First Impressions | August 4
We’ve continued to build to our daily schedule, and today now it is complete. In the morning we added Special Activities and in the afternoon we added Community Action.
Four campers wrote their first impressions of Camp this morning. They will be adding to these observations for the next three days.
Joyana, a new counselor, also wrote about her first impressions. Here is what she wrote today:
The first week here felt like a dream. It was a combination of meeting new people and learning new things, all while acclimating to a new environment. These strange new faces would become so familiar after about seven weeks of sharing this experience we call Seeds of Peace. My mind was filled with a combination of hope and nervousness, but I soon felt welcomed and that this place was home. Home, not replacing what I previously called home, even though I was apprehensive at first. It started with a sense of liminality. That liminality then turned to integration where the parts that made up “me” before were only enhanced by this experience.
I guess that’s what love, friendship and new challenging opportunities to grow will do for you. I knew I could not hide behind a Zoom screen any longer, feeling a longing for a deeper connection, but losing grip of what that actually meant. Since being here, I realized just how similar we all are deep down, with a capacity to love and be loved—we all have that need. This is how you build community, not always in the big spectacular, but in the daily little things that we realize looking back were the most important.
Dialogue | August 3
It is wonderful to watch a Seeds of Peace community to come together. Although this is only our second full day together, so much progress was made as a group. In the morning, one of the bunks stood up and presented inspirational observations. It was obvious that both the presenters and the other campers at lineup took what they said seriously.
Dialogue began in earnest today. The facilitators are working together to provide the campers from all over Maine with comparable opportunities to demonstrate their interest in the other campers and build mutual respect.
In the afternoon, counselors led swimming and boating activities. We also held several of hours of “field time,” providing opportunities to play music in small groups, as well as pickleball, tennis, and kickball. Each day we are adding an activity to the schedule, so the campers won’t be overwhelmed with challenges at the beginning of the session.
This evening, we had the staff talent show outside on the basketball court, which has lights. The arts, sports, waterfront, and other staff put on a wonderful production. At the end of the show, the staff sang “We’re Gonna Make This Place Your Home.” That has been sung after the staff talent show many times in the past and it always is a good way to reassure the new campers that we want them to feel at home with us.
Flagraising | August 2
This morning we had a flag raising ceremony for the Seeds of Peace flag which flies next to the Big Hall. On this opening occasion, Josh Thomas, our executive director, spoke to the Camp community about our intentions in bringing everyone together for the very first all-Maine session. Although Maine Seeds have always followed their Camp experience with community action, this will be the first time they will create a plan for such action during each day at Camp. Danielle, an older Maine Seed, will be coordinating the plans this summer.
Five Maine Seeds who are working as counselors or lead staff right now spoke to the new campers about their own efforts to bring the spirit and skills they learned at Camp to their home communities over the years. Our co-Camp directors, Stoney and Spencer, also gave inspirational presentations. Finally, Tim Wilson, our first camp director and director of the Maine Seeds program, gave a rousing speech which was a great way for us to begin the next two and a half weeks of Camp.
The campers spent a good part of their day rotating between head shot pictures and bunk pictures with Bobbie, check-ins with the medical staff, phone calls home to their families, learning the Seeds of Peace Camp Song, sports, swim tests and making name buttons. At dinner lineup, all the campers sang the newly-learned Camp song together, and it sounded pretty good!
Tomorrow will be the first normal day, now that we have taken care of “housekeeping.”
Arrivals | August 1
This was arrival day for the Maine Seeds Camp program. Seventy campers came in buses from all over Maine, representing the various immigrant and native-born communities across the state.
The campers emerged from their buses in summer clothes, some a little wary of the excited counselors playing musical instruments and chanting “Seeds of Peace.” This raucous welcome is a tradition at our camp. It breaks the ice of an awkward moment. Most of the new campers join in because they are also excited to begin their Camp experience.
At our first lineup, all the campers were dressed in Seeds of Peace T-shirts or sweatshirts. All of a sudden—“abracadabra!”—it looked like we were back to being a Seeds of Peace community. Although we are still missing the campers from the first session, it feels more like Camp when everyone is wearing our unifying clothing.
