From Erica Schoon, Program Director…
We have emerged from the woods! My clothes are filthy, my skin is burnt, my eyelids are dropping, but my heart is full.
The past three days have been packed full. We’ve learned about the right to healthcare and housing and the right to work and leisure. We’ve done some service learning, a collaborative art project, lots of circle time, a field trip to the Global Village, a trip to the Ellenton Health Clinic, blueberry picking on the farm, swimming, and of course the big camp-out.
This was Peacebuilders Camp’s first ever camp-out, and there were a lot of big question marks going into it. We took an all-or-nothing approach and reserved an entire island in the middle of the lake at Reed Bingham State Park — a mid July camp-out in south Georgia surrounded by water with the majority of our campers (and some of our counselors) having never camped. It could not have gone better. Our campers didn’t just survive their night in the woods, they loved it. We were guided on our adventure by the amazing duo, Ben and Desi, from Sure Foot Adventures.
Upon returning from our campout, I have a strong sense of getting back to basics, and I don’t mean the basics of being in nature. I mean getting back to the basics of working with kids. There’s so much we want to do at camp — creating a safe space, getting across important social justice concepts, facilitating learning and friendships and fun and transformation. But when it comes down to it, there is nothing that replaces the experience of watching a 12-year-old get up the courage to try something new and finding they actually like it. It might be getting in a canoe and trusting it will carry you safely across the water; zipping up your tent for the night and believing that the mesh will keep the critters out; watching the sun set across the water and realizing there’s no turning back.
There’s just such exponential growth when you leave your living room and venture out. You can’t build that kind of confidence in front of the TV. Every one of our campers now knows that they can feel comfortable in a canoe. They can camp and enjoy nature and stargazing and let challenges like outhouses and gnats fade into the background. They can swim in a lake and not get eaten by a gator. These seemingly silly things are important life lessons, and they do translate.
So much violence and negativity in the world is driven by fear of the unfamiliar. Overcoming a fear of anything–no matter how silly–gets us familiar with the process and reminds us we will survive if we leave our comfort zone. We can get to know people different from ourselves. We can consider new ideas. And we’ll still survive. We might even love it.
Below are a whole bunch of photos from our last couple days: