in which they are hoping to perform, the campers planned out their dance and practiced it. They danced together to work on whatever needed the most practice. Over the course of the time I was there, I could see the progress they made. The campers seem very comfortable and happy with each other. Some of them told me about their time in Swing Dancing. When they arrive, they begin warming up with the Shim Sham and practice dances such as The Charleston and the East Coast. They also watch videos online of professional swing dancing and follow along to learn the steps. The counselor and campers seem to have a lot of fun together!
In Singing 101, five campers took turns practicing songs of their choice. The did Karaoke, some solos, and some duets, into a microphone. Each unique voice was supported and cheered by their peers, as they got their moment in the spotlight. Some campers shared with me that their experience in Singing 101 from vocal warm-ups to Karaoke, to vocal tips and advice from counselors, campers find this special activity a great way to ground and express themselves.
All of the special activities are super fun and great opportunities to make new friends and connections. They are a great part of the day at Camp!
I got the chance to observe two special activity groups and I really enjoyed behind them. I am glad to share them with you.
Evening Activity Prep is all about coming together. While interviewing the staff, I learned that they share ideas about creating evening activities, based on campers’ interests so they come together to have fun. They create time to help campers enjoy their Seeds of Peace experiences. I talked with Katie and Hady, the counselors with this group and they said they love to get feedback from the campers. Evening activities have taught us about using teamwork and hearing other points of view.
Mural painting has shared a message all about putting campers’ interest in art. While I was interviewing the people in this special activity, they were working on a mural painted on the boys’ shower house. While watching the campers working together on the mural, it was apparent that they all came together to put their favorite Camp experiences on a big painting – a beautiful example of teamwork.
I talked with Felix, the camper who created the painting. He wanted to show new campers the beauty of the Camp because visual beauty is very important and powerful. He uses this special activity to make something nice to look at and remember the experiences the campers had together.
It was a great experience to see how both groups had the same interest and love. I can’t wait for the 2022 campers to share the same experiences.
Amin’s interview with Ella
Question: When coming to Camp, what did you expect? How is it different in actuality from those expectations?
Answer: I expected us to be in tents, in the forest, exploring and looking at nature, traditional “camp” or “camping things.” I was surprised to see that really we were living in buildings, that there’s civilization nearby, we have actual food and electricity. I also thought it was only going to be with the people I rode on the bus here with, not 60-80 people.
Question: What stands out to you as unique about the Camp?
Answer: How easily we get along with each other, how comfortable we are with one another.
Question: When you go home, what aspects of Camp will stick with you the most?
Answer: My bunkmates and the beautiful lake.
Question: What is your favorite part of your day at Camp?
Answer: Swimming in the lake. I don’t have many opportunities to swim at home, so I’ve been swimming every day here.
Question: What is the most valuable thing you have learned so far?
Answer: If you don’t have something good to say or something that will add to the conversation, stay silent and listen.
Question: Why would you recommend Seeds of Peace Camp to someone at home?
Answer: You get to meet all types of new people, swim a lot, eat surprisingly good food and the counselors and everyone here are good people. Everyone respects your beliefs, pronouns, and whatever else you carry with you.
Micah’s interview with Eva
As my interviewee and I sat down at the edge of the lake, it was not hard to start the conversation when asked about her expectations before Camp. She jumped right in. She was really excited to meet new people and she also wanted to improve her communication skills. And when asked if Camp had met her expectations, the answer was an emphatic “Yes!” The interviewee really feels she has stepped out of her comfort zone and she is grateful to Seeds of Peace for that. “I feel like I have gotten better at so many things,” she says.
Then we talked about dialogue. Eva was quick to gush about her dialogue group. She thinks they are smart, supportive and is able to relate to them even though they come from all walks of life. She thinks that if there were more people like the ones in her dialogue group, the world would be a much better place.
But she also loves dialogue itself, especially how conflict is treated. “In Seeds of Peace dialogue, the focus is on understanding each other. In places like schools, it’s just about arguing. The fact that everyone is trying to understand each other makes opening up and being vulnerable much easier.”
After a bit of silent reflection, Eva remarked on the beautiful lake we were looking at. She thinks being in such a beautiful and secluded spot only helps the ideas behind Seeds of Peace. She says that being in nature improves her concentration and pushes her to connect with others. She also remarks on how having no phones makes connections easier.
When I ask about how she plans to use her Seeds of Peace. experience back home, she smiles. “I will try to go on more walks and be on my phone less.” She laughs. She also wants to step out of her comfort zone more often and wants to connect more with her extended community.
Finally, when asked if she could say something to people considering Seeds of Peace, she says, “go for it!”
I talked with a camper from session one to tell me a few things about his Seeds of Peace Camp experience.
Seeds of Peace has really impacted him. He is much more open-minded toward other points of view. He also expressed that back home was like a bubble, meaning bad stuff happens but he hears about it from social media and not the actual people. But when he came to Seeds of Peace he was able to share many experiences and communicate and relate to the same things as them.
As I asked him what are some of the things he likes in Seeds of Peace, he expressed that he likes everything about Camp, but mostly getting to meet new people and being able to share experiences with other campers. He also likes how he can fan out and meet new interesting people at Camp.
He shared the experience of not having a phone removing a big obstacle in connecting with people. If people had their phones, Seeds of Peace wouldn’t have been successful as it is without people having phones. It gives you the time to actually communicate and have a nice opportunity to take a break.
He also has been impacted by activities. He shared that it’s an important opportunity to allow you to be interacting with your dialogue group and give them trust and get to know them more.
He expressed that dialogue group is one of his favorite things. His group is really awesome and feels very lucky to be in a group like this one. They are smart, respectful and funny. He wants to have more friend like them to open up and come together.
He shares a message to upcoming campers of 2022 to get out of yourself and then put into the group. He expressed, “the more you try to socialize and communicate, the more you will learn, which is a very important goal in life.”
While interacting with this camper, I got to know much more things about him and he has a nice open view of things.
Question: How were your emotions when you came here?
Answer: I was nervous and excited, thinking, “Is this real? This is what I have been waiting for.”
Question: How did you expect people to treat you here?
Answer: I expected we would become friends, but there was some drama between us and we are teenagers. But at the end of the day, we like each other.
Question: What will you miss the most when Camp is over?
Answer: I will miss the constant connection we have here, face-to-face, not on the Internet and we are always around nature that our humanity needs and as much as I want to join society, I will miss everything.
Question: What was something unique at Camp?
Answer: Even if we have different backgrounds and paths, we have this one common mindset: even if we disagree with each other, we still respect each other.
Question: What question do you wish I had asked you but didn’t?
Answer: Maybe, what is my favorite activity of the day? My answer is evening activity because it always changes, and it is something new and exciting.
Between new friends, constant activity, memories we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives, and experiences we wouldn’t trade for anything, camp goes by in a blur. It’s hardly believable that as of today, Wednesday, July 21, we have one week until we leave Camp. Here’s a peek into what we’ve been doing each day.
Beginning at 7:15 a.m., we have the option to participate in “Early Bird” activities. Many campers get up to walk, talk, read, explore the gorgeous premises or get some exercise. Personally, I have gone on a quiet, peaceful run each morning. Those who choose to sleep through “Early Bird” activities will get up at 8:00 AM and once everyone is dressed, we head to line up. When everyone is seated on the signature green benches by bunk, we are greeted by Spencer and Stoney, our Camp Directors (A.K.A., Sponey). We get some inspiration from a different bunk each time, and a weather report from waterfront lead, Keira.
Once line up is over, we head to breakfast.
There’s a rotation of eggs, sausage, pancakes, French toast, and more. And of course, there’s the cereal bar—a fan favorite, and not just at breakfast! Campers head back to their bunks after breakfast to tidy up, sweep and clean out the sinks before Bunk Inspector Boni arrives to go through his checklist later on. Once our bunks are clean and shiny, we head to our special activity. This is an activity we sign up for—there’s a variety of fun options and you can choose whichever piques your interest the most!
