Archives For NH/VT Camp

Under Pressure

Kids4Peace —  July 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

Contributors: Ada (8th grade, NH), Deklan (7th grade, NH), and Fiona (Counselor, NY). 

As the rehearsals for the musical dramatic event “Peace Child” are in full swing, the campers and staff of Kids4Peace Vermont and New Hampshire’s first year camp are beginning to feel the challenges of memorizing, staging, and mounting a production. Fiona, a Senior Counselor from New York, NY, offers some perspective on the performers and their progress. Putting up a show in six days with six hour long daily rehearsals has her “nervous about their energy” on the day of the performance, for “it’s going to be a big stretch”. Ada, a rising eighth grader from New Hampshire, echoes Fiona, acknowledging that “it’s a lot of work”.

However, while the work can be stressful and exhausting, it is also just as rewarding. Now the campers are working on scenes and character development, helping them to realize the thematic value of this piece. Fiona believes that “they grasp that it’s something about peace and that it means more than other shows they might have seen or been part of”. That appreciation for the play has many of the campers eager to perform.

One in particular is Deklan, a rising seventh grader from Sunapee, NH. Because Deklan is “never one to get anxious or anything” while onstage, he is finding great excitement in his work. Especially in exploring his character, “Character”, in the play. Understanding his role and how Character connects to the other characters and action of the play is making him “feel more confident that [he] is going to enjoy it and have a really good time”.

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Downstage from left to right: Deklan and Mariam

While the play is helping the campers to find meaning and joy for themselves, it is also helping them to connect to others. Ada is finding that the activities they do at camp and rehearsals have helped her to connect “to the [other] kids and enjoy being around almost all of them”. Deklan has also “made friends with kids from K4P through the play”, and has had “fun [meeting] people and [hanging] out”.

But the impending audience incites nerves and excitement. Fiona cannot wait for the kids to have a “really cool experience” with a “whole sea of people all there supporting” the group. And among that sea of people will be familiar faces. Looking forward to “maybe get[ting] to hug them” and maybe “ask[ing] for a picture with them”, Deklan cannot wait to see his family. Surprisingly homesick, this performance is also an opportunity to reconnect to his loved ones and share a beautiful story.

A story that Deklan claims “speaks for itself and … is very persuasive”. Addressing peacemaking and bullying, they hope that they play inspires the audience to go out and lead change in their lives and schools. But do not be alarmed at the portrayal of bullying onstage. Deklan reassures us that “the bullies on stage are just acting”. Don’t let their impeccable acting fool you; the Peace Child “is not hurt, she’s totally okay!” To all planning to witness this event- please sit back, relax, and enjoy the peacemaking.

Contributors: Hussein (7th grade, VT), Judah (7th grade, NH), and Sage (6th grade, NH).

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The early bird spreads peace and understanding at Kids4Peace camp, and these campers sure are living as peacemakers, waking up bright and early at 7:00 am yesterday morning. While they may not have bushy tails, the bright eyed campers headed off to the Flying Monkey House Theater for their first full day of rehearsal. And as they say in the theatre, early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!

actingAnd these young professionals were on time as they headed into a six hour rehearsal day, consisting of singing, dancing, and scene work. Working with graduate students, staff, and faculty at Plymouth State University, the campers began the journey of breathing life into their musical dramatic piece, Peace Child. However, even the beginning stages of the creative process challenge young performers to reach outside of their comfort zones.

Dance in particular proved demanding, for dancing in front of others can be quite vulnerable. Judah, a rising seventh grader from Hopkinson, NH, “really hates dancing in public”, but nonetheless “had to dance in front of people”. And with that positive attitude and willingness, Judah found that after awhile, “it was even fun!” Sage, a rising sixth grader from Loconia, NH, was continually pushed out of her comfort zone today as singing and dancing is already uncomfortable. And when the campers had to improvise dance themselves, it “was an extra push”, for she “did not feel comfortable making up things on stage with just loose instructions”. Even on the outskirts outside of her comfort zone, Sage was able to appreciate the situation as something that, while uncomfortable, is in fact just “new”.

Being in the theater can be intimidating in itself. Hussein, a rising seventh grader from Winooski, VT, was “really shy” and even “scared” when they arrived at the Flying Monkey House Theater. But Hussein found that “when [he] tried to do the things [the instructors] showed [them], [he] wasn’t as shy anymore, and it was fun to be an actor!” That positivity flooded the day as the campers experienced memorable moments together: hearing the unique score that was composed intentionally for them, learning each of their specific roles within the group, and singing the opening song together.

Both Judah and Hussein enjoyed singing the opening song, or as Hussein calls it, the Group Singing 2“special music”. After the young campers put their all into singing that song together, Judah assesses that it was “definitely a memorable moment”, for “it was a team effort”. The new community they formed together during the first day was further strengthened as they became something even more powerful, an ensemble.

