Wrapping Up | August 2
This was such a lovely day in every way! The sun and clouds took turns in the sky while we took time to express our appreciation to our temporary community in this special place where thousands of Seeds have enjoyed their time and learned to listen and speak in a way that allows others to hear their thoughts.
In the morning, Tim came in time to ring the wakeup bells and share some stories at lineup. After breakfast, we had all-Camp cleanup which lets the campers know they are taking care of this place for the next campers. And all day, they wrote on each other’s T-shirts showing love and jokes only they would understand.
As we have done since 1995, Bobbie invited the campers and staff to a silent Quaker meeting. The format of Quaker meetings is very simple but profound: the group sits together in silence until the first person feels called to speak. It is not a conversation or a dialogue. People speak from their inner goodness and then the other people sit in silent respect. We have one Quaker camper with us and she explained the concept of holding people you care about “in the light.” Quakers refer to the “light” as that of the divine inside each person.
Since today was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, that’s what we ate after dinner. Then, we screened a slide show of our Camp photos put together by Eric Kapenga of our communications department on a big screen in the Big Hall.
The day ended with a final bunk night. The campers and counselors who have lived together for two and a half weeks used this time to show appreciation for one another and prepare to go home early in the morning.
The 29th Seeds of Peace summer in Maine is coming to a close.
Hajime | August 1
The final day of Color Games was such a busy day! Even before breakfast we had a canoe race and a relay race around the Camp’s perimeter road. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also had the teams compete in two parallel lines going up a hill, passing small cups of lake water from person to person, until they filled two large buckets to the brim.
Following breakfast, we had rotations of games like volleyball, kickball, and Ultimate Frisbee. At team meetings, the coaches determined which roles each of the campers would be playing during the final part of Color Games, called Message to Hajime. Hajime is a relay race with everyone doing one of the 77 tasks at a variety of stations all over Camp or being one of the runners carrying a baton. The very last task is the memorization of a quote, recited to Bobbie or Cam (head of sports) in the small hall, while the rest of the campers and counselors wait.
Today, the Blue Team won Hajime, but the Green Team won the over-all Color Games.
Our tradition is to go to the shore of the lake to announce the winners and then everyone runs into the lake to splash around together. This is a great release of energy and emotion! Finally, arms around one another, standing in a circle, everyone sings the Seeds of Peace song.
In the evening, as is our tradition, we had a really lovely memorial service for the members of the Seeds of Peace community who are no longer alive. Since this is the 20th anniversary of Seeds of Peace Founder John Wallach’s passing, Bobbie paid tribute to his legacy. We spoke about some of the 22 Seeds who have died and said all of their names aloud. The PSs sang a beautiful song written by Farrah, an Egyptian Seed called, “Say Hello to the Field.” To the Seeds of Peace community, the “Field” refers to the physical space at Camp and also, the “Field” in Rumi’s poem, where “wrong-doing and right-doing” are set aside.
Finally, we had lineup in the dark and spoke about the meaning of Color Games. A campfire was burning nearby as the campers went off to their bunks singing, “Every time I lie awake in bed, I’ll be thinking, I’ll be thinking of you.”
Color Games | July 31
These two days of Color Games test everyone. Campers discover new things about themselves that they might otherwise never uncover. Emotions grip the teams as they advance through the challenges, winning some games and losing others: hope, courage, fear, understanding, compassion, support, and love all come into play. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting.
We woke up early today to the rope-pull contest. As this is not something anyone does regularly, the campers had to get used to how it feels to lose control of the rope or pull it toward themselves. They strained to recover the rope when it got pulled away by the other team. After three rope pulls, the Green Team was declared the winner.
It would have been easy for the Blue Team to become discouraged by their loss, but with skillful counselors, they took it in stride and went on to win many of the day’s challenges. There were rotations between games of basketball, soccer, Ga-Ga, and Steal the Bacon. Most of the day was spent creating and practicing for the Variety Show tonight.
The Variety Show includes synchronized swimming, a comedy skit about Camp, spoken word, a capella singing, dance, and an original team song. Judges made up of adults from different parts of Camp do their best to choose one team’s performance over the other. It is sometimes very difficult to do that because they are both so good!
Even with the challenges and excitement of Color Games, we are all feeling the pull of sadness about Camp coming to an end.
Talent Show | July 30
When these campers look back on their time here, this day will no doubt stand out. Not only did they finalize their Community Action plans and present them to one another, they also spent several hours preparing for the Talent Show. We also took the full-Camp photo. It wasn’t easy to fit so many people into the frame, but we did it, thanks to a tall staff member who climbed up high to capture all the faces.
This was also a day designated as a choice day. One of the choices they had was to sit with Josh Thomas, the Executive Director of Seeds of Peace, and discuss the past and future of the organization. About 30 campers chose to do that. Many of them were wondering how they would be able to continue working with Seeds of Peace once Camp has ended. They also suggested ways to improve the program and the facilities. Josh spoke about some of the changes on the horizon for Seeds of Peace, including a safer social media option, just for Seeds.
