MIDDLE EAST, SOUTH ASIA, UNITED STATES, UNITED KINGDOM
Color Games Day 3 | July 16
We have an ancient ten-person wood canoe that we use for the “Peace Canoe Races” on the final day of Color Games. Although canoeing has been a regular activity, such a large, heavy vessel is very cumbersome to steer. Boys and girls groups from both teams have to get their boat from the boys’ beach to the sailing beach, which is almost the full length of the Camp shoreline.
Once the canoe reaches the beach, a runner races to the Camp bell, situated far away from the lake. Every second counts, so the runners must be as swift as they can be. Ringing the bell stops the clock for each groups’ attempt to win.
After a late breakfast, we found out that the cumulative score for the Blue Team was 3,050 and 3,150 for the Green Team. That put the teams at almost a tie before the final event, Message to Hajime, began. About 118 stations were set up all over Camp where teams had representatives doing challenging things like making a bed, or singing a song, or doing headers with a soccer ball, or running backwards on a baseball diamond.
The final element of Hajime is the memorization of the message. In this final part, the teams’ representatives have to memorize a passage that is not well-known and recite it to Sarah B. or Bobbie behind closed doors in the Big Hall, while their teams wait outside in silence. There is a lot of pressure on the person memorizing the message.
Once the message has been recited exactly, stop watches are clicked. All the campers gather on the boys’ beach to hear the results. Today it was the Green Team that won by a mere ten minutes.
The winning team runs into the lake with all their clothes on and the other team follows. It is very exciting to achieve an end to Color Games after three days of nonstop competition. There is a lot of hugging and splashing before they form a circle and sing the Seeds of Peace song together.
In the evening, we tried something a little new. We set aside some time for remembering the 20 Seeds who have passed away as well as some of the adults we have lost. Pictures and writings were set up on a table by the lake. People were invited to sit quietly if they wished. Some campers knew some of the dead, but most do not. Some thought about their own family members who have passed away. Others thought about how hard it would be to have a Camp friend die.
The Color Games coaches always speak to the campers as a way to close this time at Camp. Afterward, it was an early lights-out. Tomorrow is our last day together.
Color Games Day 2 | July 15
The second day of Color Games began with a relay race around the half-mile dirt perimeter road. Some of the more athletically-inclined have been using the road like a track earlier in the session, but on this day, it was divided into four sections. Runners ran to the next set of runners from each team, passing a baton on to the teammate who then ran the next section.
Some of the runners were trying this for the first time while others had run relays before. They had various ways of warming up, including jumping in place and stretching. The girls went first. Each team won one of the races. Then it was time for breakfast and an update on the cumulative scores.
All-star activities filled the morning: street hockey, climbing, swimming, canoeing, cooking, art, Frisbee, and dance. Campers spent the afternoon preparing for the Variety Show. This show has very strict rules about the originality of the content and the inclusiveness and quality of the acts, which include a cappella, instrumental music, comedy skits, the written word, and an original team song about Camp life. We stayed up late watching the show, but it was worth it. Both teams did an impressive job given the short amount of preparation time.
We have one more day of Color Games left. Stay tuned for the final scores!
Color Games Day 1 | July 14
Color Games begins with a huge rope pull, first for all the girls, then all the boys, and finally for everyone on both teams. Each time, the Blue Team is on one side and the Green Team is on the other. Camp folklore regarding the rope pull requires that the teams switch sides with each contest because it is said that the terrain on one side offers an advantage. Another bit of folklore is that the team that loses the rope pull will win Color Games in the end.
Before the start of Color Games, we balanced the teams in terms of sports skills and artistic abilities, delegations, male/female, etc., to the extent that we can. It is most likely that spirit and confidence, laced with luck, will determine the winner on Tuesday.
The key to keeping spirits up is the strength of the counselors-turned-coaches. Each team has both male and female coaches, all energetic, competitive and good-humored, with incredible patience. They have been working behind the scenes preparing for Color Games without the knowledge of the campers. They were introduced to the campers at the fire pit after the Talent Show, with considerable fanfare. Today they can be seen looking after their team members, reminding them of the rules of each game and making sure they show up on time everywhere they are supposed to be.
