Here’s what ‘community’ means to Camp Manitou

10 Aug Here’s what ‘community’ means to Camp Manitou

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com·mu·ni·ty

kəˈmyo͞onədē/

noun

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals

On the surface, community comes easy to Manitou. We all live in the same place for two months out of the year, certainly, and we share those defining camp experiences that allow us to have a “feeling of fellowship” with other Manitou-ers year round.

But when we talk about “community” during Community Week, we’re referring to something much bigger. We use that word to encompass everyone from neighbours back in our respective home cities, to the local community in Parry Sound and surrounding townships, to less fortunate kids all over the world who don’t have the same privilege that we do. And despite their geographical distance, these folks are a part of our community. The characteristic we share is one of hope for the future — a better future, where every individual is loved, cared for, and free.

Welcoming that entire community into the Manitou family is a tall order for a single summer, but we make huge strides towards our goal year after year. So, how do we do it?

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By cultivating empathy 

Recognizing how similar we are is a matter of first embracing our differences. We talk a lot about difference at Manitou, and the importance of empathy when confronting someone or something you don’t understand. Awareness breeds empathy, empathy breeds understanding, and understanding is at the heart of community.

To that end, for the past week at camp, both staff and campers have led some incredible initiatives. In order to raise awareness about the limited potable water resources in third-world villages, one sophomore girl had the campers carry buckets of water on their heads from the camp gates to the waterfront.

Last night we had our annual Walk of Hope, a time for togetherness and reflection about how fortunate we are, and about the power we have to make change. Manitou alum Nate Daviau came up and serenaded the staff with a late-night concert as they walked.

By raising money

Money isn’t the answer to life’s troubles, but it goes a long way in helping those who don’t have it. The Manitou Cares Foundation selected the Amani Home in Tanzania to receive all funds raised this year, and second session campers have already helped us raise over $4,500 for Amani during Community Week. At swim, Laps of Love had campers swimming laps for charity. At volleyball, every “ace” serve was worth $1.

We love watching the numbers tick up as these creative fundraising initiatives come to fruition. We always tell our staff that if they can dream it, we can make it happen, and now the kids are taking the lead in a wonderful way. One freshkid led the camp in a cleanup project, where each piece of garbage retrieved from around camp was worth $1. A camper wanted to show everyone how much fun it was to get thrown in the lake, so he started a $1/throw bet with a counselor.

By instilling positive values

There are so many values learned by raising money through karmic actions such as the ones we’re accomplishing during Community Week. Not only do the kids learn about how even their smallest actions can have a big impact, but they also learn to care about the right things. Picking up garbage, for example, is about having accountability for the beautiful Manitou landscape we get to call home every year. Swimming laps is hard work, and teaches us that we have to step outside our front doors in order to see how we can make a difference in the world.

The values instilled through Community Week are starting show themselves everywhere in camp. Today, for example, is Art in the Park. It’s always been a great opportunity for the craftiest kids to get outside and make art in the sun (well, the shade). This year, it’s been infused with a little extra Community Week love. So there’s Art in the Dark, where kids can experience drawing while blindfolded; there’s a scrap wood sculpture garden, where campers are repurposing the scraps at woodworking to add to a giant wood sculpture; there’s gratitude bracelet-making, where everyone makes a bracelet for someone else. These convey messages of empathy, ecology and gratitude.

We can’t wait to watch the rest of Community Week unfold!

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