A Summer of Change

Charlotte Kleeger '24

I am a Seed of Peace. 

Just two months ago, I stepped off a bus in Otisfield, Maine, carrying no sense of familiarity with me aside from my backpack. Those words were just a lyric to a camp song with no tune. Now, they will continue to represent my role in an amazing community that I am fortunate to be a part of. 

I came to Seeds of Peace Camp not knowing what to expect. Arriving at a new place in a new environment, surrounded by new faces, was not something I was used to. Although I had gone to sleepaway camp for several years, this was a completely different experience, and naturally, I was overcome with anxiety. I am incredibly grateful for how welcoming and accommodating the staff was, and knowing that all the other campers were in the same situation put me at ease. Soon my nervousness was replaced by warmth and comfort. Despite being in a place that was so unfamiliar to me, after a while, it truly felt like home. 

When I say that Seeds of Peace was an entirely novel experience, I don’t just mean that I didn’t know anyone. Because I had previously attended a Jewish summer camp, I have always been among peers similar to me. At Seeds, everyone is different. It is a place where diverse backgrounds, religions, beliefs, and cultures come together to explore their differences and work together to promote understanding and change. In addition, the campgrounds were not very modern, to say the least. Spending hours in the heat and humidity gave me a newfound sense of appreciation for the shower houses (which were not inside the bunk, and only to be used during specific time slots). The top bunks had no guard rail, and I won’t even begin to discuss the Magic House.

Although I absolutely adore Seeds of Peace, I have never lived through a longer two-and-a-half weeks in my entire life. The days felt endless, packed with many activities, including sports, arts, gardening, and boating. Seeds of Peace had a unique activity called dialogue and community action, where members of regional groups collaborated to identify and solve problems within their respective communities. One minute we played Gaga and made friendship bracelets; the next, we explored controversial topics across the globe, and vulnerably shared our personal stories and narratives. Special activity, where campers had the ability to create and participate in pastimes of their choosing, was also on the agenda. Seeds of Peace not only affords campers the opportunity to help others grow but encourages personal growth as well. I found my voice in Otisfield and left Seeds with a fresh perspective and newly found confidence.  

When I came to camp, I was somewhat shy and reserved, hesitant to speak my mind. As someone who appreciates stability and routine, I did not think that Seeds of Peace would leave as much of an impact on me as it did. I anticipated that I would go, meet other kids, have a few meaningful discussions, and return home the same as I was before. Instead, I found some of my closest friends, and I long to go back every day. I have discovered parts of myself I never knew were there, and I have evolved into a new person: a changemaker. 

On the day we arrived, my counselor commented, “You guys will all be crying when it’s time to go home.” I replied, “I’m sure it will be a little sad, but I’m only going to have known everyone for three weeks. I’m not going to cry.” She continued to assure me that I would. 

On the morning of August 3rd, as I was saying goodbye to all of my friends and getting ready to board the bus back to New York, I thought about how that was probably the last time we would all be together again. And, I cried.