When special activities are over, campers either attend dialogue, if they have morning sessions, or the alternative activity with their group (sports, art, gardening, boating). At 12:30 p.m. is Lunch Logistics Line Up. We get back in our bunk groups, and each bunk is awarded a score out of ten points on how well they cleaned up their bunk that day. Next up is lunch. We have a variety of food, plus a salad bar. Each lunch option is usually scrumptious! After lunch, the Green bunks have the option to go swimming in our lovely Pleasant Lake, while the Blue bunks have rest time in their bunks. After a while, it swaps. Whatever bunks are in rest time also have access to Camp flip phones to call home to family and friends.
After all the resting and swimming is done, whichever groups didn’t have dialogue in the morning do it then and whoever did, goes to the activity. At 5:30 p.m. snacks are given out to all campers and next is Community Action. Campers sit with people from the same place they normally live, like, Syracuse, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Boston, Maine, etc.) and work together to address issues seen in their local schools or community, and how to solve them.
Dinner line up is after Community Action and involves any last announcements. Dinner is similar to lunch and following it is Field Time, in which campers can do sports, games or activities outside with friends.
The last event of the night is Evening Activity, planned by various counselors and different every day! It over between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. typically, and campers and counselors head back to their bunks to shower and get ready for bed. Lights out is at 10:40 and by then, we are wiped out. Camp days are long, but amazing!
The perks of having no phone! Arriving at Camp, I was worried about not having my phone for two weeks and a half. I was stuck in my head thinking, “What happens if I miss Trends?” or “How am I gonna survive?” But come to know about it, it’s really the opposite. It actually helped me to take a break. I realized there’s more to nature than burying your head in a phone. It’s a great time.
Special activities have a special place in my heart. It is filled with the joy of exploring new things and then showing them for the other campers. The first one up was Dance. One of my friends choreographed an amazing dance to Beyoncé. We were shocked by her amazing moves and everyone cheered for her.
Next up was the Arts Club! They surprised us with amazing tie dye shirts, sweat shirts, bandanas, and much more! They blessed our eyes with patterns and beautiful colors. The whole crowd lit up with joy and their expensive sense of style. We were all surprised and fell in love with their designs.
Line up is the best part of each day. We get to know more about Muslim holidays, like Eid. I interviewed one of our Muslim campers, Amira, to tell me more about the holiday. She said it is a connection between family and friends, bringing joy to all. It is very meaningful and lasts for three days. They eat many sweets.
It’s been a crazy but fun evening here at Camp! I am writing this from the Big Hall while the Ga-Ga World Cup happens! Campers have been split up into teams based on the make-up of their new meal table groups. First up to play were teams “Bobbie and the Jets” and “Sponey’s Ponies,” with “Bobbie and the Jets” moving on! Next up were teams, “Sunshine” and “Zidy,” with “Zidy” winning. “Zidy” and “Bobbie and the Jets” then moved on to the final round, after a crazy dance party! It was seriously crazy, all the jumping caused the floors to start shaking, which then happened again after the final round, which “Bobbie and the Jets” team won! Congrats to them!
That’s not all the craziness that happened today. Tonight during field time, there was a giant staff versus campers soccer game, which was a lot of fun and very competitive. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.
One more fun event that happened this evening was Eid. The kitchen staff cooked a wonderful meal, based on what one of the Muslim campers said they eat at home. It shows what Seeds of Peace is really about—representing and sharing all ways of life. It is truly an amazing thing. You’ll never find another camp like this one!
Almost every day at Camp we have dialogue sessions. In most prior years, when we have not faced the threat of COVID-19, dialogue groups would be completely different from bunk groups. This year, due to COVID restrictions, dialogue groups include one full bunk plus half of another bunk, creating groups A, B, C, D, and E. Each group meets from either 11 to 12:30 a.m. or 4 to 5:30 p.m. If you have dialogue in the morning, your group will have and activity in the afternoon—sports, art, gardening, boating, etc. And vice versa.
