CAMP PEACEPRINTS is a summer camp designed to introduce youth to social justice, while providing them with peaceful conflict resolution skills and exposure to a broader community. It is a two-week long alternative education program for participants ages 8 – 13, with older youth serving as Youth Assistants, running Monday through Friday, 10am – 3pm. Participants take weekly fieldtrips and hear from local organizers daily. The lesson plans expose them to alternatives to violence exercises, historical movements to end oppression and modern day efforts in community organizing. Music, art, theater, dance, and recreation are significant facets of the program.
Camp Peaceprints is a collaboration between the Sister Karen Center, the Interfaith Peace Network of WNY, the WNY Peace Center, Women Against Violence Everywhere (WAVE), Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program, the Center for Ministry Development and the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.
Each year Camp Peaceprints has a different theme. Past themes include:
2016 "Pathways to Peace"
2015 "Unity in Community"
2014 "Peace Messaging"
2013 "Telling Our Stories of Peace"
2012 "Peace With the Earth, Peace On the Earth"
2011 "Justice and Peace in Space and Time"
2010 "Think Globally, Act Locally"
2009 "Environmental and Social Justice"
2008 "Community Building and Social Change"
CAMP PEACEPRINTS 2016 "Pathways to Peace"
St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, 2253 Main Street, Buffalo July 18 - 29, 2016
The ninth annual Camp Peaceprints, put together by the Interfaith Peace Network, the SSJ Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence, and the WNY Peace Center, was a rousing success. The Camp, for youth ages 8 to 13, provided exposure to a diverse community while introducing and exploring communication, social justice issues, and peaceful conflict resolution. Our focus on “Pathways to Peace” - or the various religionsand life-ways - was very well-received and fruitful. It was our best camp yet!
Some 50 children and youth attended the camp, both as campers and youth assistants. Their feedback included that they“liked” or “loved” the Camp, learned “how to get along with each other,” and wished that “Camp would last forever.” One of the moms said, “It was a very enriching experience for the kids. They learned so much, especially from the sign language, and being around other cultures. They were very excited every day and would go again in a minute!”
Nurturing male role models were a particular strength of the camp this year. Our first group of Young Neighbors in Action (coming all the way from the Diocese of Sacramento, California!) were all young men, with two wonderful male advisors. They were called upon to nurture the campers, and to be models of gentleness and peaceful conflict resolution. Their tremendous success in and great appreciation for such a role, in this fairly “macho” society, was exciting to campers and staff alike, and encouraged similar behavior, especially in the boy campers. Positive male role-modeling was further accentuated by the two volunteers who came as part of the Foster Grandparent Program of Catholic Charities.
This year’s special focus on pathways to peace included learning about and celebrating different faith traditions and their common themes of peace, justice, sharing, and love. Indigenous life-ways, the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and Eastern faiths (Hinduism and Buddhism), were all covered by wonderful guest presenters - activists and artists from the Buffalo area.
We began camp with a welcome and traditional thanks-giving from an Indigenous (Tuskaroran) woman, Jill Yagwaneest Clause. Our guest speakers also included a young Muslim film-maker and activist, an Episcopalian priest, a City Commissioner, an Imam, and a Buddhist monk- all peaceful, gentle, and accessible men. The strength of a compassionate nature was emphasized by all.
Our art projects were once again led by Janice Burns, artist, art teacher, and director of the Motivational Counseling program of ECCPASA (Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse). They included gift bags for homeless people that were left at the Homeless Jesus statue near St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral on our second week’s field trip. We also created artworks made of and left in nature at Tifft Nature Preserve on our first week’s field trip. A giant colorful Peace Dove was fashioned of puzzle pieces decorated with symbols and words representing what each camper had learned at Camp Peaceprints.
Our field trip to a local mosque was covered by Channel 4 for working for interfaith appreciation and against Islamophobia. Back at the school, students from St. Mary’s taught us some American Sign Language. The intensity of affection, and determination to cross the language barrier to communicate, was powerful. We all learned to sign our first name and words for family members. St. Mary’s students also joined us in a drum circle.
Our youth assistants from Young Neighbors in Action for the second week were young Catholic women from Milford, Massachusetts. They took over smoothly from our first group of young men from California, leading the campers in games and recreation, including swimming at Buffalo State College. Throughout the two weeks, adult volunteer Deidra EmEl was a calming presence and a big help with the camp program.
