Emphasizing Equity at Creative Community Camps

IndigenEYEZ Trainer Warren Hooley at Camp Confluence

Photo Credit: Marty Oppenheimer
IndigenEYEZ Trainer Warren Hooley at Camp Confluence

In May we held our very first “Camp Confluence” – a 5-day gathering that brought camp managers and facilitators from six organizations that lead Creative Community-based Camps for teenagers in the Pacific Northwest, USA. We met at a conference center on the shores of Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle. The Confluence was both a reunion and a reboot for the 40 participants who spent five days reflecting on the camp experience and increasing their skills to provide even deeper impact.

Exploring ways to raise awareness about equity at the camps sat at the heart of the Confluence. “Learning from people different than yourself” has been a core goal of camps since the first Power of Hope in 1996. And evaluations show that young people successfully develop the ability to embrace differences when they are back in their schools and communities. But there was a consensus that we can go further by addressing issues of equity more directly at camp. The idea emerged to work with an additional camp goal that reads: “Be Aware of Equity” or “Build an Equitable Community,” thus opening the door to deeper discussions around these issues. We are looking forward to hearing what all six organizations learn at their camps this summer.

Rich with opportunities for creative expression, the confluence produced the same life-giving effects that camp does for young people. “I have never in my life experienced such a transformational few days. I came back into my home life and career with renewed enthusiasm and completely restored optimism!” said Carrie Besko, administrator for IndigenEYEZ, an organization that serves First Nations communities in British Columbia, Canada. “Confluence provided a wonderful opportunity to create and play and sing and dance with other folks committed to social action,” reflected Lucy Kingsley from the Culture Jam camp in Oregon.

One thing this Confluence made clear, meeting face-to-face, even very occasionally, brings new depth and creativity to our shared work. “Our world is evolving so quickly, I’m deeply grateful that this community is here to listen deeply and respond with the urgency, love and hope that’s found when creativity and resolve come together,” said Dan Peters from Power of Hope Canada. We plan to keep the community strong on-line and to hold a Camp Confluence every other year!

Thank you to the organizations that participated: Power of Hope Canada, IndigenEYEZ, Power of Hope US, Young Women Empowered, Culture Jam, and Camp Lead.