Sixteen-Year-Old Vegan Regains Faith in Humanity After YEA Camp

By Eden Curtiss

I’ve always loved animals, but until two years ago, I was part of the reason why they were tortured and slaughtered.

After finding out about the horrors of animal agriculture, I cut animal products out of my life completely, and as most new vegans tend to be, I was angry and passionate: a complicated mix of emotions. Aggressively commenting on YouTube videos and Instagram posts, calling people murderers, and yelling at those who would benefit more from education impacted those around me … and not in a good way.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that in order to be a good activist in modern society, you must treat the people you are trying to persuade with kindness and respect. I joined activists groups, went to vigils, and tried my best to be one of the “good faces” of veganism, even though we all just want compassion and justice for all. Balancing my social life, school work, and small bits of activism seemed impossible, and it felt extremely discouraging to care so much about issues that I thought almost no one else understood. I wanted to better myself as an activist, but I thought that it was necessary to block out all of my fears and emotions about the world.

I was in the car with my dad a few months ago, and after one of my daily rants about the injustices towards animals, we got on the topic of summer camps. I wondered if there was a leadership camp involving veganism, so I frantically typed “vegan summer camp” in the Google search engine, thinking that nothing even close would appear. I found YEA Camp. It wasn’t strictly about animal rights, but that was one of the many social justice issues encompassed by campers and staff. I saw that YEA Camp attempted to create the kindest environment possible, and in order to do that, served strictly vegan food. After reading the description of this camp, I realized that it would be the perfect opportunity to better myself as an activist.

Since I’ve returned home from camp, a few of my friends have asked me what it was like, and every time I struggle to describe it. I hesitate and stutter, because my experiences were way too powerful and remarkable to put into words.

YEA Camp felt like a utopia. I was surrounded by people who not only care about the important injustices in the world, but who also want to do something about them. These people were so kind, and I always felt like my voice was heard. No one was excluded and everyone was treated equally and like they mattered. This place restored my faith in the world, helped me build my confidence, gave a sense of love and community, provided me with all of the skills and knowledge necessary to do great things, and so much more!

Not only do I have a specific action plan, and the resources to make more specific, attainable action plans in the future, but I have the self-confidence to go through with them! I’ve already started talking to my principals about my plans for the social justice club I am starting, and we got more than 50 signups at our first club day! I’m also going to participate in my third Cube of Truth with Anonymous for the Voiceless. I’ve also started practicing new self-care strategies to take care of myself. Because of the empowerment and knowledge that I gained from that week, I feel powerful enough to do more activism, and I know that we can change the world.

Eden Curtiss was a camper at YEA Camp Massachusetts in summer 2018. She lives in Nort Carolina and will be a junior this year. Because of inspiration from YEA Camp, Eden has started a social justice club at her school, is making more music about animal rights, starting vegan social media accounts, and doing more street activism.