Blog Sachem: Rolf (Denmark)
Photos: Mallika Singh
Video: Sonia Wargacka, Projects Counselor and LAJF Video Fellow
Highlights of the week:
2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee visits Camp
Early this week, campers had the honor of meeting Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Leymah was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions to ending the civil war in Liberia and advancing the rights of women.
Ms. Gbowee experienced war starting at the age of 17. In 2002, at the age of 30, she began organizing women to press for peace, realizing that women often paid an especially horrific toll in civil war. As she described to our campers she began with a group of 10 women from church and $10 that they borrowed. Within a few days they numbered 50. Then a hundred. Eventually thousands joined their campaign and their demands could no longer be ignored.
They respectfully and peacefully pressed Liberia’s President to join peace talks. When those peace talks stalled Leymah and her group locked all of the, mostly male, government and opposition representatives into a room and refused to let them out until they had come to an agreement. The agreement that was subsequently hammered out ended the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, finally ending 14 years of civil war.
In 2011, Ms. Gbowee and President Sirleaf, along with Tawakel Karman of Yemen, were awarded the Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
The campers, staff and volunteers spent Monday with Ms. Gbowee. Read Lucas’ (one of this year’s campers), and Damian Brennan's (LAJF President), reflections about Ms. Gbowee’s visit below.
A Peaceful Approach to Peace: Reflection on Ms. Gbowee's visit
By Lucas (South Africa)
In a nutshell, I never would have thought Camp Rising Sun would open such opportunities for me. Amazingly, Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner representing feminism visited Camp.
She outlined the struggle she had faced during the terrorist invasion in her home country of Liberia. She stepped out of her comfort zone and stood up for gender equality, as she is a feminist. Tired of the Civil War, she organized masses of Christian and Muslim women to pray for peace, which led to the interfaith women’s movement Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace (WIPNET)—of which she became the leader in 2002. As the leader of the movement, she led thousands of women in nonviolent protests, which led to the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2003. Moreover, she is the founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation.
During her visit to Camp Rising Sun, she spent half of her day visiting with Campers and touring the campus. During her seminar with the campers she shared her life story, answered questions from campers and gave ideas for solutions to the problems our world faces today. She spoke mainly on women empowerment, gender equality issues and how many communities across the world are all fighting for the same thing – their human rights.
As a matter of fact, she gave a Ted Talk that inspired me, for she didn't let the situation of her country diminish her goals for the peace and freedom of others. I clearly recall one of her quotes: “Do your work and don’t aspire for recognitions, for that builds up your integrity.”
She has touched so many lives, especially those of youth, by first empowering education for African Youth, and then for the betterment of the whole world. Her seminar benefited me a lot, as it changed my outlook towards certain issues afflicting Africa. Moreover, she taught us the value of perseverance, “that even when life is too difficult you should stay put and keep focusing on your goals.”
Damian Brennan's comments on Leymah’s visit:
Leymah’s comments were wide ranging but one point she made repeated stuck with me, and hopefully the campers. “Women’s rights are simply human rights”. Leymah explained that she is a proud and unapologetic feminist because it’s necessary to call attention to the specific problems that women face. As Leymah noted, even when it came time for negotiating an end to the war in Liberia, most of the people at the table were men. It is impossible for solutions created in a single gendered conversation to properly take into account the problems faced by more than half the population.
I found many of the campers to be astounded by the realization that feminism is a call for equal respect before the law and within culture. Many of our smart and generally open-minded young men acknowledged discomfort with the word “feminism”, thinking that it implied some fundamental problem with men. When someone with Leymah’s credibility and history of putting her own life on the line for her beliefs delivers a message, it can penetrate all but the most tightly closed of minds. Having been engaged with CRS for 30 years, I cannot recall seeing the campers (and staff) so thoroughly enthralled by a speaker. It is my hope that we can convince Leymah to come back regularly to CRS.
I also would like to acknowledge David Ives for helping to make this visit possible. David is a being of supreme kindness with the experience-honed gifts of community building and mentoring. As such it doesn’t surprise me that he was able to convince Leymah that visiting CRS was worth a last minute visit to Rhinebeck.