Already, the bunk groups had invented their own cheers associated with the names of their bunks. One bunk calls itself the “Flower Garden” with “flower power!” as their cheer. Another bunk calls itself “The Hive” and their cheer is “buzzzzzzz!” Uniting the eight or nine campers in each bunk is one of the first steps toward building a community. The bunk groups will also eat together for at least ten days, and most bunkmates will be together in dialogue groups.
The campers have all had showers and are in bed tonight. Tomorrow will be a very new day.
Departures | July 28
Departure day began with our regular morning lineup, including some words of inspiration from campers and our co-Camp directors, Stoney and Spencer. Before going to breakfast, we experimented with taking our own picture of the entire Camp, including all the campers, counselors, facilitators, nurses and Seeds of Peace staff. Having about a third of the usual number of people at Camp this summer, made doing the picture ourselves easier.
We all said our goodbyes, signed our last notes to one another, cried a little, waved to the departing buses and cars, cried some more, and then turned our attention to getting the Camp in order for the next session. Graham, the last camper to leave, had the last photo taken, as he stood between his two counselors who helped him have a memorable and important two and a half weeks at our Camp this summer.
Wrapping Up | July 27
With Color Games ended, we spent the day finishing up all that we had started at the beginning of Camp. We began with an all-Camp clean-up. Then we had our traditional Quaker Silent Meeting with optional attendance. Most of the campers attended. Seeds of Peace co-founder Bobbie Gottschalk, has been conducting this meeting since the beginning of Seeds of Peace because the format is so conducive to deep reflection and sharing in the most respectful way. One of the boys told the group that this was the first time he can recall feeling strong enough to show his emotions; before coming to Camp, he had always denied his emotions, even to himself.
The dialogue groups met for the last time and had their pictures taken. The Community Action activity finalized their game plans for trying to right the wrongs in their respective schools, after they return home. The things they want to correct include more diversity among the students and faculty, healthier food, more access to their school boards and better schoolbooks. They plan to attend the open meetings of their school boards and use social media to organize support for their concerns.
The presentations about planned community action were followed by information from full-time Seeds of Peace staff about the on-going support the Seeds could expect from the organization. And, a group of Seeds who went to Camp a few years ago got together to produce a video about life after Camp and a warm welcome to the Seeds of Peace family.
Josh Thomas, Executive Director of Seeds of Peace, congratulated the campers on becoming Seeds and explained how important they are to their communities and to Seeds of Peace.
Boni, the bunk inspector, gave the bunks their final scores for the session. It isn’t easy to please Boni, but some of the bunks apparently did, using everything from poems and a portrait of him, as well as actually cleaning their bunks.
Spencer, co-Camp Director, had been promising to sing the “Moose Song” since the beginning of Camp and the campers refused to wait any longer. The campers all agreed that it was worth the wait!
Hajime | July 26
With a late bedtime last night, someone made a wise decision about letting everyone wake up at 8 a.m. Our day was full, included new new activities like “escape games” and an art exhibition, and the games ended on a very high note.
Late in the afternoon, we had our traditional Hajime relay race. With 76 stations at which campers from each team had to perform tasks, and every camper obligated to perform three things, Hajime lasted about two hours. Campers and counselors were running back and forth all around the Camp at lightning speed. For example, two campers had to do 40 sit-ups and another two campers had to keep a soccer ball up in the air for 10 consecutive “headers.” Runners had to pass the baton to a referee before their team members could perform the task specific to the station. Coaches or other campers often ran alongside the runners to keep them from slowing down.
All through the competition, the Blue Team was ahead. Then, when Hajime was finished, the winner turned out to be the Green Team. The final task requires a person from each team to memorize the exact wording of a quote. Two girls took on the challenge. They are very good friends and memorized the passage in the same fashion, by walking back and forth and setting a foot down with every word. Once they had successfully recited the memorized passage, they both discovered that they had already forgotten the part that they recited by heart only a few minutes earlier.
Even before we announced the team that won, the two teams ran toward one another and began to hug each other. Once we went to the beach and announced the winner, Green ran into the lake, followed by the Blue Team. There they hugged one another again, utterly unconcerned about the outcome of Color Games. They were just happy to be one group of campers.
