Tent of Nations 2019 [8]: Testimonials

10:40 pm, August 24th, Wesley House

I asked the volunteers to create testimonials (short stories about why Tent of Nations’s summer camp was important to them) and send them to me or Daoud to put them on the Tent of Nations website. This will be shorter than most of my blogs, but here is my testimonial (I could’ve written so many, but this one is very special to me):

I had an energetic, silly group of ten children at Tent of Nations children’s summer camp this summer. They were 11-13 years old. About half of them knew conversational English, and they were very willing to help those who were less comfortable speaking English. They helped me a lot, too; nearly all of the Arabic I learned and remembered came from the campers, even though the Arabic lessons we had with the Nassar family were wonderful. 

I had an incredibly active and funny camper who didn’t know a lot of English, and I didn’t know a lot of Arabic. Or communication was difficult, because he and I didn’t speak the same language, and he would often give up on a conversation with me and walk away. He also struggled to behave kindly to other campers sometimes, but he and I didn’t know how to talk about more constructive ways to interact. I sometimes felt disheartened, because I wanted to get to know him better. 

At Tent of Nations, though, I was inspired to not give up on understanding someone and trying to show them I loved them and I loved who they were. Slowly, I was able to pick up words to speak to him from other campers and Arabic speakers at camp. I learned more about what made him happy–football, drawing, writing, and playing jokes on his friends–and what made him nervous–school work, speaking English, and meeting new people. I had the opportunity to play football with him, and see how good he was, and let him know. He smiled proudly whenever I would say, “good job!” or, “bravo!” while we were writing poetry, or running on the football field. His artistic and musical skill was incredible, and he eventually took on a lead role in our play. He and I became close, even though we couldn’t have a conversation with each other. 

Most importantly, he and I were able to help him build relationships with other children in our group. He was able to use his energy and wit in a welcoming way after the first week, and soon he had become a good friend to everyone in the group, even those who were more quiet and reserved. By the last day of camp, the group had become such a family. 

On the last day, he asked me if I would be coming back next year. I hope that I will be able to; I want to talk to him about how his school is going, whether he keeps in touch with his friends from summer camp, and all about his football games.

Tent of Nations creates such a unique place where I can have these sorts of relationships with children. Volunteers rely on children just as much as children rely on volunteers, and the groups all become family. I was able to help my camper overcome a fear and grow stronger, and he showed me how to be open to different kinds of communication. I was so happy to have been a volunteer at Tent of Nations this summer, and I hope to come back to see all of my campers again and build a whole new family.