By Liz Hixon
I’d left Columbus, Ohio, for YEA Camp on the Saturday before check-in day on a nine-hour drive to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in New York. I was screaming in excitement through my open windows on highway 90. Seriously. I was beyond energized for the week and my first time attending a summer camp, ever.
Upon arriving at YEA Camp, I was greeted by a staff member with the same tattoo of a thunderbird that I have on my arm, in honor of what happened at Standing Rock in 2016. Instantly, I became ecstatic and safe, knowing that I’d be among active and passionate protectors of Mother Earth and all her children.
I followed the winding driveway to drop off my belongings at the cabin and park my vehicle before eating some lunch that consisted of veggie burgers and fresh salad. I also saw a good friend of mine who had introduced YEA Camp to me a few months before and insisted it’d be the place for me. Psht, like as if he knows me…. Turns out, he was spot on.
The first day we played name games, introduced ourselves, brought out our inner child in silliness and began making positive connections with our fellow activists. Members of the staff also introduced our vegan diet for the week and a workshop providing background information of the industry and other social consequences concerning the issue of factory farming.
The second day was an introduction to the definition of activism including the different types, the circles of influence, and strategies of organizing that are always involved when moving for change. We had many options to participate in workshops on Nonviolent Communication training, guiding leadership facilitation, arts activism, de-constructing the social constructs of sex and gender roles, prejudice and racism, along with imperialism, consumerism, and more.
With the focus in the beginning of the week on different problems in our society, some of us were drawn farther into conversations that we hadn’t been a part of before, which lead to understanding how veganism and feminism, or education and gender equality, or environmental issues and imperialism are all connected. How individuals working to end poverty in one area, are helping activists in another area fight against corporate greed, who are also fighting to provide healthcare to all!
By the end of the week, we were equipped with the tools to not only be a good follower, but how to be an effective leader.
Everyone chooses an Issue of Importance (IOI) to focus primarily on, and I chose voting rights and accessibility that I could get involved with once I got back home.
I chose this because it is an issue I was unfamiliar with and, being in Ohio, I was aware that the state was one of the most unfair and practices voter suppression. Also, we have an election coming up, which would allow the opportunity to provide proper balance back into Congress to outweigh the bigots currently in office. Amazing staff members worked with us directly to learn more about issues we chose to focus on and to create action plans while providing research and support in the first steps we decided on.
The amount of collaboration reminded me of a think tank, but for planetary justice.
We received training on topics like campaigning, fundraising, outreach, careers in change-making and empowering ourselves and others into the movement for a better world. We were pushed to think outside the box, reach big for big dreams, provide our ideal vision of change, and we were invited to create plans to participate in a larger picture that’s moving towards equality, progress, and inclusion.
Not only was the food delicious, the presence of animals at the sanctuary peaceful, and the ambition of every single person at camp enough to fill me up with hope, but YEA Camp created an environment of belonging to a group of people willing to do what it takes to bring change into their own communities from now, until forever.
We span across the country, originating from all over the Americas with a common goal and an eye for the big picture. I want to thank everyone from camp for participating, leading workshops, providing support, and encouraging us to follow our hearts, minds, guts, or local leaders that inspire us to inspire others and continue spreading love and action in strategic moves for the betterment of everyone. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. [Ed note: This is a Lakota phrase meaning, “we are all related.”]
Liz Hixon is a nature enthusiast looking to unite spirituality and activism within herself and share her journey with her community. She moves to be a voice for truth, standing up for what she believes in, and invite others to do the same.