Each year at Peacebuilders Camp, our younger campers take a special trip together. We drive 90 minutes south of Koinonia to the small town of Ellenton to visit the Ellenton Health Clinic. From our hosts Teresa and José, we learn how the clinic serves migrant farmworkers by providing low-cost healthcare. They also take us on a tour of surrounding farms so that our campers can appreciate the hard work that goes into bringing produce to their tables at home. We see the barracks where the migrant workers live and talk about the challenges that define their families’ lives.
Our visit to the clinic also includes a service project. In 2011, Peacebuilders Camp helped establish a food pantry within the clinic. Now each year, in a marvelous four-way partnership, drivers from Café Campesino in Americus pick up hundreds of pounds of donated food from Diaz Foods in Atlanta for our campers to unpack, repackage, and sort onto the shelves of the Ellenton pantry, so that the clinic nurses at can distribute it to their clients. This year’s campers were eager helpers, dividing 100-pound bags of rice and beans into family-sized portions, and finding shelf space for cans of vegetables, bags of masa, packages of pasta, and boxes of laundry detergent. When we left the clinic, we were satisfied that we had learned a lot and that our work would serve scores of families throughout the year.
But the adventure was far from over! A short drive from Ellenton is Reed Bingham State Park. Arriving there, we met Ben Fowler, who guided us as we canoed and kayaked to our own private island campground. Under Ben’s expert direction, we readied tents, built a campfire, roasted marshmallows for s’mores, and had a great time in the great outdoors. Most of us even got a few hours of sleep Wednesday night! This morning, we packed up the camping gear, enjoyed a bit more time on the water, and then got to swim at Reed Bingham’s beach.
For many of our campers, this overnight camping trip was a first. Others had never canoed or kayaked before. An earlier discussion about comfort zones gave us some language to talk about these new experiences. Many of our group were being asked to leave their comfort zones and try something new, and all of them found success. They spent the night in a tent, they used an outhouse, they paddled a canoe, they learned where and when it’s safe to be in water where alligators might live! It’s these kinds of successes that encourage further venture beyond what’s comfortable, whether that’s meeting people from different cultures or taking an unpopular stand at school or speaking out against injustice. As our 11- and 12-year old campers start to wind up their week at Peacebuilders Camp, they are finding themselves better equipped to meet all kinds of challenges. We are so proud of them all!