by Selina, Counselor/Social Media Coordinator
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.
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.
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.