The Words of the Sayre Family
2nd Generation Education: The Family Camp Experience in Pennsylvania
Rob and Sally Sayre
Over the last 6-7 years a group of parents have been learning, mostly by trial and error the ins and outs of imparting the theology, experience, wisdom and teaching of the Divine Principle to our children. In this article, I want to focus on very practical issues instead of a theological treatise or a DP oriented article relating to this time in the providence. These issues have been addressed by many more articulate and experienced than I. I hope these practical issues will be useful to others in thinking about starting their own programs and activities.
We began 6 years ago with nine families in tents at a run down camping resort. The cost per family was $35/family for the camping spot. Each family brought their own food and did their own cooking. We had three lecture groups 4&5 year olds, 6&7 year olds and 8 and up. There were crafts and quite a bit of time for kids and adults to socialize.
The next year we moved to a different camping resort, attracted 14 families and had around 35 kids. This was still tent camping and only three days.
Next year, we decided to try a week long Youth Camp along with our Family Camp at this same resort. This resort had an old, large, but functional farm type building that could house 60-70 people. This workshop ended up having 54 kids from 4th-9th grade. The Family Camp had around 30 kids and 8-9 families.
In 1998, we moved again to a State Park to use one of their campgrounds with cabins and the works. This was a huge step. We ended up having 94 kids in two different lecture groups (one for 4th-6th grades and another for 7th and up. The Family Camp had 14 families and around 50 kids. Their lectures were in two age groups as well. All in all we had around 200 people in this one area. It was an amazing experience.
The next year, 1999, we made a major policy change in the structure of Camp. We made it a Family Camp, which for all practical purposes, meant that at least one parent was required to attend and work in a staff position. In fact, the staff was completely composed 100% of parents. This had several positive results. It gave us a staff of over 70 people, it made the Camp an experience for the entire family and it made it economical to run.
In 2000, as our article in the previous U-News indicated, we were forced to use a different facility. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It involved members from West Virginia and Ohio and six other states. The logistical problems in organizing this Camp in an area of the State we were unfamiliar with and we had to transport all our stuff 5 hours to the Camp forced us to plan even more carefully than we had in the past. The entire Camp was organized better than it ever has and the spirit was wonderful. This was really our perfection stage at this level.
Why the Whole Family?
We believe that a Family Style Camp provides a complete experience for each member of the family. It allows for the workload to be shared among a large group of people. It fosters a strong sense of community among the participants which carries over to their activities throughout the year and it provides a concrete example of what True Families are all about to our children and to each other. This is a practical example of what the Family Federation can stand for and offer to others as well. Finally, this seems to be a trend in the overall movement with families encouraged to attend workshops in Korea and Brazil.
Getting Dads Involved
Mothers are naturally involved in the daily care and raising of their children. Prior to changing our Camp to a Family model we found a very direct relationship between families where the Dad was directly involved at Camp and those that were not. For those families where Dadís were involved, the kids had a secure relationship with God, trusted the advice of their parents, their choice of friends reflected a growing relationship with God and they excelled at school. Dadís matter, especially as kids reach puberty. Family Camp naturally involves Dads in the experience.
When parents drop off their kids at a Camp there is an unspoken expectation that others will somehow impart the religious values and traditions to the children that the parents have not. This is virtually impossible. In the past Iíve had parents drag resistant kids to Camp and ask us to help "save them" from the fallen world. At a Family Camp, the Family and other families create the bonding of an extended family of friends in a religious community. This is real to children and they want to return. I do think there is a place for Camps and activities not involving parents on site, but I think this is preferable to teens 14 and up and with a solid grounding in their faith. The Pure Love Alliance (PLA) and Religious Youth Service (RYS) are wonderful examples.
Iíve seen lots of adults come to Camp with their families with the thought that it was primarily for their kids. What often happens is the parents are inspired and take that inspiration back to their communities and get involved in local efforts. If local church leaders want to get more people involved in their work, a Family Camp is a great way to provide the motivation and inspiration. At Camp, we provide opportunities for individuals to contribute in a variety of ways. No volunteer effort is too small. This is an effective strategy I would encourage others to use. In the same way that parents fold their children into their own life of faith and lifestyle, families are folded into a community by shared experiences and commitments.
Timing and Finding a Place
When Iíve talked to others about this the usual response is, "Well, you have a special talent at doing this." Or, "How in the world did you get permission to do this?" My response has been to question # 1, "Perhaps, but we have been learning as we go and anyway, we get a lot of good people involved and the burden is not too heavy on any one person." To question # 2, my answer has been, "When did I need permission to teach my own children my faith?" Inertia and lack of confidence is the biggest problem in getting things going.
One important issue in establishing a Summer Camp is finding a location. My rule of thumb is start one year in advance. Six months is the absolute minimum. Itís important because you need as much time as possible to let people know what your plans are, do they can make theirs and get involved with you. Also, the best and cheapest facilities are booked up long in advance of the summer season.
