What I Learned From Being a Counselor at Peacebuilders Summer Camp, a Program Helping Middle Schoolers Explore Social Justice Issues
Originally published in Affinity Magazine
The history of humankind has been one of innovation; however, with innovation comes suffering. While civilizations have consistently been evolving, this sort of extensive change always comes at the expense of human lives, which begs the question: in 2017, why are so many countries still able to treat their citizens as sub-human? Human rights consist of ideas that should be inclusive to all, but in reality they are only available to those who are in society’s desired socioeconomic class. While many like to pretend that time has allowed the seemingly permanent culture of institutionalized human suffering to subside, there are people across the globe that are not given the resources to validify their humanity.
In today’s social climate, many Americans are blissfully unaware of the immense amount of human tribulation that transpires both domestically and internationally. Out of America’s current state of social inequality, Peacebuilders Camp has surfaced as a way for middle schoolers to explore all aspects of their social justice interests. While many summer camps focus on sports, music, or outdoor activities, Peacebuilders Camps serves as a unique way for teens and preteens to build the foundation that could eventually lead them to inspire change within their own communities. Each day at camp focuses on a different article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Marilyn McGinnis, the camp co-founder and curriculum director, highlights certain organizations that incorporate peacebuilding into their everyday business and nonprofit practices. This year, campers were able to interact with a wide variety of facilitators, some of whom were from Ultimate Peace, drawchange, Carver Market, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the campers were even able to meet Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the founder of School of the Americas Watch.
As a counselor-in-training, I was constantly learning from the facilitators, my fellow counselors, and the campers. The uniqueness of Peacebuilders Camp stems from the appreciation of diversity; people of all races, genders, sexualities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds are loved and included. Ideas and critical thinking are always valued, and any personal experiences that one can bring to the table serves as a reminder that differences are strengths and not weaknesses. The values of Peacebuilders Camp are especially important for the age group that it is meant to target. Peacebuilders Camp primarily serves children who are in middle school, which is a pivotal time in developing one’s core values and building the foundation for what will eventually become each individual’s distinct identity.
Throughout the continuation of camp, various age groups were exposed to many issues that social justice groups are working to overcome. The importance of Peacebuilders Camp cannot be understated: young adults need to know about their own rights, as well as the social issues that plague their generation. Young people are always the ones who inspire social change, so let’s give our young people the tools to do it.