Building our Camp Tawonga Community

Here at Camp Tawonga we are committed to creating an intentional community where we don’t merely tolerate our differences — we celebrate them. Within the first few days of each session, we strive to set the expectation of creating a space where campers can feel safe physically and emotionally.

According to a 2013 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly 1 in 3 students reported being bullied during the school year. Through a program created in 2012 called Camp T Community, we address this phenomenon head-on. Camp T Community confronts the prevalent issue of peer pressure and bullying in a way that is fun and that facilitates and evokes discussion. Through games that simulate exclusion followed by debriefs, campers are able to reflect on their own experiences. They also discuss how they can be more inclusive as well as confront bullying and peer pressure when they observe it.

Campers learn that there are different kinds of bullying: relational, emotional, and physical (e.g. exclusion, gossip, and violence, respectively). Campers are asked to reflect on what bullying looks and feels like.  They also have an open and safe discussion about the impact of a bystander (someone who stands by idly as a witness to bullying) and an upstander (someone who can have a positive influence on fighting bullying).

As part of today’s program, Unit Heads facilitated an activity called “The Leftovers Game” that represented exclusion in a safe and fun way to understand the different feelings that arise when someone is bullied. Following the simulation, when prompted about how they could have included those who didn’t find a group, the campers offered how they could have reached out and asked those being excluded to join their group. At the end of the activity, each bunk discussed what they could each do if they ever saw bullying occur and how to make each other feel safe and happy.

It is our belief and mission here at Tawonga not only to create an intentional, welcoming, and safe community, but to equip campers with skills to bring home with them in order to make the world a better place. As we like to say here at camp, we are all created B’tzelem Elohim — in God’s image, and are worthy of kindness and respect.

Below, enjoy photos from the program and from other activities throughout the day. Check in tomorrow for some more photos and updates!

Specialist In-Training Camper, Julia Rose K. contributed to this post.