Camp from a Counselor’s Perspective 

My name is Grace DiDomenico and I am interning at Al-Bustan for the summer of 2021. A little about me: I am a senior at Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter: A String Theory School. I have lived in Philadelphia for my entire life and come from an Italian-American family. Growing up, I was surrounded by art in many forms: whether that was in my performing arts school, my ever-changing passions for different mediums, or from my father, who is also an artist, I was mesmerized by art as I grew into the person I am today. That love of art is what drove me to apply to the Bloomberg Arts Internship Program. I was eventually placed at Al-Bustan. Coming into this summer I had no clue what to expect. I was nervous about what interning here would entail but as we began planning for camp that nervousness turned to anticipation. 

One of our campers flexing his artistic abilities.

My Perspective of Camp 

What you came to read about was, of course, camp. The two weeks were filled with fun workshops and exploration of the gardens. I spent most of my time there exploring with the younger group: Group Dimashq. Though it was hot that didn’t stop all the kids from running around through the gorgeous scenery. The campers loved the walks we would take down by the water, the stories at the cider press, and the swing. I had the pleasure of getting to know each kid in the group and learned about their favorite subjects of the day as well as their incredibly imaginative drawings. I was fascinated by their explanations and stories that went along with each doodle. In drumming, we learned a call-and-answer song as well as a performance piece for the show, which was on the last Friday of camp. In the art class, Group Dimashq made tissue paper flowers, learned to weave, and created stencil pattern art. Next, in Arabic class, we learned the Alphabet song and wrote common words that matched their drawings. In theatre, the kids used their imaginations to become animals and play games in the gardens. Next, we followed our storyteller through the garden to explore the pond where we saw a turtle and spent time talking about flying while swinging. Each storytelling walk was laced with facts and anecdotes about Ibn Jubayr, the theme of camp this year. Finally, we had science class, which I think was the collective favorite in the group (even for me, as I am a STEM major in school). We explored the cider press, learned about the tides, and explored the gardens learning about the medicinal properties of some of the plants. As a counselor, I loved watching the kids explore as well as aided them in having a memorable summer experience like my own at other summer camps growing up. 

Campers during their storytelling activity.

My Favorite Memory of Camp 

When I think about camp, one memory that stands out in my mind is one of the storytelling walks in the first week. We made our way down to the boardwalk to the “stage” where every camper came to the middle and talked about whatever they felt was important. At the end of our time at the stage each camper went to the center and screamed encouraging and motivating words about self-love and understanding your importance. It was so amazing to see these kids so affirming and supportive with each other. It was also so touching to see such good practices instilled in children so young. As a person who has struggled with that in the past it was so touching seeing that instilled, practiced, and welcomed in this group.  

Campers learning more about percussion and rhythm.

As the end of the two weeks approached, I was sad to see it come. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all the campers, especially the kids in group Dimashq. After such an uncertain and dreary year, a bright and eventful camp was just the way to spend the first two weeks in July.  

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