 

Contributors: Arbai (9th grade, Winooski, VT), Emma (7th grade, Andover, NH), Sherihan, (6th grade, Winooski, VT)

Water bottles were decorated and the ice was broken as the camp season was officially kicked off yesterday at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Staff members welcomed fourteen young campers as they entered into their first Kids4Peace camp experience. After name tags had been made and suitcases were unpacked, the staff introduced themselves, and the campers played some get-to-know-you games. Working up quite the appetite, all gathered in the dining hall for dinner. But of course, no meal is complete without a blessing led by a camper.

 

19437509_1349217565156574_413859909257907386_nThe newfound energy from dinner fueled the following discussion revolving the group’s values and expectations while at camp. As campers and staff voiced their hopes and ideals, a Community Agreement was composed that will serve as the group’s foundation while at camp. While the group’s expectations of each other are captured in the Community Agreement, each of the campers had their own pool of hopes and prospects for the next eleven days at Kids4Peace.

 

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Sherihan, 6th grade, VT

Arbai, a rising ninth grader from Winooski, Vermont, has high hopes to learn a great deal while at camp. She even aspires to pick up “more English”. The desire to learn is also felt by Sherihan, a rising sixth grader also from Winooski, Vermont, who wants to know “how other people practice their religions”. But sleep away camp with a group of strangers can be intimidating, for campers must “[be] away from family” (Arbai). Not to mention the first day jitters, as campers are “talking and laughing with people [they] don’t know yet” (Sherihan).

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Emma, 7th grade, NH

Emma, a rising seventh grader from Andover, New Hampshire, on the other hand is purely “really excited for everything”, hoping to “meet new friends”, “learn about religion”, and “know what it’s like” to be away from home overnight. Whether one is full of unbridled hope, consumed by worry, or anything in between, all campers got the opportunity to voice their hopes and fears and listen to others.

 

The day was closed, accepting all of these hopes and fears, expectations and worries. The campers, now a community, went to bed, marking a successful first day of camp.

 

Being a peacemaker

merk4p —  August 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-20-15 (F)The morning started off with mindfulness, a chance to “open your heart” as Itai, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem put it. The group practiced paying attention to their breath, inaudibly counting each intake and release, staying still and silent for a whole five minutes.

Transitioning over to dialogue, four adults performed a skit with a lot of mean bullying and hurt feelings. Sarah and Cata ganged up on Julia, making fun of her hair and friendship bracelets, Julia started crying and Chelsea stepped in to ease the conflict.

After watching the pretend kerfuffle, kids picked which role they would most like to have in real life. Most flocked to Chelsea. Romi, a Jewish camper from Jerusalem, talked about how difficult it can be in the peacemaker’s shoes: “It’s very hard to do what Chelsea did. It’s hard to be the only one trying to stop it. Catie, an American, Christian camper added that: “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for somebody.”

After talking about being the one to step in and intervene, Sarah asked the group a couple of good but hard questions: “How does the buddy feel? What do they need?” Kids brainstormed a ton of different possibilities. They thought maybe it had to with getting attention, wanting to feel good but really feeling insecure, having experienced violence in their own lives and bringing into their interactions with other people, jealousy, boredom, and much more. Whether conscious of it or not, the group collectively showed empathy, understanding and thinking about what it might be like for both the bully and their target.

8-20-15 (J)In the next exercise, the kids divided up into two long lines. In the fictitious scenario, line A, while strolling along, finds line B kicking a grandma! It was up to the kids to decide what to do and how to do it. Some blocked and protected the imaginary grandmas with their bodies, others tried saying stop and talking, while tried moving the bully out of the way.

After switching roles, kids discussed what was like when they were able to help out effectively. One Jerusalem, Christian camper, Karl said: “I felt like superman!” Zelda, who is Jewish and from the US, “felt powerful”.

Using non-violent strategies, asking good questions and figuring out what is going on can be scary, counterintuitive, and hard. That said, when we see people being bullied, if we have the courage to help, we can make a huge difference. We can ask “what’s wrong, how can I help you, what are you angry about? Responding peacefully is a good option, but one that takes practice and courage.

A special guest, New Hampshire Congresswoman, Ann Kuster, spent the morning hearing about Kids4Peace, sharing stories and meeting with staff and kids. It was wonderful to hear her talk about how she uses the same, open minded approach that Kids4Peace tries to cultivate, while working with Representatives with all sorts of different world views.

8-20-15 (I)She also shared about how great it is to see kids connect on an unconscious, visceral level, overcoming differences through shared experiences without even realizing that close friendships are being formed. With only time for a short visit, it was sad to see her go so soon!

