The camps are organized and run by Aaron and Judy Mirkin from Stroud, Glos. Aaron is a priest at The Christian Community in Stroud and Judy is a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher. Together they have led many children’s and youth camps in South Africa and England since 2001. Over the past three years we have also had the joy of other new camp leaders – Jessica Mirkin (2013), Johnny Back (2014) and Dominic Corbett (2015). Johnny and Dom were part of the original pioneering helper team back in 2010 when they were still in Class 10!!
Of course such work is impossible without the support and enthusiasm of a team of willing helpers, many of whom are High School and university students who have themselves been children on such camps. The Kitchen and nursing tasks are usually taken on by experienced parents and camp friends.
Everyone in the team, including the camp leaders, do the work on an entirely voluntary basis – out of love for the children – but the rewards are enormous. Every year we have helpers returning, wanting to do it again.
Many of the children become helpers when they are old enough – and thus slowly arises over the years an ‘extended camp family’ of helpers and children.
If you, or someone you know, would like to be a helper on such a camp in the future then please don’t hesitate to contact us and enquire.
Our basic principle is really that of creating experiences for the children where they can most wholly and truly be themselves. Every child is precious and has something important to bring to the world, regardless of their apparent challenges. With this in mind we endeavor to create an environment where the children feel totally safe to drop their inhibitions and express their spontaneity and sense of adventure and play – an environment where they can discover for themselves their own special gifts and qualities.
Although the camps are carried in the ‘aura’ of The Christian Community, they are not in any way intended to teach religion to the children. We do hold a special Children’s Service on each of the 2 Sundays, sing grace before meals and speak a prayer before going to sleep, but for the rest we prefer to work towards uncovering the innate divine in every child through enthusiasm, conviction and humour, and a general love for life. On the one hand we maintain clear boundaries, and on the other we encourage healthy naughtiness and pranks as long as it is always inclusive and safe.
Children want to experience living examples of joy and trust in life from the adults around them; a fundamental conviction that every challenge has a creative solution no matter how difficult it may seem.
Again and again we hear stories from parents after the camp how their children have changed. They are more confident and creative, more ‘in themselves’ and better able to cope with disappointments and little upsets. But what touches us most are the stories of those who were too shy to sing before, who end up singing endless camp songs for weeks afterwards.
It is a huge responsibility for us to share and guide the lives of so many children so intimately and fully for 10 whole days, and we can’t always promise we’ll get it right. In many ways one can truly say it is an impossible task – and yet it is just here that we can also feel the enormous strength and support that is granted to us through the evening Helper services every night after the children have gone to sleep. The whole Helper team gathers for a short Close of Day service at the altar to reflect on the day that has been and on the children, and takes them into the night with our prayers. Year after year we feel how it is this inner aspect that ultimately makes the camps possible – something far bigger than ourselves always happens.
The Children’s Summer Camps in the Christian Community began in post-war Germany and very quickly grew and multiplied into large and diverse camps at several locations around Germany. As The Christian Community gained ground in other countries so too was the Children’s Camp impulse taken up in communities around the world.
Such camps have been held in the UK for many decades now and most recently in the South West since 2010.