Where should you look? Try camping resorts, your state department of environmental resources (the people who run your parks and campgrounds), the boy and girl scouts, churches and organizations like granges, volunteer fire companies and non-profit organizations like The Appalachian Mountain Club, the Sierra Club and the like. They often have facilities for rent or know of those that do. Religious communities such as the Mennonites, Quakers and others often have retreat sites available for rent.
In the past, our movement always purchased properties. This seems like the best idea, but I do not advocate this strategy. It is very expensive to maintain facilities, pay the full time staff, insurance and so on. Even the Girl Scouts with millions of members and vast resources have trouble maintaining their facilities. Our camp last summer cost a total of around $900 for a week. We had close to 200 people utilize it, so the cost was approx. $4.50/person for the week. When we were done, we cleaned up, turned in the keys and left. When there were problems, we called their maintenance people and it was their problem. This is definitely the way to go; unless the local church community can definitely afford the expense of itís own facility without making the cost prohibitive.
In Pennsylvania, there are five state-supported parks with facilities appropriate for Group Camping, Hickory Run in Eastern PA, French Creek near Reading, Laurel Hill approximately 1 hour east of Pittsburgh, Raccoon Creek west of Pittsburgh and Blue Knob near State College. These facilities have the capability to serve our community from New York to Ohio and south to Washington, DC and Virginia. Your state may have similar facilities.
Our philosophy has been like casting a play. You first have to determine the types of "parts or roles" you need, define them and search for the best people you can find. The parts for the workshop are lecturer, coordinator/song leader and group leaders. For the Camp staff, you need someone overall to recruit people, make the financial plan and make sure everything works. You need a reliable person to plan the meals and you need a few people to pitch in to keep the place clean and just get things done. If the workshop is small, people can fill several roles, but it is very helpful, no matter what the size to have roles designated.
We began with a few other committed couples. I have often told people that our workshops are really only for my kids, "I just need the others to round out the experience." This is not completely true, but what is true is that parents want what is best for their children. If you make it as easy as possible to get involved and send their kids, they will respond.
I never ask people, "Can you help." I try to ask them, "do you think you could help organize sports for the workshop?í Some people are willing and able to do pretty much anything; others are only comfortable in specific roles.
In recruiting, I look beyond the immediate geographic territory or church organization or structure. We have had people from Minnesota to Maine to Georgia on our staff. We began with people we knew who had the following characteristics: they had experience in the area we wanted them to help in, i.e., lecturers, cooks, song leaders, etc. They are reliable people, when they say they will do something, they will do it. They often do not have an essential or providential role in the movement. Why this one? Well, we needed people who would be available to us, no matter what. Church leaders have so many responsibilities and commitments; they are often unable to fulfill their roles. Not that there heart is not there; they just have a lot on their plates.
As one sister shared with me, "I need someone who, if True Parents arrived at the exact moment they were leaving for Camp would say to them, Ďhere at the keys, help yourself to whatís in the fridge, Iím off to Camp and will be back in a week." I think Father would smile and send them on their way.
Our experience has also been that if you get parents to organize the Summer Camps and let the leaders participate as they can, they are very happy to have the opportunity and often do something.
The Financial Plan
Our thinking is to make this as cheap as possible. There is no paid staff of any kind and no long-term commitments in terms of buildings, etc. Food typically costs $3.50-$5.00/day/person. Add another $25/person (not per day-for the entire workshop) for songbooks, crafts and miscellaneous stuff and you have everything except the cost of your facility. These are the essentials.
It is vital to keep the workshop as affordable as possible and to give families 3-6 months notice of when it will occur so they can make financial plans well in advance. It is also important that you get a commitment from people in terms of a deposit, early on so you can make the necessary plans. People appreciate advance planning and well-organized activities. When you provide this, they are happy to spend the money to send their children.
Anytime you get a group of kids together, they will want to wander off, seek adventure and they are not experienced enough to recognize a dangerous situation when they encounter it. The older the kids the more this is true. Teens feel invincible and can show remarkable bad judgment in this area. The # 1 hazard is water. No swimming alone and no swimming without a lifeguard present. This is an absolute rule. Getting lost is a problem as well. This is why groups with enough adults and leaders are essential. We provide each group leader with a whistle, and instruct every adult to think and act as if of each child is his or she own. They have the right to call kids on stupid and dangerous activities. Poison ivy can be a problem as can bee stings, but these can be treated.
Bigger is very often not better. It is important to focus on providing a quality experience for every child. I think that 125-150 kids in any one workshop are as big as any should be. Larger than that and there is too much herding of kids involved and the logistics tend to rule the day, instead of inspiration and spirit.
Curriculum and Teaching Goals
We stick with the basics here. For kids up until the 8th grade, we stick with basic 2-3 day workshop material. This happens over a 5-day period. For older kids, who have heard DP several times, more emphasis can be placed on prayer, life of faith, etc. If you find experienced lecturers, they will know what to do. We keep the lectures to a maximum of 45 minutes and have no more than 3 per day. Our goal is to help the children experience the DP as their own, to take ownership and make decisions and commitments based upon their understanding of it. We also provide opportunities for them to experience Godís Heart in a personal way through prayer. Our candlelight prayer service always rates as one of the top experiences for kids. This is so much more powerful than just doing what Mom or Dad says.
