Kids are learning about the importance of communicating and getting along with each this week at the Peace Camp being conducted at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Tunkhannock.
One of the major activities is a drum circle conducted by local musician Al Cabral of Falls.
Under Cabral’s instruction, the children beat drums as a group, creating a rhythm that all can follow.
“In a drum circle, people learn to listen to each other and to work together,” Cabral explained.
The Peace Camp is available through the Interfaith Resource Center for Peace and Justice, under the direction of Rodrigo ‘Popi’ Gereda of Wilkes-Barre.
Gereda explained that the drum circle teaches the children how to work toward a common goal.
This is the sixth year the Peace Camp has been held at St. Peter’s, which will run through Friday.
Rev. Lou Divis explained that when she saw them operating at churches in Wilkes-Barre, she wanted St. Peter’s to offer the same program to local children.
“I believe in the idea that teaches children peace and how to get along,” Divis explained.
Gereda said he came up with the Peace Camp concept over 30 years ago as an alternative to tradition summer camps.
“It’s not like basketball camp or band camp,” Gereda explained.
Instead, what the Peace Camp does is take children and provide them the opportunity to learn that they are special.
“The very first activity of the day, we discuss what is special about us,” Gereda explained. “Many of the kids never even considered it. Little by little, they find out what makes them special.”
The Peace Camp is a family affair for Gereda. His three daughters - Arisa, Katie and Maria - have participated in the Peace Camps since they were small children. Arisa, now 23, serves as the director, while her sisters provide assistance.
“A lot involves conflict and resolve,” Arisa explained. “We work to help the kids build self-esteem, as well as develop healthy relationships and friendships.”
“As they play, they discover they’re good people,” Gereda explained. “The ability to gather good people around you is a skill to practice.”
The camp is open to children ages 5 through 12. Divis said that 18 children are participating year. One does not have to be a church member to attend the Peace Camp.
“We’ve met kids who have never even had a birthday celebrated,” Gereda explained. “We meet kids who have been shuttled back and forth from one parent to another. Every year, we’ve had kids so shy they can’t talk to anyone. By the end of the week, they’re just chattering away.”
One of the primary things taught at the Peace Camp is to be gracious and grateful above all.
During the course of the weeks, the children will be called upon to act out some of the problems they’ve been experiencing.
“The kids just think they’re having fun playing,” Gereda said. “But it allows them to act about what issues they have in life. Little by little, they begin to realize that they can control what is happening to them. By the end of the week, they realize it’s not just me, that what is happening is happening to everyone. It’s just life.”
Other activities include yoga, as well as hearing a presentation from a different speaker each day. One speaker will be talking about ethics, which is something most of the children have not yet heard about, Gereda explained.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” said Samiah LaBar, 10, of Tunkhannock. “I learned to be more respectful. But what I like the best is everyone is so nice.”
Michael Sembrat, 9, of Tunkhannock, has been attending the Peace Camp at St. Peter’s for the past four years.
“I came here with my friends to learn about peace and be able to play the drums,” he said.
Divis thanked the Tunkhannock Rotary Club for donating the money necessary to make the Peace Camp possible at St. Peter’s.