Tent of Nations 2019 [3]: Documentation of Summer Camp by Day

11:00 pm, August 15th-August 27th, Volunteer Tent


This is short daily documentation of Tent of Nations’s Children’s Summer Camp. With each day, Daoud had the idea to link an article or two of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. He told us that the festival is for fun, but is also an important opportunity to teach the parents what their children have been learning, too: that the land is valuable and should be protected, and that they have human rights which cannot be taken from them.


Tent of Nations Children’s Summer Camp 2019: “Growing Strong: It all begins in the tiny seed”


Monday, 15th July: It all begins in the tiny seed—getting to know each other, the site, the program, expectations, hopes and wishes for the camp


Just under 50 campers arrive on the buses at the gate, coming from Bethlehem via Nahhalin. We sing together (Un Eskimal, a Catalan song from our Catalonian volunteers) in the green tent. Then we play a name game. We split up into four groups (5-7 years old, 8-10, 11-13, 14-16), which will become our little families for the next two weeks. In our groups, we play more games to get to know other people, and establish our group name, rules, dance, song, and logo. At the end of the day, we displayed our groups to the whole camp.


The groups are as follows: the 5-7 year olds are Group Zeitoun (olive trees), and sang a traditional Palestinian song about the olive tree as their group song. The 8-10 year olds are the Seeds of Hope, and they sing a song they wrote that went like this (everyone knew this song by the end of camp!):


We are the seeds / the seeds of hope / we give you love / and we grow strong / everything is possible / with friendship and with love / because, we are all the seeds of hope


Group 11-13 was the Sunbirds (named for the Palestine Sunbird), and sang a song about sunbirds growing stronger to the tune of “We Will Rock You”.


Group 14-16 was the TLRSE—an acronym for Trust, Love, Respect, Self-Confidence, and Encouragement.


Tuesday, 16th July: Spread your roots with courage


Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


In the green tent we learned to sing Johnny Appleseed, a grace about finding and sharing the goodness of God.


A group of American volunteers arrived with some games and crafts to share with us. The campers’ favorite part of the volunteers’ activities was bracelet making; making bracelets would become an activity from that day forward  at camp.


We split into our groups. Groups 1 & 3 met together to hear the story of Malala from Jihan. We then made musical instruments out of recycled materials. Allowing children to be loud and musical seemed to give them a sense of ownership over their group, which was good to see.


Groups created cement hands by pouring cement into rubber gloves and leaving the gloves in the position they would like. This symbolized their strength in their own hands and creativity. Later, the hands would be painted.


Group 2 made cupcakes for the entire camp, and stood upfront to tell us about them. Many of them were nervous or shy about standing in front of everybody, but once it was clear that people loved their cooking, Group 2 looked quite proud!


Wednesday, 17th July: Everybody has gifts from God, our strengths can make a difference


Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

On Wednesday, we sang two songs: Happy Birthday (to Jihan!) and the Kabauterdans, a song from a children’s television show that the Dutch volunteers taught us to sing and dance.


We played games with water today. We played a version of duck-duck-goose with a wet sponge, and we had a water relay race to fill up a bucket by passing a wet sponge over and under our whole team. The children loved the water games! Water is such a political resource in the West Bank, and it was refreshing for the children and the volunteers to have a lot of fun with water without the fear or guilt of wasting it.


In my group, we split into pairs of campers to talk about a time when they were strong. I was sitting and listening to a camper tell me about when she couldn’t swim, but her cousin showed her how to. She was nervous at first, but she became very good at swimming. Hearing her explain this to me showed me how proud she was of her own accomplishment, and made me proud, too. We began a game where we would write down something that we loved about ourselves, and would pull these gifts out of a hat to guess who wrote them. We will have to finish it tomorrow.


