I knew it was true before I attended K4P camp for the first time, but now I can share with certainty that this truly is a special place.
I am relatively n ew to the K4P organization, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Seattle Camp for a few days. I had no idea what a memorable few days it would be.
My first evening at Camp, I was welcomed with smiles and greetings from a world of people I had never met, but am now so thankful to know. At dinner I heard the kids discuss their exciting day in Seattle, in which they had visited Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where the Christian kids read prayers in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Later in the evening, the kids met with Hannah and Najla, Christian Faith Advisors, to go over thoughts and questions they had about the service. I also heard excitement at dinner over their “surprise” visit to the Space Needle, Seattle’s most notable landmark.
One thing that has become abundantly clear, just in my few days at camp, is how dedicated counselors and staff are to making this experience a truly rich one for each and every Kids4Peace kid. The dialogue sessions are an excellent example of that. In these sessions, the kids have an opportunity to explore their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. They are taught strategies and words to use as tools to equip them to handle the various emotions and feelings that conflict may bring into their lives.
Beyond these sessions, counselors and staff are attentive to the various needs of the kids throughout the day. Since camp is a 24/7 experience for these eleven/twelve year olds, some conflict is bound to happen naturally. It has been amazing to see how the kids are cared for and listened to throughout it all. Kids4Peace teaches kids to be with each another and confront conflict in ways that are respectful of one another and of themselves. I have no doubt that these kids will take these life-lessons back home with them, facing conflict with this approach. This is the beginning of the building of peace-makers; meeting them where their own hurts and needs are, and working with them to peacefully resolve them.
It is also true that the kids themselves are quite remarkable. I have been in awe of the kindness and generosity they have shown each other in their words and actions. Even in frustrated moments, they do their best to express themselves with grace toward one another. It is something I have learned from in my short time here, and something I expect comes from real-life experiences beyond what I may have faced as an eleven/twelve year old.
My second night at Camp, the group participated in “Movie Night.” The chosen movie was called “Smoke Signals,” and it was about two young men who live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho. The movie revealed themes of identity and forgiveness, both of which are very important to the K4P mission. After the movie, the kids shared what came up for them during the film. On the topic of forgiveness, one camper, Omar, said “You can’t be angry forever. You have to forgive them sometimes. What’s the benefit of being angry?”
These words, and many others I heard from campers, counselors, and staff, will stick with me for some time to come. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to experience this very special time and place.