On the Camp grounds, there is a long line of dialogue huts with names like Bear, Eagle, and Moose, along what we like to call “Dialogue Alley.” Each group is assigned a hut, and each hut has two dialogue facilitators who help moderate the campers’ dialogues.
Dialogue began with creating a list of community norms, a set of guidelines to help keep the conversation safe, respectful and health, even if there is disagreement. Dialogue is definitely a communal effort. Whether you are talking more or listening more, everyone plays an active part in the conversation. Dialogue can be challenging. Sometimes it needs to be. Sometimes we need a moment. Sometimes the silences say more than the words. Sometimes it gets messy. We have a saying here at Seeds of Peace: “be raggedy.” That entails being raw, blunt, or whatever else we might need to be in order to have a meaningful or productive discussion.
Dialogue topics can range from social issues to identity to economic positions and everything in-between and beyond. We have moments of tension, moments of discomfort, moments of difficulty. We also have moments of deep support, togetherness and hope. In order to make dialogue work we need to trust each other. These 10-15 people are the people who see us at our rawest selves, over those two and a half weeks at Camp. Despite tension or unsettled feelings, we have to figure out how to cooperate with one another to make it work. Dialogue is a powerful, transformative thing and many people will tell you they believe it to be the most impactful part of Camp.
Today I am documenting. My sister introduced me to this holy place. I didn’t even know the name of it. But what really got me going was a friend of mine who went there told me about the meals, bunks and swimming—it was a roller coaster of emotions. I didn’t know how to swim, but he told me they gave swimming lessons. That was at least exciting. I was embarrassed once they told me to wear a life jacket. I mean, come on, a 16-year-old boy who didn’t know how to swim was kinda sad. But luckily counselors named Keira and Matthew were there to help me out. Why would I leave out the life jacket which would take care of me? I mean it was the thing I was embarrassed about that became the thing I most appreciated. I just needed to learn how to tread water. I used to sit with my bunkmates but now the Camp co-directors, Stony and a handsome guy named Spencer, switched it up. I ended up with a sweet counselor named Zaiya and a couple of her campers and other boys.
Today was Eid-Al Adha, a holy day Muslims celebrate. I came back while special activity was taking place. A friend of mine, Elizabeth, led me to my place where I was writing a document about Seeds of Peace, called, “Today I am documenting.”
You know there are many dialogues where different bunks meet up and share their opinions and any matter they want to discuss. It is wild sometimes. The topics can be hot and spicy. Thoughts were crossing my mind but I kept them to myself because I was kinda shy and self-conscious if they were going to judge me based on my opinions. But once I got to know them, the seconds went by and I got more comfortable about them. I finally spit out what I was holding back—I went full-blast! Since there were about 17 campers in that little dialogue hut I had to listen to each one of them but at the end of the day, I became a great listener.
“Welcome to the Ga-Ga World Cup!!” Sahra the counselor yelled as everybody cheered. “You will be divided into four teams. Each team will plan a semi-final and the two winners will face off in the Grande Finale!” Everyone cheered again.
Sahra handed the mic over to Brandon, the referee, who explained the rules for everyone who didn’t know them. If the ball hits you anywhere below your knees, you’re out. If you touch the ball twice, without it being touched by another player or the wall of the octagonal playing area in between, then you are out. If you hit the ball straight out of the arena, you are out.
We split into our four teams and awaited the first game. It was close but team #1 ended up winning. Then it was our turn. It was a tough game simply because there were so many players, but also because not everyone knew everyone on their teams. So there was a fair but friendly fire. I got out towards the end of the game, but we had done enough for the rest of the team to win the game and book our place in the finals.
After a quick break, our team, team #4, reconvened to make a better game plan. We made sure everyone knew everybody on the team, and then we stepped into the octagon. Brandon threw up the big red bouncy ball and the game began.
