Did that really happen? It almost feels like it was a dream! Camp Eayikes, which took place about almost two weeks ago, was such an amazing experience for all of us that we're still rubbing our eyes and trying to wake up from all the fun, laughter, and learning that occurred over our 3 days together.
This blog post is not just a re-cap of a sequence of events, but also a thank you and an opportunity to recognize those who helped make all of this possible:
To the parents of campers: Thank you for blessing us with the opportunity to get to know and work with each and every one of your children, because without them, we would not have had a camp. We have learned (and are continuing to learn) so much from them. To the campers: we hope you wander in happy nostalgia, and smile while reminiscing about learning how to spin on turntables, seeing your photographs up in a gallery, and watching a parent dance the soul train line. You've all taught us so much, and we hope that we've done the same for you. To the community of Long Beach, family, friends, and our other private supporters: Thank you for believing in our vision and in wanting to help make a difference in the lives of youths. We hope you see how much your encouragement and contributions allowed for an amazing experience for us all, and how much your support and belief in us has beared bountiful fruits of positivity and love. And lastly, to ourselves: we hope that as a staff, we can understand what worked, what didn't, and strive to improve Eayikes more and more as the years go on.
So without further ado, the camp!
- DAY ONE -
On the morning of Friday, August 16 we were at the ArtExchange, waiting to meet the campers. We were excited, but we were all a little nervous, too. One by one, they started to come in: Vytas, Jordan, Kai, Isabella, Cameron, Lauren, Audrey, Eli, Cindy, and Mocha. We started with some brief introductions of the staff, and then split off into our Tribes (tribes are basically our smaller groups (kind of like a family unit) of staff and campers). We were allotted a certain amount of time to come up with a name for our Tribes and a short presentation to show the rest of the camp. With that, we all got to work!
After having some time to work and going to the Long Beach Reuse Depot to get creative with props, we all got back together to present our Tribe names to each other. The Tribes were named Pizza Party, FYN, The Peanut Gallery, Samurai Zombie Chocolate Cats, and Tribe 356.
We had a lot of fun getting to know each other a little more for the first time, and getting out of our comfort zones to present in front of each other! We then took a quick break for lunch, and headed off into our LifeShop for the day.
Our LifeShop for the day was Arts and Crafts with Moniqa! Moniqa brought in materials for us all to make dream catchers together. The time spent creating our dream catchers was relaxing and calming, and also allowed for us to think about what some of our dreams and goals were as well.
The dreamcatchers all turned out absolutely amazing. It was no surprise that we have super skilled & creative campers (and staff)! A big thank you to the campers for being so engaged, as well as big thank you to Moniqa who shared her creative knowledge with us!
The last agenda for the day was going through the different ArtLabs we would be offering. We had four to choose from: DJing, Photography, Improv, and Hip-Hop Dance. Each of the ArtsLab instructors went through and gave a little introduction to their specific course, and the campers wrote down their top two preferences.
Finally, we played a few improv games to loosen up the group and to close off our first day. It was a lot of fun, and awesome to see the campers stand up and take the spotlight.
And that concluded our first day with the campers! It was awesome meeting them, hanging out with them, and really starting to get to know them one by one. We had so much fun the first day, that we were already stoked for the next! So let's move on, to....
- DAY TWO -
The first thing that happened on our second day was that we got a new addition to our camper crew! A bright and young Hezekiah (aka DJ Hezzie Fly) came to join us and our activities. We started the day with a game called Zorb, which knocked people out of the game until there were only 2 standing. The last two left in the game were camper Cameron and staff Mike. They stood back to back, and walked a couple of steps...
And when "Zorb!" was called.....!!!!!!
Both Cameron and Mike had turned around with lightening-quick agility and zorbed each other! But Cameron, our red skittle, our young jozy, had dodged Mike's zorb by dropping to the ground. So alas, Mike was zorbed, and Cameron won the game!
The game really got our blood pumping and had us ready to get the day started, so we moved on to the next part of our Agenda, which was our LifeShop for the day. This day's LifeShop was called "Finding Your Cause" and was headed up by none other than our staff members Katrina and Alvaro. We started off with a simple but powerful exercise. We all got in a circle, and went around to say one thing that we have said to others or others have said to us that has made us feel sad or putdown. We heard words and phrases like, "I'm disappointed in you", "Idiot", "I don't want you", and "slut." Then we went back around to each say something that made us feel good, happy, and affirmed, like "You inspire me", "good job", "thank you", "I love you", and "You made my day". We are very aware of the ways in which we can hurt or help people, and when even just saying something as "You inspire me" can affect someone, it empowers us to think about how much more we can do to affect a cause, especially one that we are personally interested or invested in.
So from there, we split off into our tribes to discuss what were some of the issues that we saw around us, the issues that we care about and are passionate about, and what we have done (and can further do) to helping to support those causes. Each tribe wrote them down on construction paper, and we put them up in various places of our camp space as reminders that we are and can further make positive change in our communities as well as the greater community of the world.