Behind the scenes, counselors who will be Color Games coaches prepared their dramatic entrances for when they would be introduced to the campers following the Talent Show. The campers’ focus on rehearsing for the Talent Show usually keeps them from figuring out that Color Games are about to be announced.
After the Color Games coaches were introduced, the entire Camp was divided into Blue and Green Teams, bunk by bunk. Referees will be wearing gray shirts, but all the campers will either be in blue or green t-shirts.
Community Action Wraps | July 29
Being human, we all make mistakes, especially if we feel rushed or out of our comfort zone. Whenever this happens at Camp, we try to assume that the person who made the mistake had good intentions, but the impact was hurtful to others. So first, we have to deal with the hurt, try to understand why it was hurtful, and then we can talk about making a sincere apology. If the negative impact was felt by many, the apology is best made to the entire community. Any attempt to ignore the impact or cover it up is not conducive to trust-building—a major goal at Camp.
Today, this process was done very well.
The last Community Action meetings were held today. All the groups finalized their “smart demands” and made posters describing the problem and corrective actions they hope to take once campers return to their communities.
At the dinner lineup, there was a rousing rendition of “Rattlin’ Bog” led by Matt and Sahra. This song is a tradition originated by a counselor named Elliott. It requires many add-on verses that have to be sung in the same order as they were first introduced. And, of course, it is very lively.
We also had religious services for Muslims and Jews, to which everyone at Camp was invited to join, if they wanted to. On Sunday, we will do the same for the Christian services.
Tonight was bunk night. Everyone did something special with their own bunk groups, such as make s’mores over an open fire, or sing songs together, or learn dances.
Intercultural Dinner | July 28
One of the highlights of Camp is the Intercultural Dinner and celebration of various heritages. In this session we have people who trace their heritage to Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somalia, Vietnam, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries around the world. Some have arrived as refugees and others are studying at American schools. All have stories to tell and food, music, poetry, dances, and clothing to share.
A huge thunderstorm threatened to derail our plans for the Dinner and entertainment, but we were able to hold everything indoors in the dining hall. For most of the day, groups of campers and counselors were chopping and mixing and shaping their special dishes for our dinner while it stormed outside. They must have made 100 big spring rolls and special dishes from South American countries. We had many kinds of bread, too.
Earlier in the day, we held an all-Camp group challenge exercise out on the field. Each of the groups from Community Action were challenged to stand in equal-sided triangles and rectangles. The campers soon figured out that they could roughly measure each side by the number of people making the formation. The next time Community Action meets, they will be able to rely on the successes they had today and take the next steps with more courage.
A Normal Day | July 27
This was what we like to call a “normal day.” By that we mean that we had pleasant weather, three lineups with Tim’s advice in the morning, bunk inspection scores before lunch and talent before dinner. We also had Community Action meetings, sports, lake time, special activities, rest hour, dialogue time, and an exciting evening activity.
We ate normal Camp food, held activities with our dialogue groups, and celebrated one of the campers’ birthdays. The kitchen served homemade chocolate chip cookies for birthdays. There is no point in looking for left-over cookies.
The evening activity was called “Ghosts in the Graveyard.” Since it was already dark outside, various counselors and other adults were positioned around the perimeter of the playing fields while the campers hunted for the “ghosts” who were some of the counselors.
No one should have any trouble falling asleep tonight after all the running around during that game.
Tomorrow we will be preparing most of the afternoon for the Intercultural Dinner.
Camper Report | July 27
Lineup is a place of sharing for anyone who needs or wants to and are an important part of Camp culture.
We first share fun cheers as a way of taking attendance each lineup. Then the leads of the lineup share what is happening that day and any other news that needs to be addressed. Morning inspiration is also important here at Seeds of Peace. Tim Wilson shares one of his many stories and advice with us in the morning after the bunk inspiration from one of the bunks. Bunks can share poems, quotes, advice or anything they want to. The other day, Bunk 12 shared the morning inspiration; a few quotes were:
“It’s a bad day, not a bad life.”
“Die with memories, not dreams.”
“You’re in charge of your own happiness.”
Afternoon lineups are filled with announcements like what the evening activity will be. It is also when bunk clean-up scores are shared to see how well bunks were cleaned up according to the standards of the day’s bunk inspector.
My favorite lineup is probably the evening or dinner lineup though, because it is when all the campers’ talent is shown. Campers dance or share poems or sing and it is such a fun time! Recently we have seen a lot of cheers as campers show the ones they have created during arts activity. Another thing that was shared recently is a beautiful poem written by Izzy:
Love is a strong word, some would say.
I hate you could also be I love you
I love you so much that I hate you
I hate the way you make me feel
So jittery with thoughts. It’s like I’m on a carnival of emotions,
So many emotions that lead to me being emotionless.
Emotionless because of these feelings I can’t put into words
So, when I look at you, words don’t come out
Because no words can explain the love I have for you
Love, I hate you but I love you.
Kira (2022 SESSION 2 PS)
Community Action | July 26
We welcomed a cooler day than we have had in a long time. Seemingly, people at Camp couldn’t quite decide what to wear today, so some wore sweatshirts with shorts and Crocs with socks.
