Throughout the week of August 8, 31 youth across the Waterloo Region ages 11-14 gathered at Conrad Grebel University College for Peace Camp. The Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement’s fifth annual day camp was once again packed with exciting activities with a peace and social justice spin to encourage youth to inspire lives, strengthen ties, and make peace happen in Waterloo Region.
This year’s theme, “peace in action,” was chosen with the intent to empower campers to apply their skills and passions for peace. The goal was to combat the idea that peace is abstract and lofty, and to communicate in practical ways that peace can often be within our own power to promote. Each day brought campers new reasons to believe this was true.
On Tuesday, campers took a trip to Mennonite Central Committee’s Thrift on Kent where they tagged clothing, sorted pencil crayons for refugee school bags, organized donations, and determined how much items were worth.
On Wednesday, they heard stories about small businesses from all over the world from Ryan Jacobs, CEO of Ten Thousand Villages Canada. These experiences brought up new questions for campers about being a responsible consumer, and reminded campers of their own power to make an impact on people around them. This was further solidified for campers when Ryan announced at the end of his presentation that he was donating the camp’s honorarium to Get Paper Industry, a cooperative of artisans in Nepal, and that this money would pay for a girl to go to school for one year. Campers were amazed that, through Ryan, they were contributing to a year’s worth of education for another young person on the other side of the world!
On Thursday, Peace Camp visited the Ignatius Jesuit Farm in Guelph and discovered the benefits of Community Supported Agriculture and community gardens. As volunteers from the farm led games and reflections, campers watched countless community members biking down the farm lane, walking over to their plot, and picking fresh veggies.
I learned that you can do small things to be peaceful, even though we usually think about the big things.”
Through encounters like these, campers saw themselves in a new light. They understood that they too are peacebuilders. In the words of one camper: this week I learned that there are a lot of people tying to create peace, like people at MCC who inspired me to volunteer somewhere next year. Another camper said, I learned that you can do small things to be peaceful, even though we usually think about the big things.
“Creating an environment in which we can open our minds to learn from each other, to build peace and to work for justice is incredibly important,” observed Rebekah DeJong, this year’s Peace Camp Director. “How lucky we are to have the youth of today valuing, partaking in, and creating that environment. An environment which builds better communities and creates more peaceful citizens.”
Thanks to the support of a five-year grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation and ongoing sponsorship from Kindred Credit Union, Josslin Insurance, and the Kitchener Waterloo Community Fund, Peace Camp was able to provide 14 campers with subsidized registration.