By this time, we were getting pretty hungry. So it was in perfect timing that chef Robert graciously came in to do Food of the World with us! He talked about his passion for cooking and the road he took to finally get to being a chef, and gave us some information about the 3 dishes he brought: Lomo Soltado (Peru), Sushi (Japan), and Bruschetta (Italy). All the dishes were absolutely delicious, and we it was a very knowledgeable lunch! A huge thank you to Robert for taking the time to come out and share!
After lunch, it was time to really get into our ArtLabs. All the campers split off into their labs, and learned a little more about either DJing, Photography, Improv, or Hip-Hop dance. The campers who were in the DJing lab got to practice on the turntables, the Hip-Hop dance lab campers learned to tut, and the Photography lab campers walked throughout the Long Beach area to snap their photos of people, buildings, and animals. All in all, it wasn't just the campers who learned from us that day, but we as staffers also learned by watching the campers fearlessly take on new tasks, and break out of their comfort zone and really challenge themselves.
After our time in Artslabs, we called it a day and decided to go to the park for some play time. It was nice going outside and enjoying the fresh air and getting some exercise (and pizza) in. All in all, it was another fun and successful day for us all. Again, we were thrilled about the following day, but also a little sad because the next day would be the last. At the same time, each of knew that our relationships with each other would not just disappear after the camp. Part of committing to the camp was also committing to being the big brothers and big sisters of our campers after the camp as well.
- DAY THREE -
On the morning of day three, we double blessed with two more campers, Jahleel and Jose! With our new full crew, we started off the day with some improv games to get our blood flowing and get into the groove of things. We played dance-off, which was a fun and energetic game in which team challenged each other with [silly] dance moves.
After the improv games, we moved on to our last LifeShop of the Camp, which was "The Music Industry" with Emily. It was amazing to hear Emily share with us about her passion for music, and the different steps she took to pursue it. Though her LifeShop was specific to the music industry, it was actually a topic that was relatable to all of us in that it gave us a real and personal experience of finding and chasing after one's passion. It was not only a LifeShop that was informational, but also inspiring.
From Emily's awesome LifeShop, we moved on to Group Yoga! We got in a circle, and started off with some deep breathing and stretching. Then volunteers, both camper and staff, came up to give the rest of us a pose that we could mimic. Some were official yoga poses, while others were silly/funny movements that made everyone smile and laugh. By the end of this little group yoga session, we were all pretty relaxed and happy!
After getting through all the ArtLabs, we took a short break, and then reconvened for the closing activity of our camp. We drew two lines of tape across the ground, and participated in an activity called "Cross the Line." In this activity, a statement would be called by the facilitator. If the statement applied to anyone, they would cross the line. The people on opposing sides would look at each other before everyone would gather back to the same side again. First, simple statements were called. "Cross the line if you are a male." "Cross the line if you are a female." But as we continued, the statements became deeper and more challenging, at times requiring bravery on the part of the crosser, and mutual respect on the part of the two sides opposing one another. "Cross the line if you've ever had to worry about where your next meal would come from." "Cross the line if you've ever had to worry about where to sleep at night." "Cross the line if you are a victim of abuse."
This silent but powerful activity allowed for us to know that at times when we may think that we are going through a situation alone, we can look to our left and right and see that others are standing with us, and those who are not standing with us are not judging us or condemning us. It also allowed us to see how we should grateful for the things that we do have--food, water, a place to sleep-- and to help and be supportive to those around us who may not. Each of the campers participated in this activity with
much respect and maturity. It opened the eyes of everyone in the room, and gave more insight into the variety of individuals we had at the camp, both camper and staffer.
After this, we all sat down as a collective and just had an open discussion about the camp. Campers and staffers gave shoutouts, thank yous, talked about how the camp made individuals feel and how they were affected by it. It was a nice way to wrap things up as a whole before the showcase that night.
- SHOWCASE -
The word "showcase" might be a little fancy for the small event that we had that night, so let's call it a "celebration of learning." This night was for the parents, family, friends, and community to come out and see the things that the campers had learned over the 3 days we all spent together.
We played some improv games (like woosh-bong) all together, which was hilarious and a blast. Each of the photography students got up and did an awesome job of telling the guests a little something about each of their photographs, our two DJs spun during the showcase, and our dancers showed us what they learned in class. We ended this section of the showcase with a soul train line where parents, siblings, friends, staff, and campers, danced together! It was amazing to see both youth and adults get down and boogie to celebrate community, love, and learning!
From there, we took the time to recognize each and every camper for opening up, stepping out of their comfort zone, and just being "sweet, sweet" campers! Then we all got together and did our Camp Eayikes cheer!
What a night! What a camp! It truly was like a dream for the staff. Considering that this was our first camp, we don't think that we would have wanted it to go any other way. Again, thank you to every one who was a part of this camp in one form or another! Here's to looking back and looking forward... more great times to come!!