Tim Wilson began the day by talking to the campers about the importance and joy of cooking from scratch instead of buying already prepared dishes that just need to be warmed in the microwave. This was a metaphor for the importance of taking the time to start at the beginning and create together what will nourish and create traditions all your life.
Community Action groups worked on developing “smart demands.” Essentially, they were trying to develop ways to approach people with the power to make changes by offering them ideas for effecting the changes. Sometimes, the people in power will be more inclined to make the changes if they are given ideas that look like they will work.
Late in the afternoon, a new round of special activities began. They included: K-Pop dancing, Book and Writing Appreciation Moments, Art at the Beach, All the Strings (Friendship bracelets, advanced), Current Events, Sports, Dance of the 2000’s and Afrobeat, Volleyball, and Rest Hour.
The evening activity was “World Cup GaGa” between four teams. After the rules were explained and the teams were named, the campers played GaGa as if their lives depended upon them winning. GaGa is something like dodgeball, but the ball must hit the opponents below the knees in order to eliminate a player. Eventually, the circle is left with two opponents, who fight it out while the teams scream their encouragement. After much running around and shouting, showers were definitely in order!
Indoors Again | July 25
Due to heavy thunderstorms, campers ate lunch and dinner in our dining hall. We have not eaten indoors since the beginning of the pandemic, and it was so heartwarming to see everyone eating inside together once again. We had all the windows wide open so that the air circulation was close to being as high as in the dining tent, which was not safe with all the thunder and lightning.
It rained during the Community Action period, but we were able to use the Big Hall with all the doors and windows open. The regional groups are getting closer to pinpointing the changes they would like to see where they live. One camper spoke about the need for school social workers because the teachers do not seem to realize that there are so many students who do not have anyone at home motivating them to do their homework like he has. He thinks those students should not be punished for lacking a motivating parent.
It also rained during the dialogue periods, but they are held inside our dialogue huts. On the walls of the dialogue huts are the guidelines that the groups agree to before they engage in serious discussions. The dialogue groups do not change during the session; the members of each group get to know one another more deeply than they do in other groups. Sometimes, group members bring original poetry or essays to share with the other campers. The facilitators follow the process of the dialogue, which helps each group have constructive discussions.
In the evening, we held a lip-sync competition outdoors under the lights on the basketball court. The evening activities are a way of uniting the Camp and enjoying the light-hearted competition. Each table group selected their own music and had twenty minutes to create a dance routine involving their whole group. It was a lot of fun!
Choose Your Own Adventure | July 24
Today, campers were able to choose the activities and discussions they wanted to participate in, such as multi-faith understanding, mindfulness, equality in education, exploring masculinity, stereotypes, intersectionality and empowerment, eco-justice in urban spaces, exploring identity through art, camp games, theater and improvisation, water-based games, song-writing, and classic camp crafts.
There was a lot to choose from and everyone was busy doing what they chose to do. There also was an extra-long swim period, since the temperature rose to above 90°F.
The facilitators had the day off, so all the discussions were led by counselors. After dinner, we gave many of the counselors a couple of hours off while the campers watched a movie in the Big Hall. We hope to wake up to cooler temperatures and gentle breezes from the lake.
Getting Comfortable | July 23
On day six, one cannot help noticing the change in many campers’ faces. Campers who arrived last week with wary looks on their faces almost look like different people now that they have relaxed and have a more comfortable demeanor. They have begun to ask that pictures be taken of them with their new Camp friends and the din of conversation in the dining tent is much greater than it was only a few days ago.
Today was a very hot even for this time of year in Maine. People used to come to Maine to cool off in the summer, but the heat impacting large parts of the world has now caught up to Maine. Every camper and adult carries a water bottle and uses sunscreen. There are water fountains all around Camp so that no one should become dehydrated. And everyone has a chance to swim in the lake and take cool showers.
Special activities, as well as the usual boating, sports, art, dance, gardening, and music took place today. Meanwhile, the Peer Support campers told the new campers what made them want to return to Camp this summer. Most of them cited the kind of people who are attracted to Seeds of Peace and the atmosphere that fosters emotional maturity and open-mindedness.
Some of the new campers are taking big risks, learning to play musical instruments and creating dance routines and artwork. Sometimes, they feel embarrassed when they try to develop new skills, but this is such a supportive group of people, the embarrassment doesn’t last long.
Beating the Heat | July 22
Today was just too darn hot! But some resourceful counselors designed a slip and slide with tarps, soap, and water, which made the morning tolerable. In the afternoon, the campers had a rest hour and a swim in the cool lake. A breeze from the lake provides a cooling effect, which makes a big difference.
Both the Muslims and the Jews held religious services today. Only those who practice those religions can attend the services today, but next time everyone will be invited. Christian services are scheduled for Sunday.
We also had an all-Camp bonding experience. All the campers and many of the counselors formed a circle in the field and did some group challenge exercises, like Knight & Dragon. These required everyone to maintain a personal goal while also allowing for a group goal to be achieved.
The evening activity was an egg drop. With the campers divided into small groups, each group was tasked with protecting their egg from breaking before it was dropped from up high. They had materials with which to wrap their eggs. The distance was about the height of a basketball hoop. Working together as a team on something that is basically pointless engenders teamwork and a lot of laughs.