Campers learned and practiced listening, expressing themselves, cooperating, dealing with feelings, and problem-solving. At Camp Peaceprints 2016 creativity was encouraged and celebrated, and Nonviolence was explored in real and powerful ways. As we sang in the Peaceprints song, we learned together to “follow the way of love.”
Many thanks to the Network of Religious Communities, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, the Center for Ministry Development and local coordinator Dennis Mahaney, WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere), St. Columba-Brigid RCC, the Presbytery of WNY, University Presbyterian Church, the Peace Education Fund, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and all others who gave of their resources to make Camp Peaceprints 2016 a life-changing experience for all!
CAMP PEACEPRINTS 2015 "UNITY IN COMMUNITY"
Camp Peaceprints had its best year yet in 2015! “Unity in Community” was our theme for our second year at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. We served almost 50 youth who were enthusiastic and eager to learn about and practice being a community guided by peace and nonviolence.
· Our diverse staff included dynamic members of WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere) who mentored and taught the youth and whose work in the inner city made our staff team even easier for campers to relate to. Other collaborators were the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the Interfaith Peace Network, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, the SSJ Sr. Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence, St. Columba-Brigid RCC, Veterans for Peace, and the WNY Peace Center.
· Our great group of youth assistants included Young Neighbors in Action teams from New Hampshire and Wisconsin; our 2nd-year UB School of Social Work Intern, Alessandra Waylon; young women from TRY (Teaching and Restoring Youth); and a few very gifted young men from Buffalo Public high schools.
· Our increased diversity also included four Foster Grandparents from the Catholic Charities program who were wonderful supporters and mentors for the children and youth.
· The shorter day – 10am to 3pm – enabled the youth (and the adults!) to be fresh and rested each day, and to bring greater intensity to the Camp time.
· Increased swimming time (4 one-hour sessions at the Canisius College pool) allowed campers to build self-confidence by overcoming their fears, and fostered trust and a feeling of community.
· The rotating station format gave an intimate experience to the campers as they learned in small groups from the speakers, artists, activists, and teachers who graced the camp.
· Activities included yoga; trust-building, communication, and conflict resolution exercises; exploring nonviolence, history, current events (particularly nuclear issues and human rights), and social change; submitting our ideas about our neighborhoods’ needs to the Mayor; singing the “Peaceprints”song; creating lively drumming circles; and enjoying outdoor recreation in the sunshine.
· We learned from the Peaceprints Prison Ministry how important it is to reach out for the help we need to heal from hurts and be our best selves, and decorated bags for their Holiday Gift Bag Project.
· Our Art Project was a tremendous experience all by itself, with children sharing themselves and their skills on pieces that became part of an intricate, unified mandala design; later put on blue fabric representing the one blue sky above us – a reminder of the peace we want under it – and surrounded by our peaceprints and expressions of our hopes, dreams, and deepest feelings for a better world for us all.
· Field trips were
o in and around the Tri-Main Center-- to the Brewster Street Urban Farm; the People’s Park with storytelling from Karima Amin and crafts with Aspire (joining with people with developmental disabilities); Buffalo Arts Studio and their mural project, and found-objects artist and author Betty Leader; and a stop at Landies Candies where they kindly offered free samples to the whole camp!
o to the Erie Basin Marina and Canalside, where we enjoyed the new environment, shared lunch and ice cream, and got tours from the Buffalo History Museum and Buffalo State College’s Maritime Center.
Jan Burns, who plans and delivers the wonderful art projects for Camp Peaceprints every year, was at Camp for our Community and Family Potluck Celebration on the night before the last day of Camp, and brought her elderly mother who helped with our finishing the mandala. The next day, Jan called to say her mother passed away that morning. It was very touching and a very real reminder – both of how beautiful and constant a life of service can be, and how quickly and unexpectedly our time here on this earth can end. It makes it even more obvious how we need to love each other and use our time well. The campers learned many great lessons about the gift of Unity in building our Beloved Community, as we all did.
Camp Peaceprints 2014 "Peace Messaging"
(See News and Events page for report.)
Camp Peaceprints 2013 "Telling Our Stories of Peace"