One Love Youth Camp: The inside scoop by Aaron Nigel Smith

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One Love Youth Camp youth and facilitators in Jamaica. Musician and PYE Facilitator Aaron Nigel Smith front row centre, blue shirt, big smile!

A few years ago, I received an email from my friends at the Bob Marley Foundation about the upcoming One Love Youth in Jamaica. I knew I had to be involved, and I wasn’t disappointed.  

At the One Love Camp, students, teachers and community leaders from rural and urban Jamaica come together in a beautiful natural setting to learn, grow, and build community. Facilitators trained in PYE’s Creative Community Model lead campers through creative activities, group discussions, arts workshops and performances all designed to empower them to develop important life skills like creativity, confidence, and a sense of purpose.

We have the special opportunity at the One Love Camp to infuse the music, message and legacy of Bob Marley into the program. We hear stories from elders who knew Bob, we explore the meaning of his lyrics, and we sing his songs of unity, love and empowerment. It’s through lessons like these that the youth access tools for creating positive change in their lives, communities and the world.

The camp is funded by proceeds from Ben & Jerry’s One Love ice cream, a special tribute flavor dedicated to the legacy of Bob Marley. The flavor was first introduced in Europe a few years ago and is now available in the US. Ben & Jerry’s commitment to this project has been nothing short of awesome. The first year of camp, for example, Ben & Jerry’s Board Chair Jeff Furman came out to spend a few days with us. In addition to taking the time to personally connect with the staff and youth, he arranged to have ice cream delivered to our remote campsite in 80 plus degree temperatures. I believe he had to fly the ice cream to the island, package it in dry ice and then rush it to the campsite in a van. It was a joy to see the appreciation of the campers and staff.
 
Now in its third year, it’s exciting to see how fully the Jamaican staff and youth have embraced the Creative Community Model. So far, PYE trainers have provided professional development for 70 teachers and youth workers, representing 30 schools and youth organizations. The training includes being at the camp itself. Following camp, the teachers and youth workers take what they’ve learned back to their communities to directly benefit more of Jamaica’s underserved youth. Over 140 teens have directly experienced the One Love Camp.

This quote from one of our recent campers speaks to the experience from the perspective of our youth.

“At the One Love Youth Camp I learned to listen to people, to be creative, to love myself more, and to transform the environment I am in.”

Desmond, a camper at the very first camp, is now on the training path to become a PYE facilitator. I have personally witnessed his journey. When I met Desmond, he rarely attended classes at school and seemed to be on the path that has led many of his community toward crime or violence. Desmond’s interest was initially sparked by a drumming program that I had brought to his high school, and when he attended the first One Love Youth Camp his real transformation began. After camp, Desmond went back to school and took on a leadership role in the drumming program. His teachers and counselors noticed significant improvement in his school attendance, his willingness to engage, and his positive contributions to the community.

This year Desmond served as one of our camp mentors, which is the first step to becoming a facilitator. In July, he is making his first-ever trip to the US to continue his training path as a mentor at a Creative Community Model camp in Oregon. Desmond has told me on numerous occasions that he dreams of traveling the world doing youth empowerment work. His story demonstrates for me the true power of experiences like the One Love Youth Camp. It’s an honor and privilege to be a part of such a special project.

 

Click here to see Aaron and Ziggy on stage at the launch of the One Love flavor where they sing “One Love” with members of Aaron’s 1 World (Youth) Chorus. Watch this video to see the One Love Youth Camp in action.

 Aaron Nigel Smith is an accomplished musician, founder of 1 World Chorus and a PYE Global Facilitator based in Oregon, USA.