Today, the sports and dance competitions saw members of the same bunk face off against each other. Tonight, we began to have all-star games with teams selected by the coaches. Those who are not competing at any given time are on cheer squads, decorated with face paint and encouraged to cheer for their own team without putting down the other team.
These Color Games days are long and non-stop. It is a terrific way to bring the Camp community together. It encourages campers to work closely with people who may not be from their own delegation. Winning is a very powerful motivator. After working so hard together to win, we hope they will realize that working together to achieve a shared goal is possible back home.
Talent Show | July 13
Walking around Camp today, you could see many conversations between campers or between campers and counselors. It was almost too hot for sports in the middle of the day, so several activity groups just sat in the shade and talked.
The waterfront counselors decided to try to entice the campers into the lake by holding a “cannonball” diving contest. This worked because competition is the name of the game at Camp. A number of campers went out on the lake in canoes. They got wet getting in and out of them and the cool Maine breeze also helped to cool them down.
At dinner line-up, a counselor and a PS performed a favorite Camp song called The Rattlin’ Bog. The PSs and experienced counselors all knew when to chime in with their parts of the song and the new campers were delighted by the humor.
The Talent Show tonight was comprised of groups which have come up with dances, songs and instrumentals during their time here at Camp. We had a Beatles song, dabke dancing, drumming with volunteers from the audience, boys from many delegations playing rock ‘n roll, original essays and poetry, a “nocapella” performance of Hallelujah, solo songs about love, stand-up comedy, classical Indian dance, and classical piano. Catherine and Heather finished with Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, the way we always end the Talent Show, before …
Surprise! Color Games! Parents, friends and family, just follow along here. You will not be getting many phone calls for three days.
Sports Day | July 12
Although our campers have only known one another for a couple of weeks and have only played basketball and soccer together as teams for a couple of days, they were able to hold their own against the boys and girls teams from nearby Pinecliff and Wigwam Camps. The girls basketball team won their match, and the boys basketball, as well as the boys and girls soccer teams, all lost by one point each. So we were very closely matched.
Every camper not playing on a team was part of the cheer squad. They painted signs and faces to cheer on our campers as well as the visiting teams.
The other camp teams were glad to be at Seeds of Peace Camp and were eager to learn our cheers and songs. When the games were over, the teams exchanged T-shirts and enjoyed eating a lunch cookout with us. At our lunch line-up, our Bollywood dance group wowed everyone!
After lunch, our visiting campers departed and we returned to our normal Friday schedule. We held Muslim religious services in the afternoon and Jewish services after dinner, followed by bunk night.
Remembering Asel | July 11
Since 2001, we have held a memorial service for Aseel Asleh at Camp. Aseel was a Palestinian living in Israel who had been a very active Seed since joining us in 1997. Beloved by all and killed by Israeli Border Police in October 2000 while observing a demonstration in his own village of Arrabe, his death had a huge impact on the Seeds of Peace family. In fact, he was shot at point-blank range while wearing his Seeds of Peace green T-shirt. Tragically, many other Seeds have passed away as well, but Aseel remains the only Seed killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Today, we remembered Aseel through his own words from an essay he wrote called, “Peaceful Thoughts.” Orlando, a Seeds of Peace facilitator and regional staff person, spoke about living with a double identity, which is something Orlando has in common with Aseel. We also had a song based on Aseel’s favorite Rumi poem sung at the end.
One of the special activity groups called Ask the Parents is spending time with the people who have been involved with Seeds of Peace Camp the longest. Yesterday, they spoke with long-time nurse, Lois. They also spoke with the first Camp director, Tim. Today they spoke with co-founder, Bobbie. They were invited into her cabin to look at her collection of pictures and ask questions about the origins of Seeds of Peace Camp, leading to story-telling that went back many years. Their questions were very insightful and they are learning a lot about Seeds of Peace through these interviews.
At the end of the day, several buses arrived to take us all to the Sea Dogs baseball game in Portland. Many of our campers have only a little experience with the game. Leslie, our Executive Director, had tried to teach a group of campers how to play earlier in the day. The biggest hit was the baseball food at the stadium! After one inning, rain came pouring down and we spent most of our time socializing and eating inside. But it was an outing and that was exciting enough.
Rescue on the High Seas | July 10
Late this afternoon, the wind picked up, making the water choppy with waves. Campers new to canoeing were making their way across the lake when two of the canoes capsized. The campers had to hold onto the canoes until they could be turned back over. Counselors in other canoes and kayaks helped them push their canoes toward the shore, where they dumped out the lake water and righted them. Another lesson learned about staying safe when surprises happen.
The high ropes course marks the culmination of the group challenges given to each dialogue group outside the actual dialogue periods. Pairs of campers are given challenges according to their individual abilities as well as their interpersonal skills.
A boy and a girl were asked to climb up a series of wooden bars and truck tires, arranged in a way that challenges even the most athletic people. The boy had very little trouble scrambling up the element. But the girl was terrified. She was afraid of falling. Even with her feet firmly planted on the ground, she was terrified.
She had a harness and belay ropes attached to her body, so she really couldn’t fall too far. But logic did nothing to assuage her fears. Even reducing her challenge to climbing on the first bar didn’t help her relax. The boy who was her partner gently and consistently helped her reach that first bar, her destination.
The boy knelt on the ground and convinced the girl to step onto his knee, then his hands, and then his shoulder until she could reach the bar. She did this many times, often kicking him in the face in the process, but kept being too afraid to lift herself onto the bar. Then, at last she did it! She learned a good lesson about herself and so did the boy. She learned to overcome her fear and he learned that he can be a wonderful partner.
World Cup (Ga-Ga) | July 9
Ga-Ga is a camp game that is exciting for campers and counselors alike. It is like dodgeball, but played in the round pit and no ball can be hit above the knees. If someone is hit below the knees with the ball, they are “out.”
We have a small Ga-Ga pit outdoors where about ten people can play the game. But tonight, we had a much larger version of the game in the big hall involving all the campers at once. This version, called World Cup Ga-Ga, is organized chaos, interspersed with music and shouts of “out!” by referees.
Ga-Ga isn’t for everyone; one small group was seen practicing yoga outside the game.
We are two-thirds through this first session of Camp already. So it is time to take group photos. We started today with bunk photos. We will also take photos of dialogue groups, (dining) table groups, the PSs, the staff, and delegations. One of the favorite pictures is of the Seeds who are on the Camp staff.
Today, the campers have been preparing for the upcoming Sports Day and the Talent Show. They are trying out for both. The girls’ soccer team will wake up early to run around the mile-long road that circles Camp, in preparation for their match. The Talent Show will have acts that have been put together here at Camp involving more than one camper. This promotes cooperation and pride in creating something new with a mixed group.
Challenges & Confidence | July 8
This was a beautiful day to do anything, really, so we were mostly outside when not in dialogue or eating in the dining hall. Sailing looked like a dream with the bright colors of the sails reflected in the blue lake. Even though it seemed like a good day to try something new, one camper wasn’t buying it. When asked why he was sitting outside a game of volleyball instead of playing the game, he said he only likes three things: basketball, art, and singing the Seeds of Peace song!
Two campers trying to climb up the “vertical playpen” on the high ropes course took 30 minutes to complete their goal. Every step of the task was a big stretch that could only be surmounted through cooperation. Once they got back on the ground, one of them said, “This is the hardest thing I have ever done!” Imagine the amount of confidence this camper can now savor.
Yousef, a Seed who was a camper in 2005, has written a book about his life in Gaza and his personal journey called The Words of My Father. Daniel Moses invited him to speak with the educators and neighbors from Otisfield and other nearby places. Seeds of Peace has played a significant role in his life, but it was mainly his father who guided his belief in peace. His country director and his delegation leader from 2005 proudly listened to his talk.
