Hey everyone!! No I didn’t drop off the face of the earth -I was at camp! Youth Empowered Action Camp to be exact! You may recall my mentioning of it here a little while ago -well I made it and I have seriously been changed forever. This past week was filled with laughter, tears, learning, change making, and bonds that will last for the rest of my life. The gratitude I have for this past week is beyond words, and if I were to relay everything that has happened this would go down in history as the longest post ever -so I will just try to capture as much of it as I can for you all.
This journal is filled with 50 pages of information, reflections, skills, quotes, things I want to do and books I want to read. And it doesn’t even begin to cover this week.
Let me explain YEA Camp. It is a camp designed for young people who want to change the world! Every single person there is passionate about making a difference -whether it be environmental activism, animal rights, LGBTQ equality, racism, bullying, human trafficking and so much more. We learn the skills we need to take our passions (Issues of Importance – IOI) and put them into action! It is an activist camp-but don’t think I’m about to go get myself arrested. We learned what activism truly means :finding a cause to be passionate about and actively working to make a difference.
Just a few of the things we did at camp…;)
It took place in the Santa Cruz mountains and it was absolutely beautiful
Each day was absolutely packed with activities – workshops, hikes, games, journaling
I wrote a poem, inspired by the beautiful environment I was surrounded by:
Joy in my heart
flowing through my veins
to my feet
pointing and dancing
floating and leaping
the earth between my toes
to my hands
water cascades between fingertips
and, at last
to my mouth
praises of life and love
proclaiming to all to see
a quiet joy
(this was the least busy day…)
I can’t even describe to you how much I have learned and grown from this camp. I went expecting to learn about how to make a difference but I would never have imagined that my life would be changed. The love and commitment from everyone (all 28 campers and 13 staff) was so immense. We shared our goals, our accomplishments, our pains and secrets and laughs and friendships. I have become closer to these wonderful people -whom I did not know two weeks ago- than some people I have known my entire life! Everyone did nothing but build each other up – supporting and hugging and helping each other to grow!
I came to camp passionate about animal rights/ veganism and the environment -but I have grown to be passionate about so much more. Every single issue that people had – I want to help them make a difference. There were no age or gender barriers, no discrimination for what people thought or believed or who they were. This camp was so open and accepting and loving that I can’t wait to make this world a better place -Everyone is inherently good -this camp taught me that.
We all wrote messages to each other on posters, much like a yearbook. Mine is now hanging in my room so I can see it every day.
Every issue -every person and every story – is connected.
We wrote a song! (you can listen here!! )
We made a video that I will post once its on Youtube!
And we had a lot of random dance parties
Even in the kitchen during dinner….
We created a mandala of our perfect world -the one that we will create- full of acceptance and peace
This week meant so much to me. Not only do I feel empowered to make a difference and appreciate so many new issues (and suddenly become more aware of our consumption -it took 5 minutes before I could let my mom put plastic straws and paper plates in our cart the other day-never again!) but I have gained so much confidence! I opened up to forty people about my struggles. I allowed myself foods (still vegan) I haven’t eaten in years. I felt truly and honestly beautiful and now I can finally allow that light that I have been hiding shine out into the world. Not only am I going to be so much more active in the issues that I care about but I have been inspired to take all that this week gave to me and I am going to share it with my community. I decided to start the first ever YEA club at my school -empowering even more students to make a difference.
What the other campers are planning to do is incredible! They are raising funds to start a school in a third world country, petitioning to have their schools do meatless mondays, compostable lunch trays, and anti bullying programs. They are leafletting and tabling and teaching and advocating and creating their own environmental policies. One girl is planning on starting her own non profit Cow Sanctuary, and is now raising funds to save her first cow so she can learn how to take care of the beautiful creatures (You can like her FB page and learn about it here!!). Another girl has been selling cookies to raise money for donating to stop human trafficking (FB Page) and has only $300 to go before she reaches her goal of $2,000! And that is just a small portion of everything that these amazing kids are doing!
My desire to advocate has turned from an idea to a tangible reality. I don’t want to make a difference. I WILL make a difference. I wish I could express to you everything that we did, the empowerment I received, the way I have changed, but my heart is too full to put it into words. All I can say (and keep saying) is that this week was a turning point for me. Life changing. I can do anything.
I really hope that everyone gets the chance that I did to make a difference! This was the 5th year of the camp, and there is one in California, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Go check out their website and Facebook page to learn more, and click here for more pictures from this week!!!