Friday, July 29, 2011

YUGA Camp 2011!

YUGA Camp 2011! YUGA Camp is a fun filled week packed with different activities, workshops, and guest speakers that will help campers to learn more about global issues, leadership, teamwork, and what they can do to better their communities. Here are some samples of what workshops and activities were conducted at YUGA camp!

YUGA staff conducts the morning rounds to make sure that everyone is up and moving for breakfast bright and early at 8 am. There is so much to do that we have to start early! After everyone finishes their meals and catches up about the night before, it is time to watch a short video and write in journals about how campers are feeling. One of the most powerful videos we watched was titled “The Girl Who Silenced the UN for 5 Minutes.” Despite the time and some campers not getting enough sleep, the video caught their attention as they watched Severn Suzuki deliver a speech at the UN Earth Summit in 1992. Suzuki is a prime example of a youth who wanted to make a change as she started the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. Her speech was so powerful that it silenced all of our campers as well as some of the most prominent world leaders!

After the morning video and journal it’s time for the morning news! Each morning a different family group, smaller groups that campers are divided into, researches what is going on in the world and reports back to the larger group. Each morning we learned about current events happening here in the US, the Netherlands, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The morning news was a good time for campers to learn about things going on in the world while they were all working together at camp.

A typical morning activity for campers was the high-ropes course conducted by Camp Aldersgate staff. This exercise faced some campers with the challenge of finding their own inner strength to make it up the pole and onto the zip line while it also promoted team work as their fellow campers cheered them on from the ground. The high-ropes course is always a powerful bonding experience where many campers make new personal relationships and find their own strength and bravery they may not have known they had! (YUGA camper Enma climbs up "the caterpillar" at the high-ropes course!)

All of the campers also hopped on a school bus and drove to Pawtucket, Rhode Island for a community service clean up activity. Campers and staff worked together with members of the Pawtucket Housing Authority to freshen up the area and clean up trash. It was a good experience to get the campers out of Camp Aldersgate and into some real communities in Rhode Island!
Another powerful workshop was the HIV positive speaker who came to speak to the campers from AIDS Care Ocean State. Tom shared his experience as the longest-living person born with HIV in Rhode Island. Tom has spent his life dealing with the struggles and stigma that are attached to being HIV positive but told the campers his inspiring story of survival and perseverance. YUGA camp is all about learning about issues such as HIV/AIDS and figuring out what we can do to help reduce our risk and help to educate others about the disease.

YUGA campers also participated in a Plan Staff Panel where employees at Plan International USA came to talk in an open forum and give campers the opportunities to ask questions and learn about what working in a non-governmental organization can be like. We were even joined by the current CEO of Plan International USA, Tessie SanMartin! Campers also participated in a workshop where they learned about Plan’s “Because I Am a Girl” campaign and what they can do to help further the program in their schools and communities. Plan staff members also came in to run a workshop where campers learned about the different kinds of philanthropists and how to become one. Many campers learned they are already philanthropists with all of the wonderful work they are doing in their own communities!

Campers from all over the United States were joined by campers from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands. Everyone was able to share their experiences about the work they do in their own communities and swap ideas with other campers. YUGA camper Johnnie from Washington, DC says, “YUGA helped me think about the world more and what goes on in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or the Netherlands. Meeting people from each country made the experience feel real. The earthquake in Haiti for example, meeting people that actually went through it made it feel real; It is a different feeling compared to reading about it or seeing it in the news, you can know that someone knows what it felt like.” Hearing about the different projects and experiences that youth in other countries are working on and experience really made an impact on all of the YUGA campers. These youth have now established a connection that will last al lifetime and have made ties that will help them to better their own advocacy and action projects in their own communities.

(Below, campers from the DR, Haiti, and the Netherlands share about the work they are doing in their communities)
Other camp activities included daily swimming and boating, bonfires, family group challenges, tie-dye, story telling, scavenger hunts, frequent dance parties, a wonderful talent show, and of course the delicious international dinner where campers were able to eat food from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Netherlands, Asia, and India!

Stay tuned for more blog updates about camp and hear from campers about their experiences, favorite memories, and things they learned at YUGA camp!

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