The after lunch hours flew by swimming in the lake, making masks, playing soccer, and doing acro-yoga. Before anybody knew it, the time had come for the evening talent show! Fantastic MC’s guided the evening, calling up one great act after another. The celebration continued from individual skits, dances and songs, to one big dance party with songs in different languages, both familiar and new blasting through the space.

Even those campers, who were at first glued to their seats, couldn’t resist for long the temptation to join in. Spirits high, kids walked back their cabins begging for more.

Crossing the line

merk4p —  August 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-19-15 (P)A puzzling picture was presented to the kids when they arrived at dialogue. Some saw an elderly woman, while others found a young woman’s face. After some discussion and lots of explaining, most people were able to see both, but then had the confusing experience of switching back and forth. As a whole group the kids talked about how oftentimes we only see things from one perspective, but if we’re open to looking, we can see something completely different. This talk led into a game. A rope was laid down the middle of the room and the kids were split into two groups. Each group was separately given the same objective: to get all the members of the other group to their side of the rope. Language was intentionally left neutral, winning/losing, your team/their team, etc. was never mentioned.

Kids used different strategies to try and accomplish what they were told to do. Some thought of a good solution but didn’t know how to involve others. Some tried to create a really attractive environment with fun games on their side, so kids from the other side would be excited to join them. Others pleaded, begged, bribed or tried coercing the other kids across. Some tried negotiation and explaining. After about 20 minutes, they all came to the agreement to stand on the centerline, with one foot on each side.

In the debrief, kids reflected on the experience. Alexxa, a Christian camper from the US, noted that: “People are thinking about just their goal, without thinking about both groups”. Joseph, a Christian, Jerusalem camper had a related thought: “Nobody thinks about the middle ground”.

Most kids realized that they had been thinking in terms of winning and losing, and assuming that the first side with all the people would win. When asked to explain the purpose of the game, many of them all had good ideas. One said it was to “learn listening” another mentioned “empathy” another wanted to emphasize “seeing things from different perspectives” and another talked about “working together”. They were able see how all these skills fit together to in order to cooperate.

After working hard in dialogue, the kids once again went off to practice and develop their Abraham tent skits.

8-19-15 (C)Down at the waterfront, after lunch, pairs of kids swam around, jumped off the dock, chatted, laughed and splashed. The same afternoon rotations of mask making, sports and games/acro-yoga took place before dinner. At that meal, the much anticipated clean cabin award was presented. Spaces were judged on their cleanliness, as well as the feel and how welcoming they were. One of boys’ cabins had cleaned everything, even the porch, and was thrilled to take home the prize!

The evening was relaxing, watching a movie, Remember the Titans, and drawing backdrops for the Abraham tent play. Cleaning up spilled popcorn after the movie, kids worked together, pausing on the way back to their cabin to admire the stars.

Word of the day: Empathy

merk4p —  August 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

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The word of the day was empathizing, which one Muslim camper from Jerusalem, Qais, defined as “feeling somebody else’s pain”. Sarah, who was leading the discussion talked about how when we show empathy, we support the other person.

The kids then split into groups, writing down stories about something that had happened to them. Stories were randomly drawn out and read, followed by everybody else finding good language with which to empathize. One Jewish camper from the US, Isa, felt moved by one story: “I’m really sorry for whoever that happened to, because that sounds terrible.” After dialogue, Abraham tent groups met to start figuring out their skits for Sunday’s big show!

The afternoon was split between swim test and three rotations. Groups either made plaster masks, played sports, or did group games/acro-yoga. For two hours after dinner, preparations were hurriedly made for the upcoming talent show! Cartwheels were practiced, songs were rehearsed, dances were taught and many surprises were devised. The rhythm of camp life is definitely setting in.

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Reaching new heights

merk4p —  August 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-17-15 (H)Mixing things up a bit, Monday was ropes course day! After a few big activities with everyone, the campers went into smaller groups to play cooperative games and meet their ropes course facilitators.

Eventually everyone headed off to the woods, working with the low ropes, logs, swings, and platforms. At lunch Talia, a Muslim camper from Jerusalem, reported her experience: “When I first went on the rope I felt like I was in a video, I felt like I was flying!” She also shared her thoughts on what the afternoon with the high ropes would be like: “I’m afraid of heights so I’m a little nervous. But I also like adventures! This will be my adventure.”

Sure enough, everybody’s toes where high in air that afternoon. Kids perched on top of log, called the catwalk, strolled across a bridge made of just a single wire, clambered up a climbing wall, and scrambled up a vertical playground of obstacles. On the walk back to the cabins, another Muslim Jerusalem camper, Mona, shared her experience. “It was fun! I was a little nervous but then it turned out to be so easy!”

