Camp usually means enjoying the outdoors and meeting new friends. But there’s one camp with a special focus—where kids learn about peace and getting along. And it all starts at a place where violence took a heavy toll. Kim Riemland reports.
(Locator: Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Most of these kids weren’t born when the federal building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by a bomb.
Tour guide: “Sixteen buildings in the area were destroyed.”
Conna Wilkinson, Peace Challenge Camp director: “We talk with them about the process by which violence escalates. The Murrah building bombing is a good illustration of that on a pretty big scale.”
Camper: “It’s just wrong. All innocent people being killed.”
A visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial is the first stop for a week-long peace challenge camp for fifth- and sixth-graders.
Conna Wilkinson, Peace Challenge Camp Director: “What kind of a world would you like to see?”
The camp is now in its third year, sponsored by the United Methodist Church’s Skyline Urban Ministry.
Conna Wilkinson, Peace Challenge Camp Director: “We’ve had kids that have come through here and say this is the first time they’ve ever spent five days without getting in a fight or getting in trouble.”
Art is a big part of the camp, helping kids practice peace.
Jo Anne Alexander, Artist-in-Residence: “Because when you’re creating, then you’re not about the business of destroying.”
Campers chant: “Who are we? We are peacemakers.”
The campers also take a walk through portals, symbolizing how they can move from one way of looking at things to another.
Alexis Carr, 11-Year-Old Camper: “It really doesn’t benefit for anybody to harbor anger.”
Abby Treadway, 10-Year-Old Camper: “Why would you blow up a building just because you didn’t like what they thought?”
(Singing) “Ain’t gonna study war no more.”
And peace challenge camp is a place where kids can experience, at least for a week, what life would be like without conflict.
Patricia Webb, Artist-in-Residence: “We have to do something different. What we’re doing in the world is not working very well. They can have their part in creating peace.”
Skyline Urban Ministry is a program of the Oklahoma Central Conference of the United Methodist Church. Skyline has other programs to help kids, as well. Hundreds of children every year pick out free clothes for back-to-school.
For more information on the peace camp and other activities for youth, visit http://www.skylineurbanministry.org or call 405-236-5212.
Also, see: Oklahoma camp teaches peace to inner-city children