Color Games | July 25
We started off the first day of Color Games a little differently than we have in years past. Instead of having an all-Camp rope pull, we began with a relay race and team meetings. It was drizzling at first and then by the time breakfast was over, the rain came pouring down and lasted until rest hour after lunch.
We had to bring the sports inside the field house and the big hall. We can play soccer and basketball inside the field house. Basketball can also be played inside the big hall. We all got wet going from one activity to another but no one seemed to mind. The teams decorated their sides of the dining hall in a competition. Then they enjoyed eating inside for lunch. The teams were tied at 1200 points.
In the afternoon, both teams spent a few hours preparing for the variety show, which included a group instrumental performance, a comedy about Camp, an original group dance, spoken word and a team song. Again, we were overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of the talent in this group of campers.
Tomorrow we plan to wake up at our normal time and have a full day of Color Games.
Talent Show | July 24
With so much rain in Maine this summer, we prize a day like this day with warm sunshine and cool breezes, never getting warmer than the 70’s. It was a perfect day for whatever you want to do. The campers’ day was filled with boating and land sports and getting ready for the Talent Show.
The Talent Show is always amazing because we never know the extent of the talent among us until they take the stage. This time we are blessed with beautiful singing voices and other musicians. One young man even re-wrote the Seeds of Peace Camp song so that he had more of a melody. Another sang without accompaniment a song from Les Misérables. We had original poetry that was very impactful too.
One camper showed us how prolific he is in juggling and magic tricks. The counselors and facilitators started off the show with the well-known Back-Street Boys song, “I Want It That Way.” At the end of the show, Hannah, head of the art department and Spencer, Co-Camp director, sang a favorite of John Wallach, Seeds of Peace founder, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” with a few updates in the wording.
Then, all of a sudden, the lights went out and the campers were invited to run to the lineup area. There they were told that Color Games was starting, and they were going to have to identify as members of the Blue team or the Green team for the next two days. There are several counselors and facilitators who will be coaches for Color Games on each team. As usual, they entered with a lot of fanfare!
Tomorrow we will all get up early and begin two and a half days of team competition!
Talent Show Prep | July 23
Only four more days of Camp are left in this first session this summer. We usually end our sessions with some very exciting days and nights. This session will be like that, but the campers know nothing about it, yet. Staff members are working behind the scenes to be ready for these memorable days.
Some of the campers are already sad about leaving. If we didn’t end the session on an up-swing of energy, the end of Camp would get morose.
Tomorrow night will be the talent show for this session. We have many talented campers and counselors who will surely entertain and amaze us.
The final day of special activities was today. The documenting activity members fanned out and observed all the other special activities, including mural painting, swing dancing, board games, tennis and pickleball, singing, language lessons, volleyball and the evening activities planning group. The mural is almost complete. Even unfinished it already provides a nice background for our line ups, three times a day.
We had several bouts of thunderstorms which knocked out plans for boating. The rain poured on both the Muslim and the Jewish religious services. This was a time when others who are not members of those faiths could attend and observe the services, but campers and staff did take advantage of the opportunity anyway.
Art | July 22
There is a beautiful mural being painted on the outside wall of the big shower house near where we have line up. About 12 campers and several counselors are working together on it during special activities. The mural depicts our idyllic environment. They hope to finish it tomorrow. They are sure to feel very proud of what they have accomplished in only four hours.
This was a gorgeous day, crisp and dry, with a high temperature of 75°F. We took advantage if the great weather by getting almost everyone out in kayaks and canoes. The kayaks offer boaters a chance to ride deeper in the water while staying more in control with the double-edged paddle than they do in canoes, which can tip over more easily.
Today, Tim Wilson, the first Seeds of Peace camp director, now head of the Maine Seeds program, was the guest bunk inspector. He is always hard to impress and today was no exception. He notices things like windows being closed and towels not getting a chance to dry on a sunny day like today. Out of a range of 0 to 10, one bunk actually got as low as 2.5! Most of the other bunks fell into the range of 4 to 8.
This evening after dinner we had our multi-cultural night. Campers and counselors dressed in traditional garb from their cultural backgrounds. (Normally, we are all wearing the same green T-shirts and navy-blue sweatshirts.) The campers explained what they were wearing and discussed the holidays and food they most enjoy in their traditions.
Today, the camper documenting special activity interviewed one another about their Camp experiences and what they have meant to them.
Line Up | July 21
Three times a day, we have an all-camp Line Up gathering at an idyllic spot next to the lake, with a clear view all the way to the next town, Casco. Occasionally, a boat will go by, but most of the time the only distractions are of our own making or a little scolding from some nesting birds in the surrounding trees.
The first line up is right before breakfast. Besides providing a weather prediction for the day, we always have something inspiring performed by one of the bunk groups.
Today’s inspiration was the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. One of the bunk groups read it out loud. They didn’t know that this was Seeds of Peace’s founder John Wallach’s favorite poem.
Losseni, one of the Seeds who is now a counselor followed with a very moving Spoken Word piece he had composed about his own life.
Lunch line up is always about logistics and today was no exception. With the threat of thunderstorms and lightning once again, we had to postpone swimming and boating for another day.
The dinner line up is usually devoted to some sort of entertainment from our own Camp community. Today it was an original song by Matteo, a camper from Boston, which he sang to a delighted audience. His song was about being afraid that he is not “enough” but deciding that he was finished with that fear.
Eid & Ga-Ga | July 20
Muslims celebrated Eid Al Adha at Camp today and the whole Camp was served Eid dinner, much to everyone’s delight. It was a big meal but that didn’t keep the Counselor vs. Camper soccer game from taking place. On top of that, we had our usual world cup Ga-Ga game involving all the campers. Four teams competed and played hard. The winning team ended up having seven players left and they easily eliminated the one remaining member of the opposing team.
Knowing that thunderstorms were headed our way this afternoon, we had canoes out on the lake this morning. It was also the first day of the second round of special activities. The campers were even more enthusiastic than they were last week and this time there are some campers who are leading the activities with counselor partners.
Although we still have some campers who are holding back, afraid to try new things, there are more who are taking the risk of trying new things. All of them are in their stretch zone planning to take community action, once they return home. They are finding out that making changes in their schools might be a tall mountain to climb. We are trying to help them look up the information they will need and to discover who holds the power in their communities.
The new group of campers in the Documenting Camp special activity sat down and wrote and wrote this morning. Please be sure to check out their observations.
Dialogue | July 19
Due to the pandemic, Camp has been organized differently this summer. In previous summers, the campers were given every opportunity to interact with as many other campers as possible by creating three distinct groups: dialogue, bunk, and meal table. This time, our objective first of all, is to keep everyone healthy. That meant keeping the campers in cohorts of the same people for all three groups.
Now that we have been together for more than a week, and all the tests for COVID-19 were negative, we decided to create new table groups consisting of people from several bunks.
The one group that has to remain the same was the dialogue group having already developed their norms and expectations. They are comfortable speaking about many of the difficult issues facing teenagers these days. If they were reassigned to a different dialogue group, that would set them back in terms of their relationships and level of trust already in place.
Over the past few days, we have all dropped our face masks, as we felt more comfortable. It is almost jarring to see whole faces, but so much nicer!
Simone Hutchings, who leads the dialogue facilitators, reports that the dialogue groups are now moving beyond the building blocks of strengthening relationships and building trust. They have had to work without our parallel program called “group challenge,” but the campers seem to be ready to explore gender, race, power dynamics, identity, the pandemic, and mental health. Their conversational skill development is expected to help them listen and challenge one another respectfully.
One of the campers is a prolific writer. She wrote an inspirational poem for her bunkmates to recite this morning. Her poem is the Campers’ Camp Report today.
Gardening | July 18
We had a rainy Sunday, but we did everything we wanted to accomplish in spite of a steady drizzle. Christian services were held in the Big Hall. Later, one of the Catholic campers explained what that service means to her, just as a Jewish camper and a Muslim camper had explained what their respective services mean to them. Next time, the rest of camp will be invited to observe any or all of the religious services at Camp should they choose to do so.
The gardening activity was divided between those who wanted to do some heavy weeding and those who preferred to make “fairy houses.” Those little houses are becoming quite intricate and charming.
