My week at YUGA Leadership Camp
By Corrie Bonham, Plan International USA Intern
A week of camp food, blistering heat, and communal bathrooms isn’t exactly the make-up of a luxury vacation. For over forty youth and dozens of staff, however, YUGA Leadership Camp was one of the highlights of the summer.
This year’s YUGA Camp, held at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate, RI, brought together a diverse group of over forty youth from across the country — and the world — including the US, Canada, Sweden, Haiti, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. YUGA Camp provided a unique and fun atmosphere to educate, motivate, and provide the skills necessary for a young generation to discuss and address global problems. Youth-led workshops, ranging from poverty and globalization to climate change and the economy, equipped campers with the knowledge and tools needed to promote change in their homes and communities.
One of the highlights for Melanie, a YUGA camper from Wayland, Massachusetts, was the shared experiences and enthusiasm with similar-aged youth. “Seeing what everyone else does inspires and pushes me to do more,” she says.
Like Melanie, other campers were inspired by others to bring proactive, engaging activities to their communities to raise awareness and money about pressing issues. Luke, a YUGA camper from Massachusetts, is planning a skate competition to raise awareness about YUGA and some of Plan’s programs. Others developed even loftier goals for their futures after hearing from a panel of Peace Corps volunteers and Plan International USA employees.
Kirby, an energetic and passionate camper from Providence, RI, was happy to return to camp this year to rekindle old friendships and embrace some new. What she experienced, however, far surpassed her expectations and gave her even greater motivation to making change. “If it wasn’t for the strong support of the great people at camp I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I feel confident enough to go back home and lead my community through great projects. Even if it gets hard I know I have the support of my fellow YUGA friends.”
Whether veteran or new, younger or older, the group of youth surpassed racial, gender, socioeconomic, and language barriers to form unmistakable bonds. The week at camp was filled with swimming, games, arts and crafts, and even some African dance lessons — but proved to be worth much more. Far more rewarding than the games and fun was the satisfaction from developing meaningful friendships founded on a passion for bettering the world. Expressed in the tearful goodbyes was a feeling of acceptance and understanding with youth from across the world — one that no camper will soon forget.