Our group planted seeds as part of our theme craft. Daoud led the activity by taking them to the garden and talking with them about their dreams and how they hope to cultivate them. We had decorated popcicle sticks to put in the soil in our cups and identify each plant as belonging to one camper. The popsicle sticks were beautiful, and covered with our dreams. One camper dreams of becoming a scientist. He is incredibly brilliant, and has a dream of testing what the borders of the universe are made up of. Another wrote that she dreams that Palestine will be free from Israel. Another wrote she wanted to be an illustrator, and Daoud told her she could design the logo for this summer camp; this made her smile so wide! Many of our campers wrote in Arabic, and Daoud told the volunteers what they said; they were all wonderful. We went with Daoud to plant chickpeas in our cups, and everyone enjoyed it. We will take turns watering them throughout the next two weeks.


Group 1 made cookies, and the pride they had over their cookies was easy to see. Excitedly, they ran around to the other groups to hand them out before the buses left.


Thursday, 18th July: Fears & frustrations: ways to deal with them; how to overcome them, face them with faith


Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.


We sang Bella Ciao, an Italian song that many of the older campers already knew. Volunteers played the guitar and we all danced. There were two birthdays today, and it was so fun; one of my campers wanted to make a piñata for her little cousin, whose birthday it was, so I helped her get cardboard and tape to get started.


This was the first day we split into three groups instead of two at 9 am: sports, games in the big tent, and crafting with me and Grace in the green tent. We made God’s eyes (shown below). I shared some special moments with one of my campers, who had up until that point not been very talkative or expressive, when we discovered her talent for crafting. Jihan said that the God’s Eyes must be hung up on a string or stuck together because she wants to display them at the festival next Friday.


A storyteller came from Chicago to the farm to tell the camp the story of Malala. The campers were in love with the story (even more than I thought they would be, truthfully!), and they answered each question and followed the story closely. Jihan translated the story from English to Arabic, and I learned what a great storyteller she is too. The children were enthralled with the story and clearly saw themselves and their struggles in it; the story built a lot of excitement for the play next Friday.


Groups made muscle balls or stress balls out of balloons and rice. Children carried them around and took them home as a symbol of calm during frustration.


My group made zata’ar bread for everybody, and it was so good. Other groups had choreographed dances and had begun to plan for their parts in the play; Group 2 was especially excited and was creating elaborate dances and assigning roles.


Friday, 19th July: A garden cannot grow by itself—caring for others


Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.


Friday moved quickly because the volunteers would be taking a tour of Bethlehem, Aida Refugee Camp and the Separation Wall that afternoon. The day started with singing the fishing song, a silly summer camp song I learned when I was a child.


We split into crafts, games, and sports for an hour. After we went to our groups, some groups practiced their play in songs or rehearsing lines; some made props for the play. Our group wrote poetry to be displayed at the festival with rainbow scratch-off paper one of our volunteers brought from the Netherlands. We also created our books for the festival; we will be displaying books of our own based on I Am Malala; they will have campers’ dreams written on the inside and decorated on the outside to be placed on a bookshelf prop the volunteers will build.


Our poetry was about what being in a community means, and how communities grow stronger.


The camper in my group who wants to be an illustrator told me she was going to leave tomorrow to go to Turkey with her family. I rushed to find Daoud, because she had wanted to make the stencil for the camp logo. Together, we went to the dining area and drew what would become the logo: a small tree and a large tree, standing together.


Monday, 22nd July: I have a dream, I will make it happen


Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.


Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


We sang La Cucaracha with the guitar and our Spanish volunteer leader, and reviewed all of our other songs. Jihan had each group demonstrate what they had planned for the play so far.


We split into our groups to make crafts or play games. Afterwards, groups met up to do some creative writing about their dreams, and do crafts for the play. We started preparations for the mosaic we would make: spelling GROWING STRONG out of broken tiles from the scrap pile by the animal farm. The mosaics are a favorite of the campers every year, and they fit well with the theme of the day—we would be building something beautiful that we could see in our minds, but out of shattered pieces we found on the ground.


Groups continued to work on their books, filled with their dreams. Props and scripts are being created lovingly and diligently by campers and volunteers.



Tuesday, 23rd July: Life is your gift from God, appreciate it


Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.