The evening activity for the campers was something everyone enjoys called “The Mostest!” Campers are divided into their bunk groups and compete by seeing who can impersonate Camp staff the best. Watching Sarah B., the Camp Director, see herself depicted by the campers was almost as funny as the impersonations. No doubt, Sarah will include the winners in a line-up at some point.
Intercultural Night | July 7
Bashar and Maayan work together as Directors of Middle East Programs at Seeds of Peace. Both are Seeds who experienced Camp together. At breakfast line-up, they talked about their ongoing deep friendship and recurrent struggle to come to agreement through dialogue.
The impact of their open discussion about the tension created by Palestinian life experiences versus Israeli life experiences, acknowledged and worked through on a regular basis, was probably not lost on anyone.
The delegation leaders have also been working hard to redesign Educator Programs at Seeds of Peace. Their input will be critical to the thought behind the new design. For today, they took charge of the cooking for Intercultural Night, working cooperatively together to produce a veritable feast from the Middle East and South Asia. The traditional clothing of India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine created another feast for the eyes!
For most of the afternoon, the campers worked on their performances for Intercultural Night. Each delegation was given the opportunity to celebrate their culture through traditional dance or poetry.
They also used music to express their hope for what the future might hold for their people. It is likely that these expressions will be discussed in dialogue from now on. The point is to “sit with” the questions and concerns about their reality and try to understand one another. We have major cultural and political differences, but that does not necessarily preclude living together in peace.
High Ropes | July 6
A hot, sultry day gave way to wind and then heavy afternoon rain right after “general swim.” The rain left us with cleaner air and a more pleasant temperature. When we have summer thunderstorms, we have to keep everyone indoors, not because they might get wet, but because lightning can be dangerous in wooded areas and close to a large body of water. This means that dialogue groups and dance classes need to stay where they are, even if, according to the schedule, they should be over.
The second year campers, the PSs, had both high and low ropes this morning. Our ropes course is embedded in the woods. The high ropes are quite high. According to people who have climbed up, they feel even higher when you are on them looking down. That can be a scary realization. Two girls, one Palestinian and one Israeli, each spoke the other’s language while they were up on the high ropes, asking each other to tell their mother that they were up so high. Of course, in reality, they are wearing harnesses and helmets and are kept from falling by trained people below using the belay technique.
This evening, Leslie and Bobbie talked to the campers about working with John Wallach, the founder of Seeds of Peace. We then screened the video first shown at the United Nations memorial service for John in 2002.
Afterwards, the campers were asked to pair up with someone with whom they had not yet had a conversation. The idea is to give the campers an opportunity to go outside their normal groups to find others with whom they could build a connection. This has always worked well, often beginning long-lasting relationships. These conversations took place in the dining hall, which the PSs had, as usual, decorated to look like a café, and were fueled by cookies and cakes made by the kitchen staff.
Art Shack | July 5
The experience of most people who return to Seeds of Peace Camp after being away for a year or more is that they take one breath of the fresh Maine woods air and immediately feel at home. This was true for the PSs, the second-year campers. But for campers who arrive for the first time, it can really be a shock.
Our Camp environment does not resemble the homes of the campers in any way. Nestled in the woods, beside a big lake, where it rains in the summertime, this provides a whole new perspective. While we do not want the campers to shed their attachment to their homes and families, we hope they will think of this place as their second home.
In the Art Shack, campers were working on an interesting project. They were given blank full-face masks to paint, with the outside showing their public visage and the inside showing the way they really feel. They worked intently on these and there is little doubt that this project means a lot to them.
Today is Friday, so the campers will have an opportunity to either worship or observe the religious services of Muslim and/or Jewish people. The same opportunity will be available on Sunday for Christian services. To observe others in prayer is often an eye-opening experience. Campers see the common prayers for peace and love, and other religions will likely seem less different and threatening.
