No one expects peace and quiet at a summer day camp – just ask any parent – but perhaps it’s possible to get kids to meet you halfway. At Conrad Grebel University College, they’ve opted for peace, preparing to roll out their second annual Peace Camp.

After last year’s successful debut, rave reviews from parents and participants, they’re attracting kids from all walks of life to join. As with other day camps, there will be fun activities … and a bit more: the program is taking a different approach to youth education, motivation and community development.

Parents often tell coordinator Devon Spier how Peace Camp motivates children to act on important community issues. Now in its second year, the day camp runs July 30 to Aug. 3. [elena maystruk / the observer]
In the span of five days – July 30 to Aug. 3, camp coordinator Devon Spier hopes to unleash a passion for community activism in the kids at Peace Camp. Twenty-five kids have already signed up, with some returning from last summer’s adventure. Parents have called Spier to tell her how children have benefited from last year’s experiences. Several have become active members in their communities and started their own organizations.

“It’s designed for you to make a difference. We take typical camp activities and recreations and add a little bit of a twist to it so youth can learn cooperation, respect for differences and really just how to learn how to work with others in the community.”

Spier is a long-time community volunteer with the University of Waterloo and other organizations in Waterloo Region, but her heavy involvement in peace camp efforts were an unexpected calling when she came to university. In her second year she took a professor’s words about actively engaging youths to heart and fell into the work.

“We really are working this year, especially with our theme YOU(th) in Action to help youth get out and actually get into their own back yards. It really is about ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds and empowering youth to make that difference, really cultivate the kind of communities they want to see. They are really making it bloom with people from all walks of life,” she explained.

This year the program has grown from its promising beginnings. Not only did the camp get a five-year grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation but the diversity in applicants has also expanded to encompass children from various traditions, supporters from the local community and a large Mennonite support base. The grant came out of a plan to expand on the five-day camp by promoting youth organized anti-violence in the local community all year around. The plan is to work with the mayor’s office and form an advisory committee where youth can begin a discourse with the mayor about issues in their schools and homes.

The organizers are incorporating diverse cultural aspects into this year’s program with multicultural cooking classes, mural painting and the cultivation of a community garden. Spier said people can’t always visualize the work done by Peace Camp and she uses the example of an egg toss to explain to parents how the camp works to help children understand complex issues in a fun way.

“We do an egg toss except we make some changes. During the egg toss one group has to communicate without speaking, one can only say moo and one can only use their elbows,” she explained, noting the objective’s of Peace Camp is to actively make youth understand tolerance towards diverse communities.

The day camp for kids 11 to 14 years of age runs from July 30 to Aug. 3, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., out of Conrad Grebel University College, on the University of Waterloo campus.

Spier said organizers are striving to make the camp as accessible as possible and if a family cannot afford to pay the $160 fee, which includes all activities and lunch daily, the college offers subsidies. Information and registration forms can be found online at www.uwaterloo.ca/grebel/campers/peace-camp.

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Elena Maystruk
Elena Maystruk was a journalist at the Woolwich Observer where she covered news, business, sports and human interest beats. She has previously worked with university and independent publications in Toronto, covering everything from the city music scene to the local branch of the Occupy movement. She is a long-time community enthusiast and volunteer in Waterloo Region and part of the 2012 Media Studies graduating class at Guelph-Humber University. Maystruk is currently a staff writer for the Strathroy Age Dispatch.

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations to the organizers of the peace camp at Conrad Grebel University College. I hope other communities learn from this.

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