Kids at Junior Peacebuilders day camp assemble aid for refugees
Youth from 7-14 assemble relief kits for refugees 'helping the world be a better place'
The last few days of summer holidays are precious to kids. But the 29 youths who gathered in the back of a Kitchener, Ont. thrift store warehouse this week for a day camp made their holiday a humanitarian effort.
The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)'s Peacebuilders Day Camp gathered public-spirited youngsters together to pack aid relief kits and take part in the "blanket exercise," an education tool used to start conversations about reconciliation.
"We kind of see relief aid as this way to have a bigger conversation around how we use our lives to help our communities be a little bit better for all of us," said organizer Carolyn Gray.
Small people, big impact
The day was designed by Gray, Maggie Pearson — a global studies student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. — and Amy Warren, a peace and conflict studies student at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo.
Assembling about 50 relief kits for families and 150 hygiene kits for individuals, the kids spent their day stuffing boxes and buckets, making a difference for hundreds of people around the world.
It's a concept that participant Mira, 10, is starting to understand.
"These are hygiene kits that they have two combs, some band aids, some towels, two kinds of soap, toothbrushes and shampoo," she said.
"And basically we just send it there for people who need that stuff."
She came to the camp with her friends Tess and Eden, 11, who were helping compile a basic relief kit, which can provide a family of four with necessities.
"I really like learning about stuff like this," said Tessa, who hopes to do as much as she can to help.
"Yesterday they said that they needed to get more, 'cause they ran out of stuff, so hopefully we can do that today too."
Helping those in need
Gray said these kits will mostly be going to relief efforts in Ukraine, although kits built at the MCC will often go to refugee camps, urban areas that need support, or recovery zones after floods, earthquakes or other disasters.
The day was interspersed with workshops and activities, to help break down and explain the big concepts of international aid.
"The amazing thing about relief aid is that it's so hands on and tangible," said Gray.
"It's this way to start to thinking about peace, both by working on these tangible items, but also as an entry point to start thinking about relationships for peace, or how to use other resources for development work."
I'm helping the world be a better place.- 12-year-old Libby
Libby, 12, came with her brother, after her family offered support to sponsored refugees this past year.
"I love being a part of stuff like this," she said. "It gives me a very warm and happy feeling, like I'm helping the world be a better place."
The workshops of the day struck a chord with her, encouraging her to continue to give back.
"The refugees that have to leave their country, are forced to leave because of war or starvation," she said.
"It's just so sad to think that people have to live like that."
'International aid for 8-year-olds'
While the day was hugely successful, Gray said it takes some planning to figure out how to get certain ideas across.
"You need to think about how to communicate to 8-year-olds," she said. But adds that it's not as hard as many imagine.
"The amazing thing is that kids are open to these concepts and they want to know how to apply it to their lives."
One of the youngest participants of the day was 7-year-old Laertes, who was rolling up hygiene products into hand towels and bags.
For him, his job was very simple, but his intention clear.
"Roll it up, and that's it," he said. "They're going to Syria and refugees. That's what I'm hoping."
It emphasizes what Gray said is the most important message of the day is that kids care, and are capable of making a difference.
"Kids are very open to wanting to give back to the world."