I love camp. I love the silliness, the excitement and the community. Most importantly, I love the learning opportunities and teachable moments that camp can offer. Camp provides an atmo-sphere for growth: budding friendships, self-discovery and confidence-building experiences that young people carry with them throughout their lives.
At Peace Camp, based at Conrad Grebel University College and the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement in Waterloo, Ont., we infuse a week of fun with a social justice twist, to inspire a group of confident and equipped young people to facilitate change in their communities.
We share stories and learn from people in our community; meet people from various cultural backgrounds, faiths and orientations; and, ultimately, learn that peace is possible! In addition to the week-long day camp, which is now in its fifth year, Peace Camp staff reach out to community groups and to classrooms in the Waterloo area.
Throughout my time with Peace Camp, I have witnessed young people learning about the importance of social justice and conflict transformation. Last summer, I prepared to teach campers how to handle disputes with parents, siblings and friends, but quickly found that the youth wanted to respond to bigger and more complex issues. I was astounded by the depth of their queries and passions. Their personal experiences brought a richness and wisdom into the group that allowed them to learn and share with each other. I want them to know that their experiences, wisdom and ideas are valuable and can fuel change.
I have learned how to make peace education real for young people by encouraging them to engage in communication, team-building and problem-solving activities with a peace and justice focus. I want to give them the opportunity to meet new friends of different faiths, backgrounds and traditions, fully recognizing that, if we want future generations to learn from our mistakes, and learn to coexist and live peacefully together, then we need to give them the tools to do so.
Katie Gingerich is a fourth-year peace and conflict studies student at the University of Waterloo, who carries her passions for social justice and peace education into her second year as Peace Camp’s coordinator. To register, visit grebel.ca/peacecamp.
For other stories in our Focus on Camping series, see: