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Experience feedback, Tapori camp of August 2012

Picture this: 12 children, age 7 to 13, 3 hiking tents set up in the middle of a field, a few sheep nearby in a propitiously fenced area. The sheep are staring at the busy children going back and forth from early in the morning. Some children are smiling, some are in crying. Some carry a brush in their hand; some are dressed up as amazing princes. We are somewhere in the center of France, on a piece of land lend by "Vasi Jeunes" ("Go Children!"). The children are coming from various places: the 16th arrondissement of Paris, a remote village in Les Vosges, underprivileged suburban areas around Paris or Marseille. They are spending a week together, full of life, laughter, discoveries and emotion. Most of all a violence free week.

I saw the bond between the children grow stronger day after day during the camp. I could feel it at every moment of the day. I could feel it when children participated in community chores such as meal preparation and dish washing. I could feel it as well during group activities, in particular during our Kamishibai sessions in the morning. My role was to help children write their own story and tell it during a show at the end of the week. During our daily 2 hour sessions, the narrative took shape and the drawings got more precise. Our work resulted in a 10 page booklet and a puppet which were presented to the public. Every child came back home with a copy of the book and a fantastic opportunity to share with friends. The show was a success. Although a little bit stressed, the twelve children were very concentrated on playing their part, massed around the small theater. They were attentive to each others. A sense of joy, pride and mutual trust was clearly palpable.

In the beginning, they told me a story they had heard a couple of days before. A basic storyline was derived from what they remembered about it and how they had interpreted it. Day after day, the story line became richer and richer based on their interaction and their experience of living together at the camp. We had interesting discussions about Peace, what peace actually meant for them, being at the camp together. One of the condition to be admitted to the camp was the acceptance of Tapori values: sharing, solidarity, togetherness, friendship... In the end, although the strict application of these values was not initially easy, all the children eventually whole heartedly adhered to them and developed a genuine esprit de corps,

The general feeling at the end of the camp was unanimously positive. "The camp was super cool!". "La Creuse is the most beautiful place on earth!". On a personal level, this experience opened my eyes on the fact that children know how to build a constructive relationship when you create for them a "democratic" space, a space where rules are clear, duties well understood and rights respected. It is amazing to see how they can then live joyfully and develop a sense of care for each other and for the group.

Camp news! Our young reporters sum what happened the day before up with a touch of humor.
Daily session on the progress of the narrative.
Some like to concentrate in a quite area to unleash their creative power...
Some put confort first...
Everyone is deeply involved, no matter the way! Chore time! Cooking, dish washing, table setting...
Another way to contribute to the community...
All behind the « stage » for the show, except for Jessy, in charge of the puppet.
S’mores! There is no way to better treat our young artists after the show.