Looking for a summer camp that gives kids the knowledge, motivation, confidence and skills they need to make a positive difference in the world? And that serves vegan food? Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will teach kids to be leaders, activists, compassionate citizens, and solutionaries. Read on to learn more about the inspiring, life-changing YEA camp... Guest Post by Nora Kramer, Executive Director of Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA)
Many veg kids and their parents are accustomed to being one of a small minority not wanting to eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and other typical meat-based meals at school or camp, and perhaps tolerating some ignorant remarks from others, maybe about the food chain or a desert island.
But what about a summer camp that serves all vegan food, and has plenty of other campers and staff who also care about animals, the planet, and good health? Or a camp that is all about helping youth get more involved in community service, social justice, and activism for causes they care about? That is Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp
, a week-long overnight camp with locations in northern California, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
YEA Camp, which is prepping for its fifth summer of programs for youth 12-17, is first and foremost a leadership program for young people who want to make a difference in the world. YEA's purpose is to support youth in getting active on an issue they care about once camp is over. The curriculum -- designed to build campers' knowledge, skills, confidence, and community support -- is engaging and fun, tapping into and expanding campers' passions and interests while affirming their power to make an impact on social issues they care about. Campers choose issues such as factory farming, school bullying, environmental protection, gay marriage, and more. They learn skills like how to start a school club, fundraise, and use art and social media for social change.
Alumni campers have done so many inspiring things after camp, it's hard to keep track or be surprised anymore. From launching school clubs, getting more vegan options in the school cafeteria, initiating school-wide anti-bullying programs, ending dissection in school biology classes, leading neighborhood clean-ups, holding fundraisers, and volunteering or interning with different nonprofit organizations, YEA Campers go home and make a difference on issues they care about for years to come.
While all of YEA Camp's food is vegan, being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a requirement to attend, and in fact many campers have never given any more thought to going veg than the average teen. The vegan food is not the point of the camp -- changing the world is. YEA Camp seeks to bring our actions into alignment with our values and commitment to peace, compassion, equity, sustainability, and social justice. YEA Camp tries to model "being the change we wish to see in the world," as Gandhi said. Serving meat or dairy would undermine everything we are standing for.
At the beginning of camp, many non-veg campers are nervous about the food, while other campers who are vegan or vegetarian are beyond thrilled to be able to eat everything, and to not have to ask questions or eat the "alternative" or "special" meal at the side table, like at other camps. In the end, though, everyone is beyond impressed at the deliciousness of vegan cuisine, with kid-friendly meals such as French toast and pancakes for breakfast, mac n' cheeze and burritos for lunch, pizza with Daiya and veggie sushi for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies and brownies for dessert. Don't worry, there's also plenty of veggies and salads and gluten- and soy-free and other options too!
YEA Camp is an opportunity for youth to meet like-minded peers and adults, to pursue a cause that really matters to them, to get encouragement and training on how to make a difference in ways that feel right for them, and to have what many campers describe as a life-changing and unforgettable experience. And to eat amazing vegan food for a week while having a great time. Not a bad way to answer the question "How did you spend your summer vacation?"
YEA Camp 2013 will be held: California: July 14-21Oregon: July 27-August 3Massachusetts: August 10-17YEA Camp helps to make arrangements for youth flying in from out of the area. To learn more about YEA Camp, take a look at this two-minute video or visit www.yeacamp.org.