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Children discover diverse cultures in a camp led by Christian moms

swimming. hiking. hot dog.

These terms are often associated with summer camps.

Kids & culture camps are different. Every summer for four weeks, children aged 3-12 gather in the capital to cook Jamaican food, listen to African music, learn about Mexican history and Japanese clothing, practice Brazilian martial arts, and Tanzania. I will visit the embassy.

Jania Otey (Photo provided)

“Our mission is to encourage children to love learning, embrace culture and live with all their heart,” said Jania Ote, a member of the Perry Hill Road Christ Church in Montgomery, Alabama. DC

Homeschooling mothers wanted to find a camp to introduce different cultures to their two sons, especially their eldest daughter Caleb.

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“But I also wanted him to experience that I don’t necessarily have the expertise, such as playing African drums and chess, and Brazilian martial arts Capoeira,” Otei said.

The capital of the country provided her sons with the opportunity to experience all these and beyond, but the camps Otei studied were expensive and focused alone.

So she started herself.

Connecting with a network of fellow homeschooling parents, she quickly enrolled 70 campers in the first Kids & Culture Camp (KCC). Otey graduated from Howard University Law School in Washington, DC in 2000 and managed the legality of the camp.

“For me, KCC was my answer to the problems I’ve seen all over the world,” Otey said, especially about the United States. People who don’t look like them. “

Children embrace different cultures each week, digging into visual arts, performing arts, language, music, mathematics, science, technology, cooking, physical fitness, and games. They also participate in yoga and weekly field trips.

“In fact, we received comments from parents that they learned more during the summer in their kids and culture than they did in the entire grade,” Otey said. Says.

Beyond surface level learning

Amber Williams, a DC resident and member of the Silver Spring Christ Church in Maryland, has taken a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter to KCC for four years. She appreciates the camp’s avoidance of surface-level lessons.

“I think what I like most about the richness of the program and the level of depth that children can immerse themselves in different cultures,” says Williams.

Cultural camp country
The Kids & Culture Camp offered two face-to-face sessions during the summer. The themes are “Tanzania’s treasured tradition” and “Belize’s beautiful brilliance”. (Photo: Jania Otei via Christian Chronicle)

She ponders how society today would be different if adults were exposed to different traditions.

“Similarly, how much ignorance would it remove to our society if we were exposed to different things, people and habits when we were young?” She asked.

19-year-old Nigel Reynolds has been with KCC for years as both a camper and a counselor. If your child exceeds the camp age limit, you have the option of returning as a training counselor. He said his experience helped expand his mind and his social networks.

Reynolds, a junior at North Carolina Agricultural Technology State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, said: And as a counselor, it taught me a few things and helped me become more patient when you were working with people. “

Cultural national camp
At the Kids & Culture Camp, children explore the visual and performing arts of different cultures, languages, music, mathematics, science, techniques, cooking, physical fitness and games. (Photo: Jania Otei via Christian Chronicle)

Adoniya Ben Zarmiel, 19, started her time at the camp in 2010.

“Learning about these different parts of the world was a great exposure at such a young age,” said Mercedes-Benz, now Silverspring rapper, music producer and songwriter. He will attend a digital media school in Nairobi, Kenya.

Williams encourages anyone interested in enrolling their children in the camp to accept the opportunity.

“I think it’s worth learning what you can’t and can’t learn in a traditional school environment.”

Pandemics bring innovation

Ten years after the Kids & Culture Camp, the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges and changes.

Like many schools, camps moved to virtual platforms in 2020 and 2021. Before the pandemic, the camp brought 125 to 150 children a year. When the camp resumes direct gatherings this summer, 97 children will be enrolled.

janiaotey cultural country
Jania Otei (center) with her sons Christian and Caleb at the Kids & Culture Camp. (Photo courtesy)

The innovations that took place during the pandemic opened the door to the camp. And it recently launched an online format for homeschooling during the spring months. There are also online options that you can proceed at your own pace.

Since starting the camp, Otey has moved to Wetumpka, Alabama, near Montgomery. Her husband, Melvin, is a lawyer and traveling evangelist of the Church of Christ.

Every summer, Jania Otei travels to Washington with Caleb and her youngest Christian to camp.

KCC is not a religious camp, but Otey makes connections through faith in other families.

“I can pray with them, encourage them, pray with some of my teachers, and also help some of the families in attendance,” she said. “I think it’s a blessing. That’s definitely the aspect I’m grateful for.”

This article was originally published in the Christian Chronicle.

Gabriel Grant Huff, a contributor to The Christian Chronicle, is currently majoring in multimedia journalism at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.