International friendships, new community, and self-growth have littered the past few weeks of camp both for myself and for the participants. Our first unofficial week of camp brought together high school IMPACT Club members from Armenia, Albania, Moldova, and Romania. IMPACT Clubs work to create positive change in their own communities through service. Through a week at camp, they were able to get to know others with the same community goals as themselves and have the opportunity to share ideas to further their impact.
As the week progressed, so did the connection and willingness to help one another. When someone didn’t understand what was being spoken in English others would always translate even if it meant English to Romanian to Russian to Armenian and back again. They learned to appreciate their similarities, while also celebrating their differences. During the presentations from each country at the end of the week, every country showed everyone a traditional dance, and each time others would join in, learning the steps and enjoying their time together.
The following week brought our first official week of VIAȚA. This week greatly contrasted from the one before as the ages ranged from five to twelve. Most of the kids in my group didn't speak much English which brought laughter at my Romanian pronunciations, a lot of nonverbal communication, and at times confusion. There were a few kids in my group that spoke fluent English - thanks to youtube and video games I had a few personal translators for the week.
This was also the first week that we took the participants to visit the church on Straja. As we approached the entrance to the tunnel before the church the fog still settled all around us. As we looked up to the cross on the tunnel, the street light sent beams of light all around creating one of the most beautiful images I have seen. It brought everyone’s attention back to the beauty and serenity of what the cross means. Once we walked through the tunnel and past the small courtyard, we entered the church where both the story of this particular church and cross as well as the story of the sacrificial cross is told. This has been one of my favorite parts of each week.
The last week brought kids six to fifteen. My group came from different areas and in the beginning were often separated based on their school groups. It took just a few activities and a little bit of failure before this group became a very united team. It is amazing how just a little bit of forced teamwork can transform a group. This was a great reminder and reinforcement of the value that this camp is doing.
Another of my favorite activities this past week was the ecology. I was able to lead this section, so I started with an activity that shows the connectedness of nature including humans and the impacts that we can have. This sparked discussion of personal life choices and the importance of working to change small things, such as littering to help everything. Some of the kids really took this to heart and went on their own volition to clean the trash in the area and on our way back to camp. After this we experienced nature using one sense (hearing, sight, and smell) at a time. After they each explored on their own, we shared some new things we noticed that weren’t apparent before. They noticed the different types of mushrooms that line the fallen log nearby and of the feeling they get when they hug the tree - almost as if it is speaking to them. It was beautiful seeing them grow more attuned to the nature around them.
I’ve seen so much more than I can include in this small update, and I look forward to seeing more in the following weeks of camp. I didn’t expect change to happen so quickly, and I hope these experiences stay with all of the kids for a long time. I know this will be the case for myself.
Thank you all for supporting me in this journey. As we continue into another week of camp, one of our greatest prayer needs is safety. We’ve had a number of hospital visits for both staff and participants. Additionally with an increase in the number of vipers and wasp nests in the camp, we all need to be especially vigilant. Thanks again!