Tim Wilson | July 21
When Tim Wilson came to Camp today, he spoke to the campers about his experiences with religions all around the world. Wherever he was living, he would always adapt to the religion practiced in that particular place. Although he was born to a Baptist family, his parents respected his right to choose his religion. This is Tim’s way of letting the campers know that everyone’s religion is respected at Seeds of Peace.
The Community Action period was devoted to reflecting on what each person has to offer, when trying to resolve differences. Some campers mentioned their sense of humor or their serious nature. Others referred to the way they are able to convince others to follow their lead. They began by discussing their strong points with small groups of campers who live in the same part of the country. Then, some volunteered to share what they considered their strong suite with the entire group.
The canoeists learned how to right their canoes after tipping them over on purpose. Since it was a very hot day, that cold water felt great!
The threat of thunderstorms sent us all indoors. It was dialogue time anyway, so half the Camp was already indoors. The rest of the campers used our indoor spaces with good ventilation, like the Fieldhouse and the Big Hall. Although communities around us got heavy rainfall, we only had light rain.
The evening activity was “The Olympics,” up on the outdoor basketball court. This time, the dialogue groups challenged one another. The javelin throwing was done with swimming noodles. Naturally, they didn’t go very far. Charades, Frisbees, and basketballs were also used in the competition. Almost everyone got to taste what it would be like to win the Olympics because three out of the four teams were declared winners before the scorekeepers got it right!
From a camper to parents | July 21
A letter to the parents of campers who are at Seeds of Peace for the first time:
I hope this note will help some of you who are worrying about your kids.
I am a second year Peer Support Seed. That means I loved Camp so much my first year that I came back!
There are 14 kids this session who, like me, decided they wanted more. Let me assure you that Camp is good enough that people come back for more. Campers from years ago come back to be counselors too, so that means they loved Camp enough to come back as well.
BUILDING COMMUNITY AT MEALTIMES
There are lots of things that happen during mealtimes at Camp. Last night’s was a crazy one, full of table cheers, table “flirting,” and lots of talking.
Even when it’s pouring and dark under the dining tent, we campers make the best of it. Want to know how?
First, there is a lot of talking between bunk mates. While we eat, the people you live with and do activities with become sort of like a new family. So, we have dinner conversations about our days, just like at home.
Second, there is “table flirting.” This is when a table comes up with flirtatious lines to yell at another table. Phrases like, “FRIENDS, we’re just FRIENDS” are sung. Or “Are you a jellyfish? Cuz there’s no need to be jelly: there are other fish in the sea!” Or “Even in this rain you are still my sun.” It is quite fun!
Before you direct your line at another table, you pound the table to sound like a drumroll, then yell out the table number you’re addressing, and then share your line or sing your love song.
Lastly, there are table chants. Our favorites at Seeds of Peace ones are “Bang, Bang, Clap, which includes lots of banging and clapping. Then there is “the mostest!” A counselor says, “the mostest!” And campers say,” The mostest, the mostest, the mostest!”
The actual “mostest” event took place after dinner as an evening activity. The event this year was lots of fun and ranged from a mooing contest, veggie-offs, re-enactments of shows in short summaries, fashion shows, and dance-offs. Every bunk group sends representatives to the competitions to compete in all the rounds. Then the judges pick the winners!
Kira (2022 Session 2 PS)
Flag Raising & Café Night | July 20
We woke up especially early this morning so we could have our traditional flag raising ceremony at the beginning of the session without suffering in the hot sun. Several Peer Support Seeds and counselors spoke, as did Josh Thomas, our Executive Director, and Tim Wilson. A draft version of our Land Acknowledgement was read aloud so everyone would be aware that the land this Camp now resides on was stolen from the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy.
Due to the heat, we switched our daily schedule so Community Action would take place during a cooler part of the day. It has become so hot these days that we don’t want to be working on something so serious while everyone is feeling overheated.
Special activities met in the late afternoon: crochet lessons, volleyball, the Seeds of Peace band, Sports Extravaganza Hip-Hop dance, Being Weird, gardening, and mural painting.
During the afternoon, the Peer Support campers prepared the program for Café Night. They decorated the dining tent and divided the campers into seven groups which were made up of campers from all the bunks. Each of these groups sat at a table and used the prompts created by the older campers to help everyone engage in conversations with campers they have not been able to meet thus far. The kitchen staff added to the evening by baking cookies.
Building Cohesion | July 19
Each bunk has its own chosen theme. Sometimes the bunk names are passed down from one year to the next (The Goat House or Beach House) and sometimes they are original (The Donuts). When attendance is taken at lineup, each bunk responds in accordance with its name. This inspires bunk cohesion.
Another way unity is built over the weeks campers will be living together is through the challenge of keeping the cleanest bunk. Cleaning the bunk together also has other benefits, like making their home away from home a healthy environment.
The Peer Support campers had the chance to refresh their comfort level with canoes. Tomorrow the new campers will get started learning how to paddle in a coordinated way and not flipping the canoe over while entering or exiting the boat.
