The last two days of Peacebuilders 2021 were full of learning about community-building. Campers literally built a new community gathering space, enjoyed spaces others have created or are creating, and were invited to brainstorm new activities that will bring a greater sense of community to Comer.
Thursday’s human rights focus was the right to leisure. To promote this right, campers divided into work teams and under the leadership of Drew Common, created a volleyball court on The Perch’s property. It was hot and sweaty work, but the rewards were great. As they worked, campers reflected that years from now, they’ll take pride in their work and in this gift they have given to the community.
After all that measuring, digging, pounding, and building, it was time to cool off! A trip to Sandy Creek Park in Athens was just what was needed! Exercising their own right to leisure, campers benefitted from the decisions and commitment of city leaders and community members who established and maintain this lovely place for relaxation and retreat.
On Friday, we returned to the ideas about ideal community that campers had developed on Monday. Each group was given a problem for their community to resolve. Even though their communities were imaginary, the struggles they considered are very real. What happens in a community when wealthy part-time residents drain resources from the permanent neighbors? How do small local businesses compete with huge chain stores? What trade-offs is a community willing to accept to create more jobs and wealth? How are the realities of climate change impacting communities, and how are they dealing with those realities? In all of these situations, how do we ensure that all voices are heard and all perspectives considered? All these questions are hard enough for experienced adult leaders, but our campers had good ideas about how community can be built and honored as problems like these are faced.
After lunch, Angie Martin joined the group to offer the campers a chance to express their thanks to the many, many community members who helped make camp possible. We remembered each person’s contributions, and then in assembly-line fashion, we signed the 20+ cards with notes of gratitude. Next, Angie invited campers to envision what activities The Perch could host that would build strong bonds of community among Comer’s residents. Great ideas emerged, from afterschool hangouts, to folk dancing, to cooking classes, to volleyball tournaments on the newly-built court!
A short walk from The Perch is Comer Coffee Co., a new business with community-building at its foundation. Owner Aslyn Nash welcomed us with iced chocolate for everyone. A professional musician, Aslyn explained why she and her husband Kalen have chosen to put their touring life on hold and return to Comer to be part of the exciting new happenings in this community. She led us in some singing, and invited us to browse the art displayed in the shop, play some chess, and dream with her of the ways a business like this one can be a place where relationships are born and flourish.
Winding up our week in Comer, we felt deeply grateful for all the folks who helped make camp possible, and excited about all the possibilities that are bursting into reality in Comer. We couldn’t be more pleased that we were able to be part of those possibilities for a week, and we can’t wait to see how our campers plug into all these new ventures!