We started out the game really well. My teammates eliminated many of team one’s best players and I felt that we had a good grasp on the game. But then some of us started getting out. First one, then two, then three and now the game was much more even.
But we pushed back. We continued to fight until I had a golden opportunity. I was in a prime position to get a big elimination and all but sealed the game. I winded up, eyes on the target and swung at the ball.
But, I slipped. My hand connected with the ball low, too low, and the ball sailed out of the arena. I was out.
I slowly trudged out of the arena as some of my teammates consoled me. The game didn’t go on for much longer. Team One came out the victor. I was pretty angry at myself for messing up so badly. As a relatively competitive person, the loss hurt.
However, as I looked around the Big Hall, I realized that people had moved on. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, but that they knew they were here to connect with people, not to win a game of meaningless Ga-Ga.
So, I did the same thing. And as I sit here writing this, I am glad I sang and danced and had fun until the end of the evening, rather than sulk about a game of Ga-Ga.
Living with seven to nine other teens and two counselors in a bunk for over two weeks poses both amazing fun experiences and unique challenges. You learn to compromise and create memories with your bunkmates. They are the people you will spend most of your time with, and by the end, you’ll love each other like a second family. Bunk clean-up each day after breakfast is a collaborative effort, but getting reactions out of bunk inspector Boni, plus having a clean, comfortable living space is worth the work.
Our days here are long. We wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. each morning and by lights out at 10:40 p.m., we are back in our bunks and so tired we fall asleep as soon as our heads hit our pillows. These wonderful days are exhausting, but so rewarding. We work hard all day swimming, doing sports, participating in endless amounts of activities and doing dialogue. It’s always nice to come back to our bunks in the middle of the day to take an energizing nap, play a game of Uno, make a friendship bracelet or write a letter.
Our laundry at Camp is always a tough decision—what to wash, what not to wash? Given that the laundry takes two to three days to get back to us, we need to make sure we have enough clothes to last us!
When you walk into a bunk, the first thing you notice is the dozens, maybe hundreds, of signatures and messages penned all over every available surface. The walls, the beds, floors and ceilings are covered up with over a hundred years’ worth of past campers’ and counselors’ names.
The present campers, myself included, will be certain to leave our mark before our time at the beautiful, historic camp is over. Whether we came here with one set of intentions or another, we can be sure this place already has left its mark on us, the bunks and bunk experiences included! And we still have over a week left!
Each day at Camp, campers are offered opportunities for aquatic pursuits. We have designated swim times every day, as long as there’s no thunder or lightning in sight. In our first few days at Camp, we all took the swim test—one lap down and back alongside the dock and one minute of treading water. Everyone was given a level based on their ability and that determined where they could safely swim. I was given a level three, enabling me to swim anywhere in the swimming area, shallow or deep. So far, I have swum every day we have been allowed. Both of my towels and my hair are perpetually wet, but it’s worth it to get to enjoy the clean, beautiful lake and bond with new friends. Before we are given permission to enter the water, each camper is required to find a buddy and then each pair is given a number to do buddy-checks every 15 minutes while swimming. Safety first!
We get to splash around with our buddies, friends and counselors, with no fear, thanks to our wonderful waterfront lead, Keira, and her rotating team of talented life-guards. We are provided with noodles and balls to play with and that helps make each swim time a blast!
Looking around at all the smiling and laughing faces of my new friends clumped together on top of the bunk beds, I can barely remember why I felt so scared when they announced the bunks the first day we got here. I obviously didn’t know any of them, but I was nervous to live with these other eight campers for the next two and a half weeks. We were all so different, talked differently and felt differently. There were a lot of doubts racing through my mind. What if I didn’t like them? What if they didn’t like me?