It is fitting that we use canoes at our Camp because the land our Camp sits on was inhabited by six Native American tribes originally. During the first session of Camp this summer, a group of Peer Support campers and facilitators did some research to discover the history of those who have dwelled in this place, long before us, and were displaced or slaughtered by white European settlers. In sharp contrast to our effort to have our campers take pride in their heritage, the children of the Native American tribes were often taken from their parents and placed in boarding schools where they were strongly discouraged from being close to their parents and taking pride in their heritage.
Last night, we had a fashion show challenge between bunks. They had to use cast away fabrics and big black garbage bags to come up with themes, music, and designs for two members of their bunks. As usual, everyone had fun with this.
First Things First | July 18
On the first full day of Camp, we have basic things that have to get done before the normal daily schedule begin. These include name button making, check-ins with our nurses, picture-taking, learning the Seeds of Peace song, taking the impact research surveys from the University of Chicago, holding a discussion with our program director about unacceptable behavior at Camp (red-line rules), phone calls home to let families know that their campers are safe, and swim checks.
Tim Wilson came to Camp this morning to wake everyone up as only he can with his booming voice! At breakfast line-up, he also gave the campers a short history lesson about the special markers and memorials positioned around the Camp. He also pointed out that the the woman behind the camera is actually the co-founder of Seeds of Peace who can answer many of their questions.
Each morning, the bunks take turns doing something inspiring at lineup to get us all moving forward with a constructive attitude. Today, the Peer Support campers sang the Seeds of Peace song. Other bunks might recite favorite or original poetry, sing songs, perform a skit, and so forth. In this way, we are spreading the responsibility of building our Camp community to all of us, as time goes on.
Late this afternoon, uninterrupted rain storms made it impossible to hold outdoor activities. We have ample indoor space for the Camp with a big field house, a dining tent, and a smaller tent. So we were able to continue on with the planned programs, which included “The Mostest” contest at night.
Arrival Day | July 17
Second session Arrival Day is always a lot calmer compared to first session. The Camp staff are more confident after completing the first session and more comfortable with each other. The campers have been out of school for several weeks, so they seem to be eager to try something new.
Campers arrived in small groups throughout the day. They have come from across the United States, representing the Midwest, the South, and both coasts. They came from large cities, like Chicago, Detroit, and New York, as well as smaller cities like Washington, D.C., and Syracuse. A group from Texas had a flight delay, so they are expected to be late tonight.
We had our first meal together under our dining tent due to COVID-19 precautions. The new campers learned our traditional blessing which we say together before every meal: “For Friendship, Health, Love and Opportunity, we are Thankful!”
Dietary needs are accommodated to the degree that is possible, taking into account allergies, religious restrictions, and other preferences. We try to keep our diets as nutritious as possible. Dessert is a rarity, generally saved for special occasions such as birthdays.
Tonight, after dinner, we held a staff talent show that was a lot of fun. The campers had the chance to see how talented their counselors and facilitators are while learning about what they will learn while they are at Camp.
This hot summer day ended with “bunk night,” so each bunk group could create their own themes and expectations. The campers will be sleeping next to strangers tonight, but by tomorrow night they will begin to feel much closer. And so we begin again!
Wrapping Up | July 8
We slept in 30 minutes later than usual this morning to make up for the stress of Color Games, which kept many people from getting their full night’s sleep. The coaches and the commissioners really have a heavy load during this two-day activity. All the coaches have to attend to the campers and many of the facilitators and other staff members took on extra duties as well.
Tim Wilson, the long-time head of the Maine Seeds Program, gave the campers and staff an inspiring talk at lineup before breakfast. He spoke about his own career path, how he was able to leverage opportunities, allies, and family to reach positions that were unheard of for a man of color 60 years ago. The example of his career trajectory in Maine stands as an example for these campers, many of whom are people of color.
On the final day of each session, Seeds of Peace Co-Founder Bobbie Gottschalk offers a Quaker silent meeting to everyone in Camp who would like to experience that form of community–building. The attendees sit together in a circle until the silence is only broken by an occasional tweeting bird. People speak when they feel moved to do so, from their hearts—what Quakers call the Inner Light—and do not answer or discuss or question anything that is said in the meeting. Every person’s wisdom is respected.
The campers had their final dialogue session, took their Seeds of Peace research surveys, and had lots of pictures taken, including head shots, school groups, dialogue groups and a full-Camp picture. The winners of the bunk clean-ups got their prizes. At night we had a slide show of pictures from this session and then bunk night, with the campers they have lived with for two weeks.
In the morning the buses will come right after breakfast and carry the campers home to their families.
Message to Hajime | July 7
This morning, Color Games continued with a foot race around the perimeter road, a kayak race, and a water passing contest, all before breakfast. No doubt the last of these, the water pass competition, is the only one needing an explanation:
The two teams form two lines perpendicular to the shore of the lake. Each person is given a small cup. One person dips a cup into the lake and then pours the water into the cup of the person standing next to them. The water gets poured from one person to another until they reach to end of the line. The last person pours what is left of the water into a tub. Each team has its own tub. The first team to fill their tub wins.