We learned The Lion Sleeps Tonight, complete with a countermelody, and reviewed all of the campers’ songs—of which Un Eskimal was still the favorite. By now, we had begun to get enough God’s eyes to make the craft display for the festival in three days, so we mostly made friendship bracelets. In our groups, we prepared for the play, as well as made our T-shirts by painting in the stencil that my camper had designed. Each camper brought a white shirt (or ToN provided them one if they didn’t have one) and they painted it with trees, and whatever landscape they wanted. I saw some very beautiful shirts!


The play is coming along nicely in my group, even if they tend to wander off and fight (mostly playfully) a lot. The day was short because the volunteers were going on a justice tour of Hebron with Usama, our tour guide from Bethlehem.



Wednesday, 24th  July: Growing strong needs a healthy ENVIRONMENT, how to care about nature, recycling


Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.


Today was a special day all about our relationship with the earth. One volunteer and I had made labels for all of the plants, trees, and herbs around and in the garden. Daoud taught the campers about the importance of caring for the earth, and then campers would read the labels we had created and hang them on the appropriate tree. This was a good opportunity for the older campers to practice their English, too. Daoud was sure to talk about why it is important especially for Palestinians to care for their own land, because this is land worth protecting and defending.


Daoud took campers on a walk through the farm, showing them the ways that Tent of Nations has become environmentally sustainable, and all the ways the farm still hopes to grow. From discouraging throwing trash on the ground to showing campers a truly unique integrated filtration and irrigation system and the cisterns for rain collection, the campers were excited and amazed at the land.


We finished painting our T-shirts, and then the groups took turns going to the animal farm to meet the puppy, chickens and ducks, and the donkey (named Vickie).



Thursday, 25th July: Together, we can shape a better future


Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.


We reviewed all of the songs we had been learning together. Before we split into groups, we practiced our play all together. Group 1 showed in two little scenes—a dinner table and a schoolhouse—the story of Malala as a young child, whose father encouraged her education and who always wanted to do her best in school. Group 2 showed the resistance to Malala coming from the Taliban, from a frightened news reporter questioning a brave and wise Malala, to the Taliban approaching with a menacing dance and knocking Malala to the ground (symbolizing the shooting that happened on the school bus in Pakistan). Group 3 showed Malala waking up in a hospital and looking for her father, and then gathering up her strength to continue fighting for education and for everyone to dream without fear. Group 4 showed Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize and speaking proudly about her dream and her family who had supported her the whole way.


We finished up our props and lines for the play. We made invitations for the parents to come to the festival.


Friday, 26th July: Festival day


On the festival day, we reviewed all of our songs and dances, and rehearsed the play again. We played games and drew pictures as we waited for the parents’ arrival. Our campers seemed jittery, a little apprehensive for the festival. They had brought their nice clothes in their backpacks to change into. We had lunch with our campers that day, and our group joked around and laughed with us, but my co-counselor and I had wanted to have a serious discussion, too, like Daoud had said. We had Daoud’s daughter translate that we as volunteers loved the children we had met very much, and that we were going to be taking home their stories to tell them with our neighbors in our own country who seldom hear anything good about Palestine.


The children were so happy to hear this, and started to tell their own stories to us. One camper told us a story about how excited she was to perform in a school choir concert in Jerusalem, her very first concert—until she and her bus of students was denied entry into the city and she wept on the way home. She said she felt like a prisoner all the time. One child said he and his family had not been allowed even to enter Jerusalem for two years because their applications to enter continued to get denied. He could not travel through Jerusalem or visit his family or friends there. He had been isolated from his family only fifteen to twenty minutes away.


The children had mixed thoughts on if hope for a brighter future was reasonable, but most said yes, and that they had hope for their own future.

The festival was lovely. It began with Daoud giving the parents a tour of the land. They saw a slideshow and video prepared by an amazingly talented volunteer and reunited with their children. They watched our play, and watched the volunteers perform Dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance.


Children ran up to me before they got on the bus for a final time to ask if I would be coming back next year. I told them that I hope that I will be. And down the hill they went, back through Nahhalin to Bethlehem and Beit Sahur, to what I hope are the brightest futures.