The awkward process of icebreakers, name-forgetting, and shared living continued until our second night. Our counselors sat us down and explained an important process that each bunk does: bunk norms. Each bunk makes a set of community guidelines that they choose to adhere to. Our process of creating bunk norms was crucial to our bonding because it taught us something important: No matter how different we all may seem, we all want the same thing. We all wanted to be respectful and respected. We all wanted each other to keep an open mind and to not judge too quickly. We all wanted to work together.
This breakthrough in the bunk relationship was so important because it allowed us to focus on our friendships and not be so careful around each other all the time. Now we could truly get to know each other. But another thing that the bunk norms did was allow us to branch off and meet new people, since we weren’t focused on making a good impression on our bunkmates.
So now each night when we sit around cracking jokes waiting for our shower slot, or when we race against the clock to clean our bunk, our priorities have changed. We don’t second guess ourselves and we don’t focus on not seeming too happy or too sad or tired or anything. We are just in the moment, living collaboratively and elevating all our Seeds of Peace experiences. I am so excited to see how much deeper our relationships progress.
I am going to start by telling you my favorite Camp experience. On Wednesday of our first week of Camp, me and the girls in my bunk were getting ready for our evening activity—boating. We put on our swim suits and Seeds of Peace sweatshirts, then headed over to the boat shack. The boat shack is where we keep our boats and paddles.
After we arrived there, we got taught how to wear our life jackets and the right way to hold our paddles. After we finished learning, we got to choose partners and I chose Matteo. Matteo is a sweet and friendly person who makes our whole dialogue group laugh. He’s like a sunshine of joy so I knew it was going to be a pretty fun experience.
We finally went to choose our boats and put it in the lake. When we got on the boat, we started sailing with the group. Then, unfortunately, me and Matteo got separated. It was pretty funny, so we were laughing so hard and couldn’t even paddle but we eventually stopped laughing a little and used teamwork to paddle back to the group. When we got settled, we played water basketball and passed it around. After we were done, we decided to play tug-o-war with Matt and Tonya. They won against us. For their victory we started splashing each other for fun. Bobbie came by to take some fun pictures of us, while also laughing at our hilarious acts.
We said goodbye to Bobbie and chilled for a bit in the lake while having a good conversation. We took our boats back and said our goodbyes, then headed back to our bunks.
Read out loud by Tonya and bunkmates at morning line up.
Blooming from the trees was a little Bird, who was just being born from his mother.
He was perfectly healthy and had the right skills for life.
But the little bird had a dream. He wanted to fly one day.
His siblings already knew how to fly, except for him.
All he wanted was to spread his wings up in the air and fly like never before, so he started to practice.
Little bird would go up to the house and jump off and spread his wings to fly.
But he never did, instead he got hurt.
Little bird would go to the tree and jump off and spread his wings to fly but he never did,
Instead, he got hurt again.
This time little bird gave up. He cried and cried all night saying he would never fly. He would never do what he always wanted to do.
It wasn’t until a voice told him to keep trying and never give up and he would get his wish.
After that, he tried again. Little bird tried to fly from the house, but he never did.
Little bird tried to fly from the tree, but he never did.
He tried one last time but this time it was a mountain cliff. He took the risk.
And he spread his wings up in the air and jumped off the cliff and guess what?
He did what he always wanted to do. He flied in the air like never before, flying from the bottom to the top.
All of this because he never gave up on his dream and everyone else shouldn’t either!
Kira and Sarah
The Cooking special activity decorated cupcakes while blind-folded, with a partner. One partner, while looking at the cupcake, instructed the other person who was blind-folded. They also made the cakes that were used in the Camp-wide “Master Chef” decorating challenge. Interviewees’ (Lily, Meher, Zack and Marley) favorite parts were having conversations while they ate or worked on new projects.
Bringing back your childhood memories, let’s talk about fairy houses! Fairy houses are made out of rocks, branches, bark, pine cones, acorns and anything else you can find in nature. They are built for fairy inhabitants! Garden Dwellers is another special activity for campers who want to be creative in nature. Campers in this group have made nature journals, fairy houses, and explored the Camp garden and surrounding areas. Interviewees Amin, Talin and Bobbi found Garden Dwellers a very peaceful and stress-relieving activity.
Tali and Noa
Of the special activities campers do each day, dance, Ultimate Frisbee, and basketball are the most active. In dance, campers switched between viewing their friends’ choreography and learning about what makes a dance successful. They discussed control, confidence, energy and using your space.
In Ultimate Frisbee, campers started off with Frisbee warm up drills, such as passing across without dropping it. Campers are continuously supported by cheering staff throughout their activity. After the drills, campers play a game of Ultimate Frisbee. Then they transition to basketball drills and different shooting games. If time permits, they then participate in a short football scrimmage. Campers are given many water breaks and they wear masks throughout the hour. Next week, campers get the opportunity to try new active special activities.
Today as your author, Tonya, I’ll be talking about what the campers do for Art and Craft special activity. I just got to the group while they were doing their project. They did the tie dye yesterday. Now they are making bracelets, painting tote bags and washing the tie dye shirts. They are doing all of this at the same time. Campers got to choose which one they would like to do for the last day. Most of arts and crafts is a calm area. There is no yelling, just talking. I asked a couple of campers how they liked arts and craft. They said it is good and calming. I also asked Hannah the arts and craft leader how it feels to lead the group. She responded that it is calm and she likes the way everyone can do things.
Hello readers, Today as your author, I’ll be talking about one of the special activities: Debate!
As I see, they warm up first, like moving their bodies. Afterward, they talk about the warm-up. Today the Debate activity campers will be writing a spoken word essay. The campers are listening to a spoken word poem about the lives of people of color. Afterward, the staff gave them time to think. Some of the campers shared their thoughts about what they just heard from the poem. For today, the campers would write a poem of their own and perform their poems for the rest of the group. Now Debate special activity is about to end and I’ll be walking back to mine.
7:15 a.m. Early Bird Activities – People can go running or walking, talking, do tarot cards, read or chat or yoga, etc. However, most people sleep.
8 a.m. First bell – All campers are awakened by the bell or by their bunkmates.
8:15 a.m. Second bell – 10 minutes to line-up, campers get ready – Are you ready yet?
8:25 a.m. Final bell – Out the door!
8:30 a.m. Line-up! Everyone is together for announcements about the schedule for the day and one bunk offers some inspiration.
8:45 a.m. or so Breakfast – The menu switches every day (pancakes are common, but there is also cereal, yogurt, oatmeal with a variety of toppings and milk). Today we had French toast. There is a new addition of iced tea.
9:30 a.m. Bunk clean-up (Impress Boni, the bunk inspector, and leave bribes for a high score. Also, clean-up!)
10 a.m. Special Activities, choice-based activities you do over the course of 4 days, such as basketball, Ultimate Frisbee, cooking/baking, dance, gardening and of course the best one, documenting!
11 a.m. Pod activities or dialogue – We rotate through art, boating, land sports, etc., as a dialogue group/pod so we can remain mask-less. Otherwise, groups C and D go to dialogue.
12:30 p.m. Logistics lunch line-up (Go, alliteration!) where we talk about the rest of the day and receive bunk clean-up scores
12:50 p.m. Lunch – Fill your stomach again (usually with hot dogs, falafel or chicken or something else)
1:50 p.m. Blue rest hour and calling home (The Camp is split into two sections – Blue and Green and they alternate swimming and rest hour/calling home.)
2:50 p.m. Blue swimming; Green rest hour/calling home. (See above for details)
3:50 p.m. Pod activities or Dialogue (Dialogue groups A, D and E meet for dialogue)
5:30 p.m. Snack time – Eat and talk and have an apple
5:45 p.m. Community Action – Campers from the similar areas meet to discuss creating change at home
6:30 p.m. Dinner line-up, entertainment and evening activity schedule announced
6:45 p.m. Dinner – more food!
7:30 p.m. Field time – Mingle with campers from other bunks in the field, play pickleball, kickball or Ultimate Frisbee
8 p.m. Evening activity – programming designed by counselors and facilitators for campers
9:15 p.m. Showers – Get ready for bed, hang out with your bunk, settle down
10:40 p.m. Lights out and go to sleep
My name is Tonya and I came from New York City. The bus ride was fun but long. Ms. Emily was really nice. She offered us snacks and water and she played movies for us. We made three rest stops so we could eat and move around. It took us eight hours to get to Maine. The Camp was very welcoming. We got a tour around the Camp. We ate a great dinner. We took showers and got to meet our roommates and bunk counselors. We did “1 to 5” about our day and lights out! Also, 1 to 5 is how our day was like: 1 is bad, 3 is okay and 5 is great.
Hello from Camp! Over the past few days, our bunks have started to bond and form group dynamics. We started off with some initial awkwardness, but broke it with name games and silly activities. On the second night of Camp, each bunk created their norms and expectations. My bunk (bunk 16) included things such as “Respect physical and emotional space,” “No one left behind,” “Practice self-love,” and “Be silly.” One thing my bunk is particularly connected over is a card game called, We Are Not Really Strangers, where you ask each other questions that get increasingly personal as the game goes on. We have also connected over simpler things, such as sharing a flashlight or cleaning a sink. I expect that other bunks feel the same way. As the days go by, with the addition of dialogue, campers continue to bond and click into place.
Early Bird activities start at 7:15 a.m. Campers, the night before, can ask their counselors to set an alarm for 7 a.m. Campers then start getting ready quietly before heading to the meet-up spot: the small tent set up in the big field. Campers then sign in with the adult who is in charge and then can go off and do whatever activity they choose in the surrounding areas. Many campers either choose to work out or talk with new friends.
As someone who has attended both mornings, I have seen many campers running or walking around the loop road around Camp. I have also seen many fellow campers sitting and talking to people they have met at Camp.
I know that I am glad the Early Bird has become a new activity this year. Don’t take just my word though. Thirty-five other people showed up for Early Bird the first morning of the activity.
We pulled into the Camp area and I immediately texted goodbye to all my friends. I was a little sad about not being able to talk to them, but I was pretty excited to be here. As we were getting off the bus, a crowd of cheering people greeted us and I was filled with a lot of happiness and some second-hand embarrassment. The whole bus split into groups, but mine took some more time to get going. We were there as another bus came in and for a few seconds before peeling off, we were part of the cheering people, which felt pretty good. Later, as we ate snacks, I got to meet more people and make some friends. That night, I was pleasantly surprised by dinner because the food was really good. I also met some more people in my bunk, which was very exciting. The rest of the night was pretty chill: I showered (which was a lot nicer than I was expecting) and I read my book for a bit. It was a really great first night and it made me excited for the rest of Camp.
Today at Seeds of Peace, campers woke up to the sound of rain hitting the bunk roof. As they stepped outside for morning line-up, they were greeted with a brush of cool mist. The weather report for today, July 1, is a high of 73 °F and a low of 64 °F. The report also included showers all morning, followed by anticipated thunderstorms in the afternoon. Due to the weather, most of the activities have been adjusted. While boating activities got switched to the field house, the art activity could remain in its original place. All around Camp, campers and counselors are ready for the weather with Crocs, rain boots, and rain jackets. But despite this gloomy weather, Seeds of Peace Camp remains joyous and energized.
Noa & Tali
As the 20 minutes before dialogue approaches, we are restless to return to Eagle Hut, our dialogue hut. Yesterday having been a primer, today we hope to start discussing issues that are important to us. Yesterday, we walked into our hut for the first time and we were met with chairs situated in a circle, accompanied with a journal, fidget toys, candles and soft music. We were greeted with two friendly faces that will help determine our Seeds of Peace experience—our dialogue facilitators. As the hour and a half went on, we got to know each other better and discussed our expectations. As we left the hut, we felt safe, supported, and thrilled to return the next day. Ah! Just heard the bell … time for dialogue!