A bookmark printed by the St. Francis Indian Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota has the following Indian prayer: “Great Spirit — Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Hearsay attributes the prayer to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians.
Before departing this earth, our children’s librarian, Susan Ei, encouraged us to create a Summer Service Day Camp where we could share our knowledge of the world with local kids, and create a fun learning environment that would spark both compassion and enthusiasm for others through literature and service.
We decided to tackle this task by geographic region, and by thinking about the people to whom we most commonly donate. We wanted to be sure to include literature, crafts, games, education and a service project in each day’s meeting.
Africa We began with Africa because we have donated so many books to multiple countries in Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. We read Patience Mariza Goes for Water by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a native of Uganda, who has built a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda.
This story, although a picture book for children, is very revealing. Patience is faced with unimaginable hardships that a storybook American child would never encounter. She is beaten by her aunt, and accosted by a strange man, worried she may have AIDS, and exhausted by her daily trek in search of clean water. Eventually, she is adopted by a kind grandmother.
Many children in Africa walk to school, sometimes several miles, barefoot. Shoes can be made from found objects. We helped our campers understand this by helping them create their own shoes from found objects and then experimented to see how far they could walk….(not far!)
They also decorated donation boxes that they brought from home and filled with their own shoes so that they could share these with others.
Haiti To begin our lesson on Haiti we read Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams.
This warm, funny story is about a girl who goes to the market with her mother and after making a little extra money she and her mother are able to ride the taxi-bus home (tap-tap) instead of walking.
We know from our relationship with our friends at Haitian Education Initiatives, that a major part of Haitian children’s education is learning to make things they can sell in the market.
In particular, children learn to sew and to make painted paper-maché bowls. After the Tap-Tap story, our campers sewed beanbags and made painted bowls. They were very beautiful, but perhaps not yet ready to be sold at the market,
Native Americans Having just returned from South Dakota, we had many stories and adventures to share. We also read Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac and Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson. These stories told of the bravery and beauty of the American Indians as well as some of their beliefs and dreams.
The Native Americans believe that Dream Catchers can catch bad dreams and spirits while you sleep and keep you safe.
Our campers made Dream Catchers from found objects, feathers and beads.
Food Lottery Each day, like every wholesome American Day Camp we had Snack Time. Who doesn’t? Well, many of the children we help don’t have snack time. We discussed this each day, and one day we decided it was time to emphasize what that might mean. Each child drew a piece of paper from a basket. Those with an X were given a snack. No X, No Snack. This was a pretty shocking moment, and after a while some pretty human responses occurred. Some kids “stole” some snacks. Some kids secretly “shared” their snacks with others. Some were publicly outraged, while they gobbled their own snacks. Politics as usual.
Read to Feed We wanted to emphasize that reading is for everyone. We brought in a basket of books, the ones we usually donate, and had the campers choose their own books.
Then we made posters and made a Read to Feed program for our local library. Children can be sponsored to read and by reading they can help purchase farm animals that can bring food to a family or village in another community. (Heifer Project)
Appalachia We have been donating books and building children’s libraries through Project Appalachia since 2012 so we are pretty committed to helping children in this region.
We read Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant and Barry Moser. We also discussed other American communities that are in need of books and supplies. There are kids that need books and supplies that live in our own communities and we need to reach out and help them as well as helping kids that live far away.
Our campers decorated boxes and brought them home to be filled with books that they could donate to children who would love to own their own books.
Around the World and Banana Ball We also played many fun games, like an African version of soccer played with a ball made from banana leaves (although of course we didn’t have any real banana leaves) and “around the world” frisbee.
Hospitalized children We always remember kids who are sick in hospitals. So we talked about illness and had the campers put together care packages of painted bags filled with our Knot-Yet-a-Blanket kits and poetry books.
Lemonade for Literacy Our final project was to involve our campers, and our community, in our annual lemonade stand.
Our Summer Service Camp jointly donated and boxed hundreds of shoes, books and school supplies, and created many Blanket Gift Bags. They had walked in handmade shoes, made dream catchers, fought over food, read stories from around the world, and committed to continue reading on their own.
It’s time to create global literacy with lemons!