Our third week of Peacebuilders Camp 2021 is happening right now in Comer in northeast Georgia. Home to Jubilee Partners, this town’s demographic makeup is unique for a small southern town. Since 1980, Jubilee Partners has welcomed refugees from all over the world. Some of those families, particularly those from Burma, have made Comer their permanent home. Consequently, the majority of our campers this week are from one of two Burmese ethnic groups, Karen and the Karenni. The perspectives of these campers have added new insights to our typical camp discussions, and we’re excited for the opportunity to learn from them!
We are grateful to be partnering with The Perch, a new initiative in Comer that aims to become a community gathering place. With its extensive outdoor space, screened-in porch, deck, and gazebo, The Perch is the perfect place for a Covid-safe camp, and we’re delighted to be here!
Monday, of course, started with ice-breakers and get-to-know-you activities. Campers were introduced to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and discussed Article 1, which says we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. The group worked together to create a mural that shows each individual’s uniqueness, plus their connections to the wider community.
How can communities be structured so that each person’s dignity and human rights are valued? Campers tried building their “ideal communities” and came up with creative ways to show what rights are most important to them. We’ll be revisiting their communities at the end of the week to see if there are more rights they want to include!
Tuesday was a very full day, focusing on a very full article of the UDHR, Article 25: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including foods, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services . . . ” We acted out the story of Stone Soup and discussed ways in which sharing food resources helps everyone to have enough. Our “human rights fashion show” connected many other human rights to the right to clothing, and campers celebrated that right by tie-dyeing their own t-shirts. They also dyed shirts for people who are in need of clothing because they are coming out of immigration detention or are being deported from the United States.
To dive deeper into the right to housing, groups played a board game that helped them consider realities that people face as they try to move from homelessness into stable housing. Our day was rounded out by a visit from Ruthie Holloman, from Madison County’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. What a lot of learning was packed into this busy day!
On Wednesday, we considered the right to asylum and we celebrated all the contributions that people who have sought asylum in the U.S. (and in Comer!) make to our communities. We welcomed guests who generously assisted groups of campers to make food from their families’ home countries: Colombia, Honduras, Burma, and the Philippines. Campers did a great job with all the peeling, chopping, rolling, pressing, mixing, and frying that was involved, and we all feasted on the delicious foods they prepared!
After lunch, we were honored to hear from two more guests, Brenda and Don from Jubilee Partners. Brenda was gracious enough to share her migration story with the group, and Don told about the founding of Jubilee Partners and that community’s commitment to offering safety to asylum seekers and other migrants. The insight and wisdom they shared was a true gift to all of us.
The day ended with a migration story of our own. Campers reenacted the journeys that so many thousands of families have made from Central America to the U.S. border. Along the way, there were painful decisions to be made, dangers of violence or hardship to face, and so many unknowns. One of our “family” groups successfully made it to the United States and were granted permission to stay in the country. The other, after losing one member to kidnapping and another to murder, were at the end deported back to Honduras. The sobering realities of migration, and the ways the right to asylum is and isn’t honored in our own country, left our campers with much to think about as we head into our last two days of camp.