The Words of the Schawaller Family
The camp participants visit the Holy Ground in Israel
The Middle East Region is geographically very big. Some families are completely on their own throughout the year and their children never have opportunities to be with other blessed children. On the other hand, our region is very much torn apart by wars and hostility between our mission nations. So we feel that we must make special efforts for give and take and unity among ourselves, since we represent nations that cannot communicate with each other.
For these two reasons in particular, our regional leader, Thomas Cromwell, felt it was urgently necessary for us to hold our first regional blessed children' summer camp. Even though there seemed to be many obstacles and the number of children would be small, we wanted to launch an annual summer camp program anyway. Because much of our effort in this region is directed towards achieving harmony among its often warring peoples and nations, we decided to call our summer camp, Camp Harmony.
The first problem we faced was where to hold the summer camp. It seemed logical to have the camp in the same place as the regional workshop and leaders' conferences in Turkey, but this would have resulted in great travel expenses. A solution was found when the Israeli family offered to hold the program there, turning their main center into the camp site.
In this way the financial burden was lightened, but another obstacle appeared: How could the families from Bahrain and Jordan safely get their children there? The solution was for the blessed family in Bahrain to fly to Jordan, from where they travelled with the Jordanian family by land to Jerusalem, crossing the Jordan River. Finally everything worked out and all twelve elder blessed children from Israel, Greece, Bahrain and Jordan were able to participate.
Some of the children had never seen each other. Not only that, there was a considerable age gap between them -- ages ranged from five to nine.
Another challenge was language, with most of the children speaking only one of three languages well: Hebrew, Japanese or English. They all knew enough English to understand a few basic instructions, but that was about it. Fortunately, there were three bilingual children who could manage Hebrew- English or Japanese-English translations. What an interesting experience it was to use a child translator! For instance, I would ask: "What did you experience today?" During the translation of what I had said, I heard the words "swimming pool" and "ice cream"!
One would think that language doesn't play such a big role among children, but during the first few days the children stuck together in their own language groups at every opportunity.
The basic daily schedule was like this: prayer meeting at 7:00 am, followed by breakfast and study-time. At 10:00 am we left for swimming or other activities, like visiting a zoo or a children's museum, followed by a picnic lunch, which the children always enjoyed a lot, returning to the center between 2:30 -- 3:00 pm. Upon returning, there was a quiet time in which they could watch a video, followed by a snack and a session for handicrafts (drawing and painting with various materials, with the highlight making animals and people for Noah's ark and working on the ark). About 6:00 pm we had another study- time during which we talked about True Father. These talks were based on the stories in the Blessing Quarterly about True Father. The children liked this a lot. After that we broke up into our discussion groups, where the children also wrote their reflections (or dictated them if they couldn't write). Then we had dinner and closed the day all together with a prayer meeting.
Every day we had a theme for the day. It was introduced in the morning prayer meeting. Then, in the study time, I talked about it, relating it to a relevant section of the Principle and story from the Bible. The story about True Father was also chosen to fit the day's theme, and we reminded the children of the theme during their various activities, especially the art sessions.
For example, one day's theme was "strong will, perseverance and commitment." The section from the Principle was Jacob in Haran. The story from the Bible was about Noah and the story about True Father was, "The Boy Who Never Gave Up." In the discussion groups which followed the study time we discussed the topics in more detail and what they meant to each child personally.
The fact that there are so many things one can do with children in Israel helped a great deal, both in keeping the children occupied and active and in breaking down the natural barriers. Our first day trip to Lake Galilee proved to be the real icebreaker. We left in the early morning and returned late at night. The day was full of activities and fun, including a boat ride on the lake and a visit to an alligator park where there were pools, slides and other games for the children to play. After spending an exciting day together, the children began to mix naturally, no longer sticking to their national or language groups. In this way, a major objective of the camp was fulfilled.
The Israel family was wonderful in taking care of the children and giving them a great time. Each member there contributed to the success of the camp, even though all of them were very busy with their regular work. Diane Drucker and Mieko Uruga worked with me full-time.
After the initial problems were overcome, it was a very successful summer camp. Based on this experience we plan to divide next year's camp into two age groups to facilitate our work with the children. The children are already looking forward to it. We felt the camp brought us much closer as a region and benefited all the children who participated, making it well worth the sacrifices to make it possible.
Camp Harmony not only gave our region's older blessed children a great experience together, it also stimulated their thinking about the Principle and True Parents and set a tradition of regional cooperation and sharing that can only benefit the future of the Middle East.
At the end of the 12-day camp, the children wrote reflections. Here are some excerpts:
I had a lot of fun in the art work and swimming pool and other things. I learned about Aboji and Jesus and many kinds of stories about Aboji. It was really fun in everything. I made many new friends. I want there to be also a camp next year.
Jonathan (Age: 8 years)
In the summer camp it was so nice. Often we were eating ice cream and often we went to the swimming pool and sometimes water slides. Also two times we went on a boat. We went to the Sea of Galilee and we saw some alligators and some birds. We played cards and games. We studied D.P. and the Bible and about Aboji and also about Jesus. I made many friends. It was nice and also we played together and we prayed together. Tokuumi (Age: 7 years)
In all activities I learned something about somebody and about something. I had lots of fun playing games.
Tossa (Age: 8 years)
In the camp we read stories about Aboji. I liked very much when we went to Galilee. And the zoo I liked, even though there was some smell. Also the alligators I liked. I liked to be with others. The story from today about how Aboji went to the south I liked and the story about Aboji's birth I liked the most. All the camp I liked.
Noriyuki (Age: 7 years)
We went many times to the swimming pool and came back home. It was lots of fun and I was very happy during the whole summer camp.
Keren (Age: 7 years)
In the summer camp we studied about Jesus and Aboji. I liked all the stories that Brigitta told us. We did a lot of work with Diane about Noah. It was fun in the summer camp.
Kasuko (Age: 9 years)