See what Take Action campers took home with them this summer. Hint: it doesn’t fit into a backpack.
By Sarah Fox
Settled in a glowing green field in Bethany, Ontario—lush from this summer’s prolific rainfall—sits WE’s Take Action Camp (TAC), where campers pair play with learning that lasts them the year and beyond.
Rather than scribbling down goals to eat less sugar, watch less television and participate in more physical activity, the campers here are carefully choosing their action plans. With these resolutions, youth will move away from the typical goals for personal growth to those that can improve entire communities.
This kind of resolve is usually saved for the beginning of a New Year (and a colder climate) but for students, intentions reset at the beginning of their year, marked by the ring of the school bell.
Like your classic summer camp, at TAC you’ll find a large dining hall where campers commence for meals, designated arts and crafts areas, sweeping outdoor space, camp songs and a talent show, but unlike your run-of-the-mill camp, here you’ll also find activities that take stock of social issues and invite open discussion and reflection. TAC prompts kids to start to wonder not only “how can I be the best I can be?” but “how can I bring the best out of others?”
With school doors opening soon, Take Action campers are prepared to tick off their back-to-school checklist. Beyond the usual sharpened pencils and colour-coated Duo-Tangs, these students will be entering the classroom with resolutions designed to help them succeed and lift others while doing so.
Summer Resolution One: Raise Voices
According to 14-year-old Nelson Oser Small, “[TAC] is not just some camp where you have fun, go swimming and go outdoors.” He came to camp with a purpose, to share his passion for travel and learning more about the world with other kids. “When people come, they’re interested in learning things… to expand their mind and ideas.”
Realizing at camp that each person has a unique voice worth sharing, Nelson’s summer resolution is to elevate those of his peers.
Summer Resolution Two: Lead Confidently
A balanced day at TAC includes a morning circle, where the entire camp gets prepped for the rest of the day ahead, followed by coaching sessions with facilitators that allow the kids to engage in social justice issues and reflect on their skills and an afternoon “Minga game.” For the latter activity, campers are split into groups, then throughout the week they compete in different games to earn points. In true TAC fashion, points are also based on spirit, sportsmanship and positive energy. Sprinkled in between the day’s activities, kids are encouraged to pursue any outlet that appeals to them during “choice time.” For Maddix Labbe, this is journaling.
He came to camp a little on the shy side, but he was determined to build the leadership skills to further his initiative, Forgotten Paws. Setting out to rescue abandoned animals in the Ottawa area, Maddix and friends raise donations through school events and local community fundraisers. He looks forward to bringing the group back together this fall after taking a short summer hiatus.
Summer Resolution Three: Branch Out
For past camp-goers, you’ll remember it as a place that fosters blossoming friendships. TAC is no exception. With an emphasis on acceptance and inclusivity, TAC arms campers with the compassion to consider the needs of others. For Abdullah Dwyer, this has meant feeling empowered to reach past his clique to make new friends. As he’s come to see it, expanding his circle means a larger support network when fundraising for his causes. This includes building awareness around different diseases and disabilities to encourage a more inclusive attitude within his school.
Summer Resolution Four: Start Now
Using the knowledge gained at camp to inform their peers in the coming school year is not lost on Larissa Johnson, who is more eager than ever to step back into her Social Justice Club. Her motivation to empower girls around the world brought her to TAC. As someone with a special interest in women’s right to education and ending child marriage, she’s enjoyed examining important world issues, pinpointing “deep conversations” to be her favourite part of camp.
Summer Resolution Five: Work as One
Young people come to the little town of Bethany everywhere from across the province, the country and even across the world, with some of this summer’s attendees travelling all the way from Japan. Each camper arrives with diverse interests, goals and histories, but they all leave with a shared value: the drive to make a difference.
Whether they’re split into smaller groups—examining subjects like poverty, discrimination and digital communication—or playing a camp-wide game of Kiel-the-Burger (finding the missing “Kiel,” a stuffed burger that leaves clues behind), the campers leave motivated by new knowledge and a sense of community drawn from like-minded kids that intend to spread awareness and compassion upon returning home. Abdullah confirms as much.