Also, it being Friday, campers and counselors will spend time together as a bunk this evening. Counselors work hard to make this time special for their Camp family.
Fourth of July | July 4
We don’t celebrate any national holidays inside Camp, but we did inform the campers about the Fourth of July and how it is traditional to have fireworks displays in towns all over the country. People across the lake set off fireworks on the night of July 4. Since even the smallest sounds travel across the lake, these fireworks can really seem like they are right next to us. We know these booming sounds can be unnerving to people who live in conflict zones.
The town of Otisfield, where Camp is located, always invites us to their small-town Fourth of July parade. We send only the PSs and the Educators, while the rest of the Camp has a normal schedule. The town gives prizes to the best participants. We were the only ones in our category so we won first place. The other parade participants were fire trucks and antique cars.
The highlight of the experience is always the red, white, and blue water shooting out of fire hoses over the heads of anyone who wishes to cool off. The PSs always love to do that. They danced and sang in the water to the delight of the townspeople who are very proud that we are their neighbors.
Dialogue sessions continue to challenge the campers and facilitators. But, they are doing the work that needs to be done to understand and respect one another. More of the quiet people are expressing themselves. They have gained confidence during group challenge activities outside dialogue where they have had to take leadership roles. The natural leaders in each group are purposely blindfolded or silenced while the quieter campers are encouraged to lead in their places.
Today was the last session for the first round of special activities. The Bollywood dance activity group performed at line-up to a very impressed audience. Tomorrow, will start the next round of special activities.
Camp Birthdays | July 3
We try to begin each day with a musical or poetic informal performance at breakfast line-up. Today, the Seed-counselor, Miko, sang Lean on Me with everyone joining in. It was a lovely way to begin the day.
Today we also had our first birthday!
Birthdays are special at Seeds of Peace. We know that the campers celebrating the special day and their families wish they could express their love in person, but there are thousands of miles between them.
To make up for this distance from home, we try to give the birthday people special treatment. At each line-up before the meals that day, the birthday camper decides who gets to join them in leaving early for the dining hall. Then after dinner, the whole camp sings happy birthday and the honoree gets to share a birthday cake with his or her table.
Some people seem to be naturally energetic and loud, while others act just the opposite way and get less attention. It is up to the adults to be sure that the quiet ones also are seen and heard. Now that one week has gone by, the quiet ones are still trying to find their way among the boisterous campers. One quiet camper said that she was very appreciative of the way her dialogue group is truly in dialogue and not arguing. Another one said that he finally got the courage to tell his dialogue group his story and was pleasantly surprised at how respectfully they listened to him. Another quiet one was sitting alone under a tree today, but she is preparing to tell her dialogue group her story tomorrow.
The South Asian campers are introducing everyone else to the game of cricket. At first glance the game looks a lot like softball, but once it gets started, one can see that there are very few similarities. The campers from the Middle East will have quite a time trying not to mix up the rules between softball, which they are also just learning, and cricket.
Building Confidence | July 2
This morning at breakfast line-up, Sarah Brajtbord, our Camp Director, acknowledged that many campers had a difficult time with dialogue yesterday. She has a way of recognizing challenges while infusing her perspective with the possibility for growth and positive change. A counselor named Joy was asked to lead the whole community in a set of stretching and letting-go exercises. This helped us look forward to the day with confidence.
It was a perfect day for water sports and group challenge activities. By now, almost all the campers have had the opportunity to try canoeing—and some are even attempting to water ski. The group challenge activities included the low ropes, where there is an emphasis upon cooperation, rather than competition. The low ropes are only about two feet above the ground, but walking across them requires individual balance and courage to meet the group’s goals.
The special dance activity group is working on a Bollywood dance performance. The dance instructors made a video for the dancers to see and they were really delighted with it. This is a good way to loosen up the tenseness the campers might have and give them a way to gain a skill they might not learn in any other place.
