Baha'i News -- Tredyffrin camp focuses on virtues

Tredyffrin camp focuses on virtues

By SHEIL KAPADIA, Staff WriterJuly 26, 2002

Staff photo by Bethany Stiltner
Corrine Odom sports a handmade pair of spectacles that campers at Valley Forge Meeting House's Virtues Camp used to spot opportunities to show respect and to make peace.

TREDYFFRIN -- Although children can be seen enjoying arts and crafts, singing songs and playing kickball, the Virtues Camp is no conventional summer camp.
The camp in Tredyffrin works to incorporate the ideas of kindness, patience, courage, tolerance and respect into numerous cooperative activities for children to enjoy.

The third annual camp focuses on these virtues to benefit the 40 campers, who organizers say are being bombarded with material possessions and academic learning.

"The focus on individualism, acquisition, and the lack of exposure to diverse peoples will have an impact on our society as these children grow up," said Lisa Rapetti, of Devon, one of the organizers. "So we wanted to do something to positively counteract some of the influences around us, particularly after the events of the past year."

The campers, ranging from ages 4 to 10, are of different races, religions and backgrounds. The camp is nondenominational, but rather focuses on the common positive aspects of mankind as a whole.

"One of the beautiful aspects of the camp is the fact that it attracts so many families from such diverse backgrounds: African-American, Asian, Caucasian, eastern and western European, Hispanic and Middle Eastern kids, whose families come from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha'i and agnostic backgrounds," said Shirley Wilson, of Berwyn, another organizer.

Homa Tavangar, who also is on the camp's organizing committee, said the children themselves do not even notice that they are from such diverse backgrounds.

"The differences mean nothing to the dealing with race, religion and nationality.

The camp is operating in its third year, and resulted as an initiative of a women's study group. The camp is still in the process of improving and expanding, said Candyce Wilson, a volunteer from Wayne.

"It's still in the tweaking and honing phase, but it's a rewarding experience, and by the end of the week, the kids are really catching on," said Wilson, who has two kids of her own attending the camp, as well as a niece and nephew from Washington, D.C.

The informal group of volunteers, comprised of mothers and youth volunteers, who are in middle school, high school or college, are in charge of the camp, which takes place for one week each summer at the Valley Friends' Meeting in Wayne. The location for the camp was chosen because of its peaceful, old-fashioned environment, said Tavangar.

This year's theme, "I'm a Peacemaker," was selected in part because of the past year's events, and specifically the Sept. 11 tragedy.

"We want the kids to learn virtues in a positive way, not as a reaction," said Tavangar, whose 4-year-old and 10-year-old both participate in the camp.

Campers are divided into three groups by age and take part in three different types of activities: music, art and cooperative games.

Children participate in singing and storytelling, arts and crafts, and common outdoor games such as tag and kickball, with the virtues being incorporated into these games.The children are asked to interview their parents at home regarding the virtues, share how they envision the world, and work together to brainstorm how they can create a more peaceful world.

"It's really a heartwarming experience," said Tavangar.

©Copyright 2002, Daily Local News

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