By Chloe Howe
Climate change, war, hunger, animal abuse, racism.
When I was younger, I always felt these were major problems. Things I wanted to end. But ending even one of them seemed impossible. I thought about it in the same way I thought about being struck by lightning or having a super power. It was never going to happen and there was nothing I could do to change that.
In my experience, activists had often been portrayed in a negative way. I had known people who would act like you weren’t “good enough” because you weren’t completely devoted to their cause.
That was my biggest fear about going to an activism camp. I had never been directly affected by most of these issues. I had done little activism work before, and barely even knew what an activist was. What if I wasn’t accepted into their community?
When I got to YEA Camp, I was greeted by tons of friendly faces. Everyone was different, but they were all just kids like me. There wasn’t one kind of activist. It was all normal kids with huge dreams. Friends from the year before were hugging each other and waving, but they were also going up to new people. “What’s your name?” “What’s your issue of importance?” everybody would ask. “Do you want to make a nametag?” “Join our game of gaga ball!”
At meals, everyone shared tables, and everybody was welcoming to everyone else. Plus, the food was unbelievable. It was so much more than what you would expect from a normal summer camp. They had the best breakfast bakes, made completely by the wonderful chefs who were so kind, and were friendly with all the kids! The desserts were always innovative and delicious.
The craziest part was that is was all vegan. It seems near impossible to feed fifty kids on vegan food for a week, but they did! Every day, they made sure we had plenty to eat and helped us have a balanced diet as a vegan.
One of the most important things was that Nora, the camp director, didn’t push her ideas on us at all. Everybody formed their own ideas and opinions on topics and Nora supported all of us, no matter what. This made for a wonderful learning environment where we were able to be taught all kinds of activism-related things with no bias from any of the counselors.
By the end of camp, introverts didn’t exist among us. Everyone was lying on pillows, in sleeping bags, laughing and talking, crying and saying “call me everyday!” while others sat in circles, deep in thought.
We all knew we would do our part and make a change. We had detailed plans on how to gain support, stop problems locally, and start to put a stop to the problems that resonated most with us. I left with more friends who knew me better than anyone at my school does. I left with friends who will always support me. With people whose friendship I can count on for life.
Though I came in not knowing what an activist was, after that one short week, I left able to tell myself, I am an activist. I am the change. My generation, we have hope.
Chloe Howe (also know as Clo) lives in New York City and is a rising eighth grader whose hobbies include eating vegan chocolate, drinking kombucha, reenacting Macbeth, obsessively reading and writing, and being a passionate activist against climate change.
If you’d like to find out more about what it is to be an activist and how you can do more to make a difference, join us at YEA Camp for teens or YEA Camp for Adults. Don’t want to wait til summer? Good — we need more changemakers now!! Check out our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World!