Summer Camp. Summer. Camp. Throughout the last few days of October, these two words echoed through the hallways and down the stairs at Safe Passage’s main building. As a relatively new English teacher who, almost six months in, felt like I was finally getting a handle on things around here, I was unsure what to expect.

Leadership of year’s Summer Camp was shared among five different departments: English, Creative Expression, Social Development, Sports, and “Liderazgo Juvenil” (the Youth Leaders program). Each department directed activities for one grade for one week, with the grades rotating among the departments throughout the five weeks of camp. This year’s Summer Camp focused on recycling and conservation, an interesting theme to explore given where our families live and how many of them make their living. So, how were we going to think up five days’ worth of interesting, educational activities that also lasted two hours and would be appropriate for kids aged between 7 and 21? The challenge was set.

The English team took on the task with gusto. Each day focused on a different topic, such as solar power, endangered animals, and water. We had lots of lively fun with the little ones making sun-catchers or pretending to be water droplets while reinforcing weather vocabulary. While with our older students, we facilitated some fascinating discussions about topics such as population expansion and water scarcity. As a team, we were all surprised and excited by how much English language participation we received from our students, as we built word clouds and did writing exercises based on our various topics.

I was also part of the Creative Expression team during camp, and that group interpreted the theme, well, creatively. The goal here was large-scale, elaborate and very ambitious. We planned to teach our students about human rights, running workshops designed to introduce them to the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and children’s rights in particular. We hoped to get them excited about human rights and thinking critically about those rights in their own lives. The practical application of these workshops would be the building of a mosaic, made out of recycled materials, on the wall of the “escuelita” along with writing and recording a song about human rights. My main role was to run the workshops at the beginning of each week, but I was also fortunate to be able to participate in mosaic-building and song-writing.

Building a mosaic is an arduous, frustrating, and messy process. None of these difficulties are diminished by the presence of 20 or so unruly teenagers. But what an outstanding project this was! It was incredible to witness students working in teams to build something beautiful and meaningful to share with the entire community. Each class designed and built a human figure that represented a particular children’s right, incorporating a message about what that right means to them. There was cement to be mixed, water to be fetched, and tiles to be stuck. Throughout summer camp, I watched classes come together to create their contribution to this project. Various other members of the community sometimes pitched in as they walked past, or just stopped to admire for a minute or two.

These five weeks of Summer Camp have been intense, to be sure. Everyone has been working hard to teach outside the box and produce lessons and projects that go beyond what we do all year. Camps is also a bittersweet time for all involved, knowing that end-of-year goodbyes are closing in and that these are our last weeks and days with the kids. Summer Camp has been a steep learning curve for me, and I can only hope my students have learned as much as I have in this short time. Most of all, I hope they are proud of what they have achieved, both during the course of the year and during the last month. I hope that they are inspired by what they have learned and what they have created, and that their mosaic stands as a testimony to their power to paint the grey walls of poverty in the colors of their dreams.

Sara El-Solh