Our High School kids have grown into very effective group leaders. They know the ropes after attending Camp several times and serve as strong role models for the younger kids. There are certain things kids will share with other kids and not with their parents. Once the kids have a clear grounding in Divine Principle and the Bible, kids naturally embrace Hoon Duk Hae to seek deeper content.
Singing is very, very important. Kids really respond to singing, whether it is Holy Songs, old Dan Fefferman or Oakland songs, or Christian hymns. I would say, there is never enough singing.
Il-Shim and the Purity Pledge
In the last two years, we have offered an Il-Shim Ceremony or a purity pledge as the final activity. This allows the kids to make a strong commitment to a pure lifestyle with a large community of people and their parents there to witness this act and support them. Again, the younger kids look forward to the time when they can make this pledge as well. I believe this Unification style coming of age ceremony can provide a bridge for our children into an adult life of faith and to other communities of faith.
Our children did not quit school, roar around the country on campaigns, fundraising, living with people from all over the world. Yankee Stadium, MSG and Washington Monument are no more real to them than D-Day, Guadal Canal or The Battle of Gettysburg.
They live and function in two worlds. One is the world of school, their local neighborhoods and their relatives. These are comprised mostly of non-Unificationists. The other world is the world of their parentís faith. They learn mostly by what their parents to and what they see other adults do.
We need to help them integrate these two worlds, to help them see the Divine Principle as a powerful tool for living a spiritual and productive life and to experience Godís Heart and his love for them. They need to understand and make a commitment to these on their own. Most of the 2nd Generation will never meet True Father while he is here on earth with us.
Itís essential that kids have lots of time for fun and socialization. We provide around 3 hours of structured activities such as crafts, hiking and sports as well as 2.0-2.5 hours of free time a day. This free time is important, as it allows the kids to bond and form true friendships. In the evenings, we have campfires, with singing, prayer and other activities. We have had square dances as well, which the kids love, once they give it a try. Fun and varied activities are the key here. Crafts may seem trivial to some, but we have found that during this time kids often share the deepest aspects of their life and experiences with God, their family or the workshop. When their hands are busy with a creative project, the sprit is free to express itself.
Evening campfires and times for personal prayer provide the opportunity for our kids to connect directly to God. They do it much easier than you can imagine. Iíve seen lots of kids in tears, feeling Godís Heart and his love for them.
Weíve found structured activities lasting around 3 hours on a rotating basis works best. For example a group might do crafts for an hour, then play sports and then swim. An hour or two after the activities, of free time allows kids to socialize, swim again, and just have fun. It also allows the staff to catch a nap, visit or get ready for the next activity.
Recruit enough staff, so the adults can have fun as well. They donít mind working hard, but they need inspiration, relaxation and fun like anyone else. Take care of the people who are taking care of the kids. We never have staff meetings later than 11pm. They are counter-productive and you need people to be well rested during the day. Finally, Iíve found it remarkable how far a sincere "thank you" will go in motivating others. Never, ever take anyoneís offering for granted, no matter how small. A basic rule of etiquette is that if you cannot thank people in person, you should do so in writing afterward. This is good manners and smart management. It is important that we recognize each other in front of God and others. When we set the example of gratitude and serving others as adults, our children will see this as a normal part of life.
Making the Commitment
People often ask me, how can I make a commitment to something, when Rev. Moon, a leader or other providential activities might get in the way? What Iíve learned is that if I make the commitment to provide this for the Blessed Children, things work out. I was directly ordered by an elder Korean leader one year to postpone the Camp because it was on the same days at as a speaking tour by Mrs. Moon. He was worried about attendance and feeling lots of pressure. I did not cancel the Camp and did not make a big protest. When the time came, we took the older kids to the speech, had them act as ushers and they were able to attend a celebration with Mrs. Moon in her hotel room afterward. For the kids, this was the highlight of the workshop. The Korean leader was supported and we held our Camp. The lesson is God can do several things at once. Also remember that the Church leaders are people like anyone else, they worry, suffer doubt but still try to offer their time and talent to God. Each of us can do the same.
Finally, I see the education of the 2nd Generation as fundamentally a parental role. Especially until they are out of High School. Kids also learn by what they see their parents doing. If their parents are involved in the workshops as well, this speaks much more loudly and clearly about the real priorities in there lives. Think about it.
Looking Ahead To 2001
We plan to organize two Camps, one primarily for members in Eastern PA and New Jersey and another primarily for Washington, DC and Western PA. We also plan to add a community service component for older kids in Philadelphia. Our desire is to connect our kids to the existing community and church contacts our Movement has. If there are others who would like to use these facilities, contact Rob Sayre. We are also thinking about how to transfer this experience to other new families and as a way of introducing others to the movement and the True Parents.
For more information contact by e-mail Rob & Sally Sayre at firstname.lastname@example.org, Robert & Kiyoko Pickell at email@example.com, Chris & Heddy Ching at firstname.lastname@example.org, David Caprara at DavidCap@aol.com, Noah & Kathy Ross at email@example.com, or Bruce & Betsy Bonini at Bonini@noln.com.
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