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The faith-based camp experience

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Cultural pathways

Al-Bustan camper Eden H.Al-Bustan Camp, at the Friends Select School in Center City Philadelphia, is an 11-year-old secular, culturally based arts and language summer program that draws “a healthy mix of ethnicities and faiths — from Christian to Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and atheists,” says executive director Hazami Sayed.

As the area’s only camp with a focus on Arab culture and teaching Arabic — campers this summer will create a multimedia bilingual storybook with an artist-in-residence from Lebanon — the camp has a specific appeal to Muslim Americans who would like to learn Arabic to enhance their religious practice, though none are performed at camp. “Faith is believing. We believe in expressing ourselves through the arts and giving kids [like camper Eden H., left] the tools to express themselves through artistic means,” says Sayed.

Questions to ask

When choosing a program that focuses on faith, ask the following questions to be sure you’re comfortable with both religious and non-religious camp components.

  • How is religion incorporated into the program?
  • How rigorous is the religious aspect? Are there hours of Bible study or just a weekly Shabbat dinner?
  • What non-religious activities are offered?
  • Is the camp accredited?
  • What are the day camp and residential options?
  • How is the staff hired?
  • How flexible are food offerings?
  • How much contact can parents have with the child?
  • What are the costs?

“Whether faith-based or not,” says Lupert, “the point of summer camp is for children to have fun, be