After breakfast, we held canoe races, gardening art projects, Ultimate Frisbee, and volleyball. In the afternoon, everyone got ready for the culmination of Color Games: Message to Hajime. Seventy-seven stations were set up all around the Camp, where campers from the Blue and Green Teams had to complete a certain objective. For example, a station was set up on the soccer field for two players to pass headers back and forth ten times, consecutively. Campers did wheelbarrow races, balanced a book on their heads while walking the length of the Big Hall, made a bed or a sandwich, and bobbed for apples. Someone had to recite the alphabet backwards. The final station involves memorizing the “message,” reciting it to Bobbie and Cam, and returning to their respective teams before learning which team won with the highest cumulative score.
One of the nicest sights to see was the two girls who had to memorize the message, walking back toward their teams with arms around each other. All the scores from the Variety Show were revealed and finally the overall winner was announced. The winning team—in this case Blue—went into the lake fully-clothed. Then Green jumped in right afterward and everyone splashed and hugged one another. The last thing they did was sing the Seeds of Peace song, written by an Egyptian Seed from 1993, Amgad Naguib. At last, we could feel united, after the shared challenges of Color Games.
On this night, we have traditionally held a memorial service at the memorial garden, remembering the 23 Seeds who have passed away over the years, including Asel Asleh, the first and only Seed who was killed in a major conflict. We also talked about Wil Smith, a former camper staff member, and the Maine Seeds who have died. We had beautiful music and a chance to water a tree in memory of all of the Seeds of Peace people we have lost over the years.
Lastly, we had a fire in the fire pit by the lineup area and the Color Games coaches and some of the campers shared their reflections on this Color Games experience. We sang ourselves back to our bunks with a song written by a Maine Seed many years ago.
Color Games! | July 6
The first day of Color Games begins with an all-Camp rope pull. It is the first competition with half the Camp dressed in bright green shirts and the other half in bright blue shirts. Our eyes will get used to these lively colors until the close of competition tomorrow afternoon. Then the Camp will return to our normal, peaceful green colored T-shirts.
Although we had a fantastic talent show last night, we discovered even more talent for tonight’s variety show, which is part of Color Games. Each team competed in the areas of band music, dance, comedy skits, spoken word and an original song about being a Seed. For about three hours this afternoon, the teams wrote, composed, and choreographed the whole show. It was an amazing feat.
Earlier in the day, the Games were mostly on the athletic fields playing soccer, basketball, and Steal the Bacon, but we also held a synchronized swimming competition.
Tomorrow, the Games will start before breakfast. For now, everyone is recovering from today, sleeping on this chilly night in warm sleeping bags.
Talent Show | July 5
Each session of Camp, the staff manages to surprise most of the campers when all of a sudden, it is Color Games time! It can happen at any time during the session, but it is usually when it feels like the right time to add something unexpected and charged with new energy. The timing seemed just right to begin Color Games tonight, except for the downpour which forced us to bring all the excitement under the dining tent. Traditionally, the first night begins at lineup with a glowing fire nearby.
Before Color Games began, we held a rousing talent show with a variety of performances including a comedy skit, African dance, singing, spoken word, Reggae music, piano and viola pieces, and a baton twirler. Each performance received a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience. The bunkmates and other friends at Camp play a big role in strengthening the confidence of the campers onstage.
The Community Action planning meetings took place this afternoon. Each group finalized their plans and shared their goals with the members of the other groups. Some of their goals seem like they should not be very hard to accomplish. But the campers expect to have a lot of pushback from their school administrators, regardless. One group just wants to put signage on the one unisex bathroom, for example. Seeds of Peace will be there to support them with allies who can help them be heard.
The first competition of dozens in Color Games is the giant rope-pull. That will take place before breakfast. The teams are Blue and Green. For the next two days, Blue and Green will be doing their best to get the highest cumulative score.
Masks Off | July 4
Until today, the campers have been sitting at dining tables, under a big tent, with their bunkmates. This was done to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19. But, since we have all tested negative again, we were able to mix the groups at different tables. In preparation for this change, the campers were asked to walk around the perimeter of the Camp with someone they were not able to speak with before today. Everyone seemed ready to burst this bubble and the dining tent was filled with energetic conversations.
It is a lot of fun to have a birthday while at Camp. Dana’s birthday was celebrated all day by her bunkmates as well as others. At dinner, we make the birthday person “Skip around the room twice!” They usually have a birthday cake to share with their bunk or table group. Dana asked her bunkmates to join her in skipping around the tent. Then, after the evening activity, Dana entertained us by playing “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” by Rimsky Korsakov on our piano in the Big Hall. She got quite an ovation from the rest of the campers!
Our temporary but real community is coming together now. People have been apologizing one-to-one and to the group for insensitive comments made earlier in the session. Once we can get over this bump in the road, we know that fragile friendships will have a chance to bloom and remain intact.
In the evening, we held a lip-syncing contest, including creative dance, done with the new table groups. They had such a good time creating and performing on the outdoor basketball court, which is lit at night. It was a lovely evening, with a crescent moon and cool breezes. The three-year-old daughter of our executive director could be heard singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at the top of her lungs, all the way back to her cabin after the contest.