After dinner, campers crowded around a new project, writing appreciation and encouragement cards for their friends. As notes were written and delivered, kids shyly peeked into their bags, seeing if anybody had left them a little something and having a hard time resisting the temptation to read them. Nancy, the art teacher, made it very clear that notes can only be read on the way home. It’s going to be hard to wait.

The evening consisted of a huge soccer game, with almost everybody playing, topped off with a good old campfire, songs and s’mores. Even though everyone was tired, it was hard to tear them away from the fire and fun and take them to bed. It’s only been a day, but this new site is already feeling like home.

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by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-16-15 (A)The day started early, finishing up packing before breakfast and getting dressed for church. It was a struggle to get all the luggage packed into the bus, but somehow everybody and everything made it in time to the Cathedral.

Bishop Tom, a well-known face from the previous days and the ice cream social, preached, giving special attention to Kids4Peace. Christian campers were able to participate in the service, lecturing and alter serving. During the homily, the entire group performed the Kids4Peace chant as well as taught the congregation a song called Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

Afterwards, the Bishop answered questions about the church, his vestments, and Christianity as well as demonstrated the rather complicated way of putting on his hat. When he finished, there was a line nearly out the door to try it on!

8-16-15 (C)After that, it was back on the bus for a short ride to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory! Two tour groups made up of campers and staff, marveled at the big machinery and sampled a delicious cup of caramel swirl chip in the flavor room. Respects were paid at the Flavor Graveyard, mourning the loss of some delectable blends.

The next several hours were spent on the bus. Tired, hot and full of people, it was ride that tested everyone’s tenacity and tolerance. It took a bit longer than expected, but everyone arrived safety to New Hampshire. After a good dinner, the kids settled into their cabins for the night, eager to see their new surroundings in the daylight.8-16-15 (B)8-16-15 (G)

Filling up in NH/VT

merk4p —  August 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-14-15 (B)The second full day of camp started off learning how to ask for a translation. Sarah, the dialogue facilitator, and Chelsea, the interfaith advisor, demonstrated with a little bit of frantic Spanish. In the next activity, kids stepped into the circle, telling the group something about themselves, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes Hebrew, oftentimes English. The room was always full of voices sharing and translating.

Next, the kids split into peace groups to draw maps of what is most important to them. For many that included their family, their friends, their faith, their pets, and a few of their favorite things to do. After completing their maps, the groups shared among themselves, looking at the similarities and differences in each one.

When the dialogue session came to an end, there was a scurry of activity as the girls helped each other put on headscarves, and everybody climbed onto the bus and headed out to visit a mosque. Upon arrival, a delicious homemade feast was waiting. Walking around the space, one American camper Will, who is Christian said, “This place is really cool! It’s so different from my church but its got the same nice feeling. If I were Muslim, I think I’d really like coming here every week.”

For the service, the girls went upstairs where they could see what was happening on a screen. The Christian and Jewish campers sat in an arc around the space, observing the prayers. Afterwards, the group met with the imam, and learned about the special carpet design for praying, and much more about the mosque as well as the traditions and beliefs of Islam.

The afternoon was spent shopping on Church Street, Burlington’s famous pedestrian walkway. The Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the most popular places to visit.

A little tired out, groups then walked to the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue to meet with the Rabbi. Her chat went right into the Friday evening Shabbat service welcoming in the Jewish day of rest. After blessing and sharing grape juice and challah, the entire group walked back to Rock Point, singing the Kids4Peace chant and chatting among themselves. It was a full day in every way possible.

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Eat. Play. Laugh.

merk4p —  August 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

by Selina Petschek, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator

8-12-15 (F) 8-12-15 (E)Early risers flooded the hallways of Rock Point School well before breakfast. Jerusalem campers, adjusting to the time change were eager to get going, tired of the monotony of travel and waiting for camp to finally start.

When breakfast was at last called, all the campers, with some reluctance, found their way to their peace groups, meeting kids from different faiths and parts of the world. They shared breakfast, exchanging a few words and starting to learn each other’s names.

By lunchtime, they had danced around together, devised special handshakes, played soccer, established a camp covenant, and played numerous name games. Needless to say, the midday meal was much more lively than the previous one as kids started to find things in common, comparing what they like to do, talking about their families, and enjoying the same delicious food.

During art class, they were once again in their peace groups, sharing supplies and ideas of how to decorate their appreciation bags, journaling kits and treasure boxes.

Dinner, the final meal of the day, was by that point routine. They knew where to sit, how to be quiet enough to be called up for food, and where to go to find what they needed. Instead of strangers, they sat with friends. People they had a shared a whole day of experiences with and could count on to be there alongside of them. In just one day, thirty new faces had become familiar.