Liberators, Integrators, and Hope Generators with Mawi Asgedom

Find the Invisible kids. This was Mawi’s call to action during a morning keynote address at the ACA National Conference. How do we do that as youth development and camp professionals?

We SEE all of the campers. We KNOW all of the campers. We seek to build AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS with our campers. These campers may be invisible because they aren’t “seen” by the adults in their lives, they may not be “seen” by their peers, and some may not even be “seen” in the camp community as a whole because they are unable to attend camp. It our job as youth development professionals, and as a greater camp community to come together and help ALL of our youth be seen, be respected, and be known.

Youth today can create their lifestyles at a depth unknown to the adults around them. When we were young, many of us had perimeters when it came to our chosen “lifestyle”. Sure, we could relate to, talk to others about, and put on the appearances and behaviors of our “chosen” lifestyle: the sports, music, fashion that defined those styles. And then we’d head home, where we were sharing (typically) a single phone line and we were battling our family members for control over the TV remote…and we would just be ourselves.

Youth today can maintain the lifestyle they choose almost 24/7. They can IM and tweet and Facebook chat about it late into the night under their covers. They can shut their doors and Google search, watch YouTube videos, and Hulu shows that inform their opinions of their lifestyles. They can create virtual worlds where they, in fact, are both known AND invisible. They can be invisible, safe…and yet they can still FEEL known.

What lifestyles are your kids embracing? Are they known in the virtual world or in the real world? How can we help them find unique identities beyond their embraced “lifestyle”? How can we help them see that–Because of Camp

Mawi Asgedom

–they can and will be able to create a lifestyle for themselves, rather than having that lifestyle dictated to them by the outside world?

By teaching them how to make a friend, and how to keep a friend; by helping them understand the importance of values; by modeling authentic, healthy relationships; by spending time in the outdoors; and through the recognition that the world is both very big and very small we can help promote the “camp” experience for invisible and visible children all around the world.

In the end, “camp” will mean one thing to a child refugee in a remote village in Africa, something else to a kid on the Upper West Side, and something else entirely to an indigenous child living on a reservation. It is our responsibility, and our mission, as Mawi said, “To make the invisible, visible” and to make the summer camp experience as we know it, accessible to all.

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2 Responses to “Liberators, Integrators, and Hope Generators with Mawi Asgedom”

  1. Mike MacDonald says:

    In today’s go, go, connected, always-on world, camp offers a more and more limited resource: time. There’s time to talk and share experiences and really get to know the people around you. There’s time to learn and understand more about each other and yourself. There’s time to notice, and then do something, when something isn’t quite right – when someone’s not being heard, noticed, or included. Time is an essential component of authentic relationships and camp is a powerful provider of it.

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