Difficult Conversations | July 3
We have come to the point in the Camp session when many difficult discussions are taking place in the bunks, in dialogue, on the field, or in small groups, informally walking to and from scheduled activities. Since it was Sunday, we also had Catholic and non-denominational Christian services.
Since Josh Thomas, the Executive Director of Seeds of Peace, is with us this week, he met with all the campers together to get their feedback about their experience at Camp so far. A week from today, all the campers will be back home. But with five more days together, we still have time to meet their expectations and build stronger relationships before they are scattered again to the north, south, and central parts of Maine. This conversation also gave the campers some practice speaking with someone who has the power to make changes. This practice dovetails nicely with what they have been learning about community action.
Cam, one of our counselors, had a birthday today. For this occasion, he wanted to have a soccer game with a team of counselors versus a team of campers. Everyone played hard and the score was almost tied for most of the game. But in the end, the goalie for the counselor team kicked the ball almost to the opposite goal and another counselor was able to kick it the last short bit to score the winning goal.
Bunk 7 is inhabited by some very funny boys. They love to come in front of lineup and encourage the other campers to participate in their original banter about the “news.” For bunk inspection one day, they hung their sleeping bags from the rafters to make their bunk look “uniform.” Tomorrow they are planning to have a yard sale outside their bunk, as if it is their home.
Tonight, three girls sang a beautiful song about growing older and getting used to the changes that growing older brings to relationships. They had to sing and play the guitar while the camp across the lake set off fireworks for the Fourth of July. But their singing still had a very calming effect on our community.
Intercultural Night | July 2
Today was Choice Day and Intercultural Night. For Choice Day, the campers did not have a normal schedule. Instead of Dialogue, they chose a topic for discussion with their fellow campers who have expertise in these subjects: personal narrative storytelling, exploring masculinity, equity in education, multi-faith comparison, people of color affinity space, the meaning of the Fourth of July, sports exploration, arts extravaganza, writing, dance, and games.
Intercultural night was centered around wearing clothing and preparing food that represents one’s culture. For hours, food preparation was going on in the dining hall and kitchen. Although it looked like we could feed two camps with all the food that was being chopped and kneaded, nary a morsel was left at the end of dinner.
Perhaps the most exciting thing that happened today was the end of mask-wearing. Camp became alive when all the faces were full of expression. Faces convey so much of communication, something you realize once faces are covered for so long and then uncovered.
Wake Up Call | July 1
Tim Wilson turned back the clock and returned to Camp early enough to ring the bell and wake the Camp with his signature “All up! Alllllllllll Up!” His wakeup call used to be loud enough to be heard from one end of Camp to the other—all 44 acres. But the campers certainly heard him this time.
Then Tim delivered another wakeup call at breakfast line-up. This one was about his visits to elementary schools in Maine where he listened to the concerns of children as young as kindergarten age. They shared how concerned they are about what the world will be like when they grow up.
This was the final day of the first round of special activities. The campers in the Camper Reports activity used their time to work on an article about what is lacking in their school health instruction. They have now practiced working on a journalistic piece as a group and individually.
We now have tested every person at Camp for COVID-19 and all the tests have been negative. We are still going to mask-up indoors and when we are not with people in our bunks outdoors.
This was a hot day and most people couldn’t resist a dip in the lake!
The day closed with a rousing All-Camp game of Ga-Ga. We like to call it World Cup Ga-Ga, just to have fun with it.
Toward Inclusivity | June 30
Every day, the Camp community seems to get another notch higher toward more kindness and inclusivity. It is hard to believe that the campers were mostly strangers to one another less than a week ago.
Tonight, the entire camp learned a Step Africa dance routine from the Seeds of Peace development director, Brian. He had everyone line up in six long rows from one end of the Big Hall to the other and in less than an hour, all the campers had mastered the clapping of hands and stamping of feet and shouting in unison. It was glorious!
Just prior to the step dancing, Gabriel, one of the Camp staff, led an appreciation of Queer identity, creating a space for stories and poetry and dancing.
The Community Action preparation continued with some group challenges and debriefing to help campers understand the challenges and obstacles of trying to create change in their schools and communities. This exercise helps the campers learn together with the campers who live near them in their home communities in preparation for taking constructive steps together after they return home from Camp.
Jumping Right In | June 29
We had such a lovely day, from the sunny weather to the way the campers enthusiastically jumped into all the activities. You could never describe this group as shy or reticent. A few of the campers have been to Seeds of Peace before, but the vast majority are new.
The Special Activities began today. They include the Seeds of Peace Band, volleyball, camper reports, ultimate Frisbee, schoolyard games, crocheting, cooking and baking, and dance. The members of the Camper Reports practiced interviewing each other, describing how it felt to be the interviewer or the interviewee. There will be two more days with these activities and then the campers will have a chance to do another special activity.
As usual, there was an hour and a half of dialogue, swimming, boating and Community Action today. After dinner, we had a “Bestest” contest. This was a competition between bunk groups to see who could perform the best impression of an air guitar player or a group representation of a dinosaur or other similar dramatization.
The best surprise was a warm-up presentation by Brian, Seeds of Peace development director, at dinner line up. Earlier in his life he was a dancer in Step Africa. He gave a short introduction to a program he has prepared for the entire Camp tomorrow night. By the end of that program, everyone should be able to do a Step Africa dance together. That is sure to unite this community!
Community Action | June 28
The summer camp schedule has many variables we have come to expect, like sudden changes in the weather. But today we had to alter our morning schedule because a raccoon was hanging around one of the bunks. Our local animal warden came over and removed the raccoon by crawling under the bunk and talking sweetly to him. While that was happening, we had to switch the schedule so no one at Camp would have a close encounter with the raccoon.
Almost every morning from now on, the campers will be able to choose a special activity given by members of our staff. The staff members designed these, based on their own special talents. Today, the counselors pitched their special activities to the campers so they would know what to expect in each of them. It is good for everyone to have choices and it gives the staff a chance to pass on their passions and skills.
Half the campers have dialogue in the morning, while the other half has sports or art or dance. Then, in the afternoon, they switch. They also have swimming daily. One half of the campers has a rest hour while the other half has swim time.
We introduced the campers to Community Action today. Danielle, a Maine Seed who works in the community action field, has designed a training program which will enable the campers to “make some waves” when they return to their communities in the fall. The campers met in their school groups to begin thinking about the changes they want to see. Right now, they might not feel as if they have enough power to change something they don’t agree with, but by the end of their two weeks at Camp, they will have a much clearer idea of how their hopes might become reality. These groups will meet with Danielle every afternoon just before dinner.
At night we usually have an all-Camp activity that is creative and fun and involves small groups working together to achieve something. Tonight, we had a garbage bag fashion design competition. They had to dress one member of their bunk group in something special made from garbage bags and flowers or leaves. They worked hard but also had a lot of fun. The winner was dressed as a bride!
It seemed entirely fitting to end this day with another small, wild animal: our first skunk was sighted in the dark, close to the health center.
Swim Tests & Café Night | June 27
The first full day of Camp began with a cool drizzle, which made the swim tests a bit chilly, but by early afternoon, the sun brightened and warmed us all. The swim tests determine the kinds of water activities each camper is prepared to do. The lake is the most dangerous part of our Camp, so we want to make sure everyone will be able to swim and use our boats safely. Even the good swimmers will have to wear life vests when boating. We have one large swimming dock and canoes, sailboats, and kayaks. We also offer waterskiing for advanced swimmers.
At morning line-up, before breakfast, we ask the bunk groups to take turns offering some inspiration to the rest of the Camp. We also share some mindfulness training to teach ways of centering oneself and being present in the moment. These are skills that can be used to reduce stress in almost any environment.
We also introduced the campers to dialogue, something they will have with the same group of campers and facilitators each day for about 90 minutes. The campers address the issues they choose to bring to the group. The facilitators guide the process of the discussions, helping the campers speak in ways that allow others to listen to what they are saying. Active listening is among the most important skills they learn.
In the evening, we held Café Night under our big dining tent. During this program, the campers paired up with people they haven’t spoken with yet and got to know one another better. At the end, two counselors sang a beautiful song to them. Then, they were off to bed, knowing much more about this new place than they did last night. Each day will seem long and challenging, but the weeks will seem to go by quickly.
Arrivals | June 26
On this warm, sunny day, 62 Maine campers arrived on buses from northern, southern, and central Maine, to spend the next two weeks living together. The sight of campers hopping off the buses and being greeted by enthusiastic counselors and dialogue facilitators is what makes all the previous training worth the effort. Happy music and chants filled the air as the campers made their way through a tunnel of staff arms, creating a very warm welcome.
Before getting on their buses, all the campers were tested for COVID-19 and all of them tested negative. Due to the continuing pandemic, we are taking every precaution we can to avoid having a breakout of the virus at Camp. Last summer, we used these same precautions and we avoided having any cases.
The campers will be able to forgo masks only with their bunk cohorts. Otherwise, they will have to wear face masks both inside our buildings and outdoors when they will be in close proximity to other people who are not part of their bunk cohorts.
The campers all made name buttons, had check-ins with the nurse and doctor, went on tours around the Camp, and learned our basic safety rules. They need to understand why we don’t go into the lake or stay outside under the trees when there is a thunderstorm. They need to know that we constantly take attendance at every activity so we know where everyone is at all times.
They also need to know that we encourage campers to try new activities and not be afraid to make mistakes or be silly sometimes. That is why the counselors put on a talent show this first night. Some of the counselors are extremely talented, but others were just taking a risk, without being concerned about their lack of experience onstage.
We have changed our schedule to accommodate “teenage time.” No doubt they will appreciate being able to wake up at 8 a.m. instead of an hour earlier. Many schools in Maine also run on “teenage time.” We will also provide an early bird option for those who prefer to wake up at 7 a.m., however. Their lights out will be at 11 p.m.
Camp just isn’t Camp until the campers settle in and fill this lovely space with more humanity.