"Youth Leading Youth" Creating the Magic of Camp Miriam
Early morning at Camp Miriam sees three 12-year old boys leading 140 other groggy campers in the flag raising ceremony – first a knock-knock joke, then some exercises, chants by the different work groups, campers with hats called to raise the flags – and then everyone is off to breakfast. The three boys, who were elected to lead “Mifkad” by all the campers on the second day of camp, are smiling and satisfied as they make their way to breakfast. They have just successfully facilitated the first activity of a typical day at Camp Miriam and mostly in Hebrew.
That in a nutshell is what Camp Miriam is about. Located on a small island in British Columbia, Camp Miriam has been empowering youth for over 60 years. As one of 7 camps in North America affiliated with the Habonim Dror youth movement, Miriam’s program reflects the values and spirit of Habonim Dror, i.e. creating a Jewish youth community which supports Israel as a Jewish state and works for social justice. Inclusion and equality is emphasized through creative educational activities and each camper is encouraged to take responsibility for the well-being of the community and the world around them.
How does that translate into “youth leading youth”? Staff members, including top staff, all between the ages of 18 and 23, create the atmosphere where every camper is part of the running of camp, be it through their work group every morning, the all-camper weekly meeting on Shabbat afternoon, by leading Shabbat singing, planning the Shabbat Oneg, running a program for the whole camp, or by expressing their thoughts during a discussion in an educational activity. Each camper has the opportunity to vote for the campers who will lead the morning flag raising, as well as for those who will lead the weekly camper meeting and those who will manage the money in their collective fund of monies they each brought to camp.
“Running camp” gives the individual campers a sense of confidence, feelings of belonging and ownership, and many leadership skills. Their involvement in the day to day running of the camp leads to the creation of a youth community, where each camper feels heard, validated, and respected.
Campers have been heard to say, “Every day we have fun, and every day we learn something at Camp Miriam.” Part of that “something” is the magic of “youth leading youth”.
Camp Miriam is a unique Jewish camping experience,
one which should not be missed!