First English Children’s Camp at Dharma Drum Mountain Los Angeles Center - Spiritual Environmental Protection
Reported by Annie Kuo at DDM Los Angeles Center
On June 4 and 5 of 2016, Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) L.A. Center held the first English children’s camp in its history. The theme of the children’s camp was the environmental protection of the mind. There were 23 participants ranging from 7 to 12 years old. During the preparation phase of the camp, the camp staff encountered quite a few challenges and frustrations, such as teaching entirely in English. Yet these obstacles were well overcome, and the camp concluded smoothly with a success beyond everyone's expectations. Looking at the content and equanimous expressions of the kids, many parents said that they will bring them back next year, and will also be volunteer Camp staff.
The contents of the camp classes were rich and full of variety. There were static classes of the six ethics of the mind teaching kids about environmental protection, kindness and compassion, cherishing good fortunes, being respectful, trust, etc. These classes also incorporated teaching aids such as short videos and skits so as to help the kids better understand how to implement the six ethics of the mind in daily life. Additionally, there were dynamic activities such as holding the water bowls, the eight-from moving meditation, blindfolding and passing obstacles, etc., to help the kids learn how to calm their minds in their busy lives. The camp ended with kids singing camp songs; and many parents used their mobile phones to record the performances of their little pusas.
Venerable Guo-jiann, Director of DDM L.A. Center, said that she chose the style for this camp to be more of "learning through playing," hoping that all the kids could learn and comprehend without any stress, and that they would be able to apply what they learn to their daily lives, and also navigate their life journeys more smoothly.
Venerable Chang-Ju, Head of the Children’s Camp, said that there were quite a few unexpected obstacles during preparation for this camp. Although everyone was under a tremendous amount of stress, each of us handled it well with the sole determination of planting seeds of virtue in the little pusas' minds, hoping that these seeds can be of guidance in their lives.
Marianne Ma, Chief Coordinator of the Camp, said that she accepted this position because she quite enjoys interacting with kids but without realizing the qualities required for such a position. After she went home and shared with her daughter about her duties as the Chief Coordinator, she then realized that this position requires outstanding skills of leadership, coordination and communication, and that it was her fate to learn. Although she was not proficient in writing proposals or documenting meeting minutes, she was thankful that, with people reaching out to help, she was able to overcome the various challenges. "Many things were new to me. As I was fulfilling these duties, I discovered that I am really good at assisting my team members and being their cheerleader", Marianne said humbly. Many of our class teachers were under stress during the preparations, and she was able to give them timely comfort and encouragement, so that the preparations could progress smoothly. Additionally, Marianne would like to express her special thanks to Ven. Chang-Ju. Oftentimes, Ven. Chang-Ju attended their preparation meetings which ended around 11pm, and was still sending text messages through midnight. She could clearly feel Ven. Chang-Ju's determination to establish the Camp's reputation.
Carey Ni, Activity Host and Planner of the Camp, said that she was deeply moved by the progress of the Camp: From the initial darkness of the lack of direction, then seeing through the fog during the formation stage, and finally to the consummation of the activities. There was a period of time during which all the teachers, the team counselors and the volunteers were all ready, but the number of registrations was far below the target, she even thought "Just cancel the Camp." She felt that it was the pusas' blessings that the number of registrations increased drastically, which helped her regain her confidence in holding the Camp. There were quite a few difficulties during the preparation, but she learned to detach from the difficulties with a vision of the future, so as to properly seek help and make progress. She also wishes that, when preparing for activities in the future, there will be more support from different groups of the Center.
Mandy Ng, Chief Team Counselor of the Camp, said that she would like to express her special thanks to all the team counselors of the Camp. They were still high school students, and many of them needed to prepare for finals or the SAT at that time. Yet they would still spare their time to participate in the Camp trainings without any complaint, making the outcome of the Camp far beyond everyone's expectations.
Jun-Ru Zhuang, Camp Teacher and also a parent, said that her preparation of the teaching materials was driven by her daughter's participation in the Camp. "To be a teacher speaking at the podium can also be a process of repentance”. That led me to think about the questions from a broader perspective, re-think the needs of those kids, and then design the teaching materials" , she said.
Tina Van, Team Counselor of the Camp, said that she was leading the most senior kids in the Camp. The ages of the kids spanned a broad range. Those senior kids demonstrated more mature thoughts but showed less interest in the contests in classes, yet they participated in outdoor activities and meditation classes with enthusiasm.
Tif Pun, Duty Officer of the Camp, shared her observations: Those younger pusas were able to win the class contests as they were eager to speak and stayed concentrated during the classes. Although those younger pusas were little, their overall scores were not worse than those of their elder counterparts. It was really touching to see this.
Xiao-Yan Zhao, parent, said that, after seeing the activity results, she greatly appreciated the efforts of the Camp staff. She expressed that the Center has been very considerate in holding various activities to suit different people’s needs; she also made a wish together with her husband Yi-Xu Liao, to volunteer for next year's Camp. She would bring her son to attend next year, too.
Zhi-Zhen Wei, parent, said that the main reason that she brought her twin sons to participate in the Camp was for them to learn to calm their minds through activities such as holding the water bowls and meditation, etc. After watching the Camp videos, she could clearly see the progress of her sons.