July 25, 2011

Mambo Sawa Sawa

(All is well…..I have goodness in my heart.)  

Today, I want to share the story of Grace Art Camp, a ministry offered by Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon. 

For me, growing up, summer meant camp. Among my earliest memories are glimpses of the day camp my grandmother ran: swimming at the lake, the inside of the main cabin, and pine trees carpeting the ground.  Camp was where I tried new things and first met people who came from different cultural contexts than mine. It prepared me for life at a large state university and shaped my leadership skills. From being a ‘tag-a-long’ at age two until serving as a day camp director in my early 20s, camp was an important part of my life and shaped the adult I have become.

In Northeast Portland, thousands of children share camp memories thanks to Grace Art Camp. The camp program blends arts exploration and experiences with learning about life in another part of the world – this year East Africa and the Serengeti.

In a video created by The Oregonian, Grace Art Camp executive director Esme Culver, talks about the genesis of the camp. Started by parishioners concerned about the reduction in art education in the public schools as well as their sense of disconnection from the rest of the world, the program is built around the ‘Four R’s of Community: Respectful, Responsible, Resourceful, and Receptive.’ Using the framework of around the world travel, camp activities focus on the culture being studied and often incorporate guest artists from the area being studied.   

Building relationships between campers and children in the geographic area being studied is an important component of the camp program. This year, the camp has established a relationship with a girl’s school in Kenya and plans to send letters and gifts of art to the girls attending the school. As Esme shares, the act of making these gifts builds a heart connection between the sender and the recipient that will “never leave and will help to create relationships of peace around the world.”   

Has camp been part of your life? How has it shaped you?