Unification News for September 2002

True Teen Workshop for BC’s in the Northwest

by Jeff Adshead

Since 1995, the Northwest Region has enjoyed a week-long summer camp for Blessed Children bringing kids from Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Western Canada. Named Camp Tongil, it has been the highlight of the year for participants. Volunteer Parents as staff keep the cost reasonable and give the kids a week in a beautiful National Park setting with comfortable cabins, plenty of food (both physical and spiritual) and lots of activities, including canoeing, swimming, games, arts & crafts and more.

As the years have progressed and the children get older, the camp has become quite large -- from about 30 kids in 1995 to over 150 kids age 8–14 in 2001. The camp continues to grow but our facility does not. It was decided that the older kids need a workshop of their own. Not just for practical reasons but also because there never seemed to be enough time to address their needs, concerns, and questions.

In April of this year we held a couple of kick-off meetings, in Seattle and Portland, for those interested to help organize a teen camp in the Northwest. It was decided that we would have a camp that truly camped! We would create the Epic Adventure -- a week of hiking, rafting, mountain climbing and sharing in a remote place where we could make as much noise as we want and be united by the elements. We called it T2 -- initially, as a natural progression for the graduates of Camp Tongil (camp T), but also meaning True Teen. (Sounds a bit like Mt. Everest K2, as well).

With only 2 1/2 months to prepare, a website was built (T2NW.com), on which all registration and information took place, jobs were defined, staff were recruited and equipment for camping and rafting was purchased. The fee was designed to involve the BC's in their camp: a (reasonable) registration fee and the BC's had to fundraise for a $25 Campers' Participation Fee. (Next year the registration fee will be lowered and the CPF will be higher). I expected 30 - 35 kids would sign up. We ended up with 47!

We also decided that this camp would be for the BC's and by the BC's. The 2nd Gen. were the counselors (along with a 1st gen co-counselor), and the education content was decided by the 2nd Gen staff who also taught it. They did a magnificent job. The kids listen to the older BC's. It's really a positive peer presence. The presentations were short, with long discussions after. This was quite effective as most of the enlightenment seems to come when there is some interaction.

We had everyone sign a camp conduct form, similar to other workshops, and had no resistance to any of the rules. I was very impressed with the care participants took to ensure the safety -- physical and spiritual -- of their fellow campers. A lot of discussion took place in our planning sessions about how to make up groups. With 25 boys and 22 girls from 13 to 18, we created groups made up of mixed ages and mixed boys and girls. I believe this created a real trust relationship between participants and staff, helped the older ones to take care of the younger, and helped boys and girls get to know each other in a pure, vertical atmosphere. Comments from the group leaders and the group members were that it was a very positive experience.

We did an exercise about beliefs at the beginning of camp which was quite revealing. We asked each participant to complete the following sentences and hand it in without their name on it:

1. I believe that God… 2. that love… 3. that True Parents… 4. that dating… 5. that education… 6. that my family… 7. that friends… 8. that life… 9. Describe your biggest struggle in your life right now.

Some the responses were remarkable: i.e.: "I believe my family is a work in progress"; "True Parents work really hard for us… "…dating is practicing for divorce"; "love is the most powerful weapon against evil"; My biggest struggle: "…not being able to do stuff my friends are doing…", "…is to want to remain pure…"; "…being in the position of 2nd Generation…" and more.

Every activity had an internal side to it along with a competitive edge. The competition was not one of physical ability but of team unity. While along one hike, two teams walked side by side and had to get to know the person walking next to them. Every 10 minutes we’d switch. Along another hike, near the ridge, we had about 20 minutes of silence while hiking. I found it difficult even not to exclaim about the beauty of nature around me, but the kids were absolutely silent for the whole time. It’d never happen at home, right? Once descending from a strenuous climb, we stopped for 30 minutes to reflect silently and imagine that if God was right in front of you now, what would you ask? Then write down whatever comes to mind. We also had a rafting trip, lots of games (capture the flag being the favorite), and some rib-splitting entertainment around the campfire.

I have heard some say that these camps are just a social gathering for the kids. This aspect of camp should not be underestimated. It is vital for our Blessed Children to gather together and nurture each other. Some kids, whose families don’t attend church, came to camp and were transformed by the experience, determined to come again next year. We need to facilitate the Blessed Children in witnessing to each other. These camps are really an experience of this.

We don’t need fancy buildings, or gourmet meals. We had a fairly rugged environment, camp-style food, bathed in the ice-cold lake, used a hole in the ground for the toilet and got rained on a couple of times. But, when asked if they would trade this experience for a fancy building, the BC’s said no – that this "hardship" brought everyone closer together. Certainly, some struggled without showers, toilets and comforts, but some said this was too easy. As the budget allows, next year we’re looking at getting a large circus tent, so we can maintain the outdoors atmosphere but have a place to meet under shelter when necessary.

The other comment made by the BC’s was that they would like to have more interaction with the younger kids’ camp. We’re looking at this for next year.

Overall, I believe these workshops are a valuable part of the kids’ growth and ability to deal with the challenge of growing up in the fallen world. It is their ammunition for the year ahead.

For more information contact: Jeff Adshead, Director of the True Teen Camp, at jeff@T2nw.com.

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