Each afternoon, following a snack, the campers meet with counselors from their communities to discuss how they might go about improving conditions in their schools. Some of the issues include a lack of diversity among students and faculty, institutional biases, and food that does not meet the dietary requirements of the students. By the end of Camp, their goal is to have a plan of action for addressing these issues.
This summer, we have a period after dinner called, “field time.” It is basically a relatively free time for chatting, walking with a new friend around the interior Camp road, working out in the field house, reading a book, playing pickleball or tennis, listening to music, etc. This is followed by an evening activity designed to cap the day with something fun.
Tonight, we had a dance contest, using music from the campers’ own play lists. We ended with a spontaneous snake dance around the Big Hall joined by almost all the campers and counselors.
Laughter | July 17
What is better than a good hearty laugh to start your day? The winners of last night’s “Bestest” contest in the category of imitating our Camp directors—Spencer and Stoney—were rewarded with the chance to start the morning line-up, as if they were the Camp directors. The campers nailed the impressions and the Camp directors roared with laughter. So did the rest of us.
The fourth and final day of special activities was today. The camper version of Camp Reports is all about the various activities, including camper-to-camper interviews.
We are getting ready to break out of our pods and into a more normal mix of campers throughout the day. This move reflects the testing results so far. We have not had visitors and when staff members have to leave Camp, they wear masks and stay outdoors.
We are expecting rain for the next few days, which means we will be doing everything we normally do, except with boots and rain gear. Those of us who were here in 2008 will be comparing this weather to that summer when it rained every single day. It won’t be that bad because we have already had some bright, sunny days. And it won’t be bad because we have two big tents, a field house, and other buildings to have all the same activities.
“The Mostest!” | July 16
Each morning line up, one of the bunks is responsible for inspiring the other campers and adults with something original or quoted. Today one of the bunks took graffiti from the walls of their bunk written years ago by former campers. This turned out to be relevant and very inspiring.
Religious observances were scheduled for Muslim and Jewish campers today. Both services were held outdoors in a quiet part of Camp. Christian campers will also have a religious service on Sunday.
Facilitators and campers report that the dialogue sessions are going well. The campers seem to feel safe and the facilitators feel good about the pace of their discussions. While half the campers were in dialogue with their pods, 90 minutes a day, the other half of the campers either had art or canoeing.
Tonight, we had a traditional Camp favorite activity called, “The Mostest!” For this one, the bunk groups compete for the title of “the mostest” for a number of challenges; such as, who can imitate the Camp directors most accurately, who can tell the best joke, who can create the best bunk handshake, etc.
Bake Off | July 15
During special activities, the Documentation group created a more detailed rendition of our usual schedule, with explanations and comments. This morning at breakfast line-up, one of the campers participating in the Documentation special activity accepted the challenge of reciting our daily schedule by memory. Due to the COVID-19 precautions, it is a rather detailed schedule with many twists and turns.
This was a warm, sunny day, perfect for swimming and boating, which most campers did in the afternoon. We are constantly reminding campers to apply sunscreen and drink water because we are spending almost all of our time outdoors.
As we do almost every afternoon, the campers met to discuss what actions need to be taken to improve their lives at home, particularly in their schools.
We try to end out days with light-hearted or calm evening programs. Tonight, we celebrated the birthday of our chef, Mike, who does a fantastic job creating meals for all of us, including many with dietary restrictions and allergies.
In his honor, we held the “Seeds Bake Off” contest and Mike was one of the three judges. It was done in the spirit of The Great British Bake Off. Campers decorated prepared cakes with icing and candies. In the end, we had to have a tiebreaker because the contest was very close.
Special Activities | July 14
Special Activities began today. These are hour-long activities created by counselors who are particularly interested in those activities and include Documenting Camp, Gardening, Great Speakers, Ultimate Frisbee, Basketball, Improv, Dance, Cooking, and Classic Camp Crafts.
The Documenting group wrote their own Camp Reports.
The campers are going through Camp activities mostly in their “pods,” but when they are in mixed groups, everyone has to wear a mask. While seated at line-up or in the dining tent, they do not wear masks. The mixed groups include “field time” after dinner, boating, social action planning, and evening activities.
Today, a group of campers went canoeing for the first time. They were full of confidence until they tried to steer their canoes out of our cove. But they managed to figure that out, with help from three counselors. Off they went in the big, beautiful lake, almost like pros.
This evening we had our Café Night when campers rotate among the larger group finding new people to chat with every 15 minutes. The evening was sweetened with homemade cookies and pastries from our chef who definitely knows what we like—chocolate chip cookies and pastries. We ended our day by singing, “I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.”
Building Community | July 13
Today, one of the first signs of community-building happened when everyone responded to the same thing. While we were sitting in rows at line-up, a water-skier zoomed in front of us, very close to our shore. All of the campers erupted in cheers and laughter. Naturally, this complete stranger came back two more times for more accolades!
The daily schedule includes bunk cleaning after breakfast and then the bunks are inspected by Boni, who is in charge of bunk life. At the lunch line-up he announces scores for the individual bunks. Wearing Sherlock Holmes attire, Boni jokes his way through the inspection scores.
This afternoon, the campers and counselors divided up by where they are from. Then they began to focus on the elements at home that need improvement, who might have the power to make the necessary changes, and how they could influence the ones in power. We will be doing this almost daily, so that by the time the campers and counselors return home after Camp ends, they will have a plan of action in place.
One of about ten choices for special activities involves the chance to contribute to these Camp Reports. From now on, a small group will write about their Camp experiences, in real time, and we will post what they have to say.
Flagraising | July 12
The first full day of Camp was warmer and mostly sunny. Our opening flagraising ceremony involved just flag: the Seeds of Peace flag, which flies every day we are at Camp. We had welcoming speeches by Stoney and Spencer, our co-camp directors, Josh Thomas, our executive director, Eliza, our co-director of United States programs, and Tim Wilson, the first Seeds of Peace Camp director.
Most of the day was spent with campers and counselors rotating between various locations to have their pictures taken, make phone calls home, learn the Seeds of Peace song, take swim tests, and check in with the medical staff. Campers passed the waiting time at each of the stations by playing challenging games, which the counselors had learned last week, if not earlier during their own camp experiences.
The campers have been here for just one day, but already they are finding ways to come together as a community.
Arrival Day | July 11
Arrival Day is always exciting. The anticipation of an expanded community, drawn from a variety of places in the United States, builds up as we hurry to get the final preparations done. String lights were hung around the dining tent and flowers were planted in the flower boxes. Benches were moved into outdoor conversation areas.
As campers emerged from their respective buses, they were immediately taken to our health center to be tested for COVID-19 and to hand in their regular medications. For safety reasons, all medications will be administered by our nurses or our doctor at the health center.
Campers and counselors introduced themselves to the entire Camp and were shown where to sit at our line-up times, immediately prior to every meal.
Everyone had dinner together under the dining tent to allow for maximum air-circulation while people are not masked. Otherwise, for the first ten days or so, we plan to wear masks.
Unlike other years when we have tried to give the campers a chance to get to know as many other campers as possible, we have organized the activities around “pods.” Campers will have dialogue, bunk groups and activity groups within their respective pods. This is being done to minimize the possible spread of COVID-19.
We shall all be waking up at 8 a.m. with the Camp bell to have our first full day together. It is so great to be back in Camp again.
Beginnings | July 10
Here we go again! It is such a delight to be one day away from re-starting Camp. Last summer, it was impossible to have our usual Camp program due to COVID-19. That was before the vaccines were available and most people were relying on virtual school and work methods to keep their lives moving forward. We had some virtual Camp programs, but nothing beats the impact of in-person interactions.
We have planned the 2021 summer sessions with COVID-19 in mind. Bunk groups will have activities and meals in “pods.” All of us will wear face masks while we are indoors. Our meals will be served under a tent, so there is fresh air flowing around people while they are eating, sans masks. Campers who are not vaccinated will be tested immediately upon arrival and regularly throughout their time at Camp. Everyone on staff is fully vaccinated. There will be no visitors. We will be living in a bubble.
Sadly, we are unable to host delegations from other parts of the United States or world. We hope the summer of 2022 will see the return of international delegations and that most of the COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted. For this summer, in-country programs will be conducted in the Middle East and South Asia.
This year, we are excited to have an in-person program for campers from the northeast part of the United States. We can hardly wait to see those buses roll in tomorrow!