For more information about Ms. Gbowee’s work, we recommend the following:
- NY Times short documentary Leymah Gbowee: The Dream
- Jon Stewart's interview with Leymah on the Daily Show. Watch the short but powerful interview (in two segments) here: Part 1 and Part 2.
- Leymah Gbowee's Ted Talk Unlock the Intelligence, Passion, Greatness of Girls, which the campers watched in preparation of Leymah’s visit.
- The full-length documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, available on Amazon.
- The video Nobel Peace Laureates inspire University community. This video is kicked off by our own David Ives ('90-'00) and took place at Quinnipiac University. It includes comments by Leymah and two other Nobel Laureates at the event. Leymah begins speaking at the 25-minute mark.
Good Morning, CRS!
Another highlight occurred on Tuesday when CRS was on the radio! Kingston Community Radio morning show hosts Chris Burns, and LAJF Facilities Manager, Cameron Rylance, interviewed Campers Ebba (Minnesota), Dimitrios (Greece), and Gustavo (Dominican Republic), and Counselors Mallika, Miriam, and Eduardo. The segment is 30 minutes long. Skip to the 34:50 mark to hear the Campers. Please note that the video will remain on the website for 30 days, from the air date. Click HERE to watch.
On the Air: Reflection on the Radio show
By Dimitrios (Greece) and Gustavo (Dominican Republic)
It was the 11th of July, and a car was traveling from Camp Rising Sun to the radio station in Kingston, NY. In the car there were 6 people, and three of us were Campers. We, the campers, were nervous because in a few minutes we would be live on the air.
During the radio show, we talked about how we learned about Camp and we also talked about our home country and lifestyle. Then, the radio show hosts asked us what we learn at Camp. One interesting answer was that at CRS, we learned that people from different countries have a wealth of similarities, and as a result the interaction between one another becomes easier.
In addition, the hosts asked questions about our interests in sports. We then discussed food, and also how Camp is affecting our life. In this discussion we were all very positive and energetic, saying that the food is great and that Camp has changed us for the better. Also, we saw Cameron from another perspective- one as a radio co-host. We all enjoyed talking on the radio, and opening ourselves to the public.
While Cameron interviewed the Campers early this week, Campers also had the opportunity to interview Cameron.
An Interview with Cameron (Facility Manager)
by Xiao (China)
Q: What is your job?
A: I work here all year round. Except for camp season, I work alone with my dog. My job mainly contains maintaining the facilities at campsite, repairing things that are broken, and making sure everything is functioning properly. During the camp season, I also help campers with planning and executing projects.
Q: Do you enjoy your job?
A: Yes. I really love my job. It can be very exhausting sometimes, but I enjoy fixing, planning and organizing things. I also enjoy staying outdoors and getting to know campers from all over the world every summer.
Q: How long have you been doing this job?
A: I began this job ten years ago. I am alone here most time of the year, but I always have something to do. There are so many things that need to be improved.
Q: What are your setbacks or difficulties that you have encountered?
A: I don’t think I have any setbacks, but one of the biggest difficulties is shortage of money. Every project and improvement needs fund support, but sometimes we cannot implement all of them because there is not enough money. The LAJF Foundation has been working hard these past years to spare money on maintaining facilities, and I hope it will continue in the future.
Q: What are your expectations for campers/future campers?
A: I hope that campers can all respect the place we live, the facilities we are making use of, and the traditions we have at Camp.
This Week’s Instructions
- Alba (Spain) – Price-tagging
- Justin (New York) – Aesthetics
- Elias (Texas) – Sign language
- Ulvi (Azerbaijan) – Azerbaijanian History & Culture
- Jenny (Finland) – Acrobatics
- Tomasz (Poland) – Invariant in Mathematics
- Ahmad (Palestine) – Arabic
- Jake (New York) – Sabre Fighting
- Karim (Egypt) – Logic Gates
- Gustavo (Dominican Republic) – Dominican Republic
- Raina (New York) – First Aid
- Olin (Minnesota) and Elio (Sweden) – Guitar
- Mallika (New York) and Eduardo (Spain) – Polictical Zines
This Week’s Projects
- Gaga Ball Pit (completed)
- Gym door mural
- Outdoor stage renovation (completed)
- Outdoor gym
- Make Songbooks Great Again (completed)
- Lean-To 2017
- Vigil spots and trails