Other new skills being taught are relatively easy, such as kickball, softball, and hand weaving bracelets. Anytime a camper achieves a new skill, they gain more confidence. We hope they will use this newfound confidence to take a chance to learn about the campers on the other side of their conflict.
Honeymoon Over | July 1
There is usually a “honeymoon” period at the start of Camp before the arguments between political adversaries begin. Today was the day the honeymoon ended. You could hear the raised voices and see the tears after the dialogue sessions. This is when the real work begins.
It is very difficult to argue for an hour or so and then go to the sports fields to play a game, but most of the campers need a break from the turmoil inside the dialogue huts. It helps to do something else together with the people in their dialogue groups to be reminded of their shared humanity. Tomorrow, they will try to listen and speak so others can hear them and think critically.
It was a beautiful, sunny day otherwise. Special activities included canoeing and kayaking, pirate games, Bollywood dancing, making friendship bracelets, and creative writing. After rest hour, dialogue groups played basketball, Frisbee, kickball, softball, and did some gardening.
Following dinner, there were more activities and then the campers sat with their table-mates and table counselors for “table talk.” Spread out on the floors of the Field House and the Big Hall, the table groups had real conversations with the people with whom they share meals in a noisy dining hall each day. It is almost impossible to actually get to know one another during meals, so this activity addresses that problem!
PS Insights | June 30
Every summer, we hold a flag-raising ceremony at our front gate during which the delegations sing their respective national anthems while the flags of each country are raised. All the flags, except the Seeds of Peace flag, remain outside our gate. The idea is to pay homage to the national identities, but create another identity within the community of Seeds of Peace.
Before the flags were raised, Seeds of Peace Executive Director Leslie Lewin, and Tim Wilson, the first Camp Director, spoke to the Camp community about their hopes for the new campers and their appreciation for the 90 staff who make Camp possible. At the end, everyone sang the Seeds of Peace Camp song and then re-entered the gate to resume a normal schedule.
A thunderstorm rolled in just as we were beginning rest hour. The storm lasted quite a long time, so everyone had an extra long time to nap or talk quietly in their bunks. All of the activities in the afternoon had to be held indoors. They included music, art, drama improvisation, group challenge, creative writing, and dance.
The storm ended by dinner line-up and a blue sky opened up above us. We are told that we can expect bright sunshine for the next few days.
This evening, the PSs (returning campers) prepared speeches about themselves that they hope will help the new campers adapt to “the way life could be.” Everyone can now see that Camp life is very different from life at home, but some may be wondering what this experience will mean to them once it has ended in three weeks. The 31 PSs offered some insights into that question. They talked about sexual identity, women’s issues, power imbalances, and personal challenges. And most of all, they spoke about how it felt to them to have the chance to return to this place. This program was very important not only for the new campers, but also for the PSs who were able to put their deeply felt feelings into words.
Cleaning Scores | June 29
Most of today was devoted to establishing the norms and expectations for bunk life, line-up, free time, sports and arts activities, and dialogue sessions.
For the first time, bunk clean-up was given scores with explanations as to why each score was given. The campers knew that one of the counselors, Spencer, would be the person inspecting the bunks today so they wrote him notes and poetry to win him over. But, the scores all showed some need for improvement. Campers are expected to make their beds, clean the floors and bathrooms, as well as the area outside their bunks. They are also expected to tidy up the communal showers and empty trash cans. We try to maintain a clean, healthy environment while enlisting everyone’s help as part of our community.
We try to make learning fun, if at all possible. Tonight, the counselors and facilitators put on a staged show about the kinds of skills they will be teaching. The campers always enjoy seeing the adults demonstrate their talents with music and humor. Just as the evening show was ending, the audience was told to return to their bunks as soon as possible because a heavy rainfall was heading our way. Sure enough, sheets of rain, thunder, and lightning traveled across Maine just after everyone was safely inside their bunks.
Housekeeping | June 28
During the first day of Camp, we get all the “housekeeping” out of the way so the rest of the session can run smoothly.
By bunk, the campers travel around with their counselors to visit the health center to get a quick check in and make sure all medication is in the hands of the doctor and nurses, to the field for group challenge, to the picnic tables to take research surveys, to the Big Hall to learn the Seeds of Peace Camp song, and to the phones to call home.
One counselor who is a Seed said he remembers how important that call home was for him on his first day as a camper. He said when he heard his campers connect with their parents today, his heart swelled with emotion knowing how vital it is to hear a reassuring voice on the other end. Many of the campers are now thousands of miles away from everything and everyone they have known all their lives. Twice a week they are scheduled to phone home. But they do not have cellphones at Camp—they would be a distraction from the face-to-face interactive work they will do at Camp.
Parents are able to call the campers during mealtimes at the Dining Hall, but it is often hard to get through when almost 200 families are calling. They can also email their children and have their email messages printed out for distribution during rest hour each day.
Today is Friday when we have religious services for Muslims and Jews. In the evening we have a bunk night, when bunkmates have low-key activities designed to help them bond with one another. Tonight may be more subdued than the others, since most campers are grappling with jet lag and have had a long day outside in the warm sunshine.
Gradually, each day will be more challenging than the one before.
Arrival Day | June 27
Morning began as a cloudy day, but 30 minutes before the first bus of campers and educators was due to arrive, the sun came out and stayed out until dusk. It was a dry Maine summer day—the kind we always wish for on Arrival Day, but seldom have. Often it rains, making the process more complicated than we like.
During an eight-hour period, several busloads arrived. Palestinians, Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, and Brits all joined the quickly-expanding welcoming throng of already-arrived campers, counselors, facilitators, and other staff. Most were 6 to 12 hours off their normal schedules. But if they were feeling tired, you would never have been able to tell.
The Camp staff greeted them with music and dancing, using the noisiest musical instruments we have and encouraging everyone to join along. Actually, Arrival Day is the crescendo to Staff Orientation, so the staff is super energized. The returning campers are celebrating the chance to be back. And the new campers find all the energy of the older campers and adults contagious and join right in!
Perhaps the most beautiful part of Arrival Day is something only people who know the returning campers might discern. As the returning campers—known as PSs—leap from their buses they run straight into the open arms of their counterparts from the opposite sides of their conflicts. Two years may have passed since they have seen one another, but they are still friends. Their nationalities still do not stand in the way.
Tonight, the Camp is quiet as the new campers are finding out that sleeping in a bunk with people who are supposed to be their enemies is safe here. Maybe a few of them will not sleep well, but most are just too tired to keep awake. The Camp bell will ring at 7 a.m. and all of us will gather for the first all-Camp line-up by 7:30.
Staff Orientation | June 26
Before we can make a home for the campers, we need to create a home for the staff members where everyone feels respected and included. The comfort level of the counselors, facilitators, and other staff working together can make a big difference when we try to establish a safe haven—a second home—for all the campers, regardless of their nationality, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or personality.
The Camp staff comes from all the countries represented by the campers. All of us need to test our assumptions about one another in preparation for helping the campers create honest relationships across lines of traditional assumptions and beliefs.
The facilitators also come from the same countries as the campers. There are two from opposite sides of the conflict for each group of 12 to 15 campers. Dialogue sessions are held in safe spaces, called Dialogue Huts, for 115 minutes each day. Half the campers have dialogue in the morning while the other half meets in the afternoon. When not in dialogue, the groups participate together in sports, the arts, waterfront activities, and “group challenge.” By taking part in many different activities together, they get to know their dialogue group members in a variety of ways, not just in conversation.
Now that we have spent a week or so becoming familiar with the Camp philosophy and methodology, a community of adults has been formed—the basis upon which the larger Camp community will be able to come together over the next three and a half weeks. Each Camp session is unique, but all of them need to run on kindness, mutual understanding, and respect. By tomorrow evening, all 190 campers should be with us. The anticipation of the new Camp session has been building all week. Now we are ready to roll!