By Martina Gauderer
July of 2019 will go down in my personal history as one of the most dynamic, immersive, joyous, challenging and inspiring summer adventures of my life. It was the month I spent on staff with Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp for both an adult and youth camp session, and I will treasure that time spent with other passionate change-makers who care as deeply as I do for the rest of my days.
YEA Camp is more than a summer camp—it’s a home-away-from-home for people like me, change-makers, who center their lives around activism. It’s a kind of magic being there, knowing that everyone around you thinks as much about the problems in the world as you do and is working to strategize hope in what can often feel like hopeless situations. When everyone is talking passionately about an issue that you care so deeply about, that you want to dedicate your whole being to creating change around, it’s incredibly validating. You feel safe. You’re with your people.
This is why I came to be on staff with YEA Camp. As a long-time activist and a professional who works in the field of mental health and non-profits I think and discuss social justice issues constantly and it’s critically important for me to be in spaces that normalize conversations and actions around things like environmentalism and the climate crisis, animal rights, LGBTQ+ equality, racism in America, immigration and criminal justice, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, these spaces are not always easy to find, which is reason #115 why YEA Camp is so dear to me.
Being involved in activism for as long as I have (about 20 years now), I have a lot to offer folks who may just be starting out, and I love that because young people especially who are passionate about changing the world inspire me to keep going and give me the hope that I’ve been searching for. Being able to open conversations about issues that I’m passionate about and have been working on for so long with a group of young people who are also passionate and may have different takes or new ideas is refreshing. And while I may be giving a lesson, I’m learning as much as I am teaching! Because being an activist is ever-evolving and it takes people from many generations just as it does many cultural backgrounds and identities to take on an issue and create lasting change.
Having the great privilege of being on staff at YEA Camp with a bunch of other amazing activists, teaching, mentoring and lifting up the next generation of change-makers has given me a renewed sense of purpose and hope—my purpose, my life’s work is activism, and what gives me hope that things can be better are other activists—especially youth activists—doing such incredible, powerful, critical work in this world. Since returning home from our Massachusetts youth YEA Camp session I have upped the ante on my activism thanks in part to the push the experience of being on staff gave me.
Instilling our campers with knowledge, skills, confidence, and community was such and gift to me and something that I will forever treasure. I got so much in return, including a much-needed confidence reboot and such joy in seeing what our campers are able to do. I am so excited to follow them along on their activist adventures in the coming months with the promise I made during camp’s closing circle of always being here for support in whatever ways I can be.
Martina Gauderer is an activist, artist, writer and mental health therapist living in the Boston area with her rescue dog and cat. She attended our YEA Camp for Adults as a participant in 2018 and was on staff with us at 2 camp sessions in 2019.
We were so fortunate to have Martina on staff with us! Learn more about working with us here! We will start our hiring process in the new year. Want to learn more about YEA Camp? Check out our website and free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World.