Summer Camp Freeze Frame
Every week of summer camp has a specific theme that helps our kids learn about themselves, their surroundings, and their important place in the world. Last week’s theme was “Me and My Community.” TYO Summer Camp receives kids from four different refugee camps in Nablus. Without even knowing anyone from outside their camp, many children harbor negative stereotypes about the other camps. This week’s theme introduced the campers to the concept of “community.” Our interns, volunteers, and translators helped the kids identify the many different communities to which they belong, and encouraged them to reconsider their biases by identifying the similarities between themselves and their peers. During our classroom discussions, most of the kids had very little knowledge about what it means to be a community. It was difficult for them to image community as an abstract concept; most of them believed that a community had to be a place where they lived, such as their neighborhoods or cities. With a little bit of guidance, our students began to realize that a community is any place where they interact with other people to achieve a common goal. They recognized that their families, their schools, TYO, our classroom, Nablus, the Middle East, and the world as a whole are all excellent examples of their communities.
In just three days of camp, we made stamps, learned how to play Capture the Flag, and whipped up some play dough from scratch. Students also drew Venn diagrams in order to visualize their similarities, cooperated with people from different camps in team building activities, and learned that boys and girls can do anything. Through all of these activities, the kids were continuously reminded of the importance of being active and responsible participants in each of their communities.
Take a look at these photos from our busy week at Summer Camp to see more about how our kids learned about their communities:
Although the various refugee camps in Nablus can be insular, at TYO volunteers and youth have a unique chance to get to know people from other areas of the city. Our volunteers build lasting ties with kids and each other, as well as developing the skills to become leaders in their communities.
Once a week, TYO takes summer camp kids to the local pool and soccer stadium. Although these facilities are nearby, most of our kids have never been with either their families or schools. The refugee camps where these kids live are severely lacking in open spaces for kids to just run, jump, and play. As we walked on to the field of the soccer stadium, some kids got so excited they just lay down and rolled around in the turf for the first couple minutes. Kids in refugee camps often don't feel a connection to Nablus, and TYO gives them an opportunity to explore places in their city to which they don't otherwise have access.
TYO is not only a great place for children to develop life skills, but it is also a safe space for children to just have fun! At TYO children can play, create, and find the joy in everyday life. The opportunity to imagine and play is so valuable for these children because in their schools earning factual information is prioritized over developing critical and creative thinking skills. At summer camp, children have the chance to express themselves and develop their colorful personalities.
When the kids come to TYO they have the opportunity, often for the first time, to express themselves through art. Surrounded by colorfully decorated classrooms as inspiration, the kids have the chance to experience beauty and to share their ideas and dreams through creative projects.
Outside of one's family, most of the kids' lives are segregated by gender. Boys and girls do not just play together. At TYO, boys and girls have the opportunity to interact in everyday ways. They learn to see the humanity in one another and even become friends. By playing games where they have to work together to achieve a goal, they learn how boys and girls are equally smart and capable.
Seeing these smiling faces, we can tell that the students are already becoming more comfortable in their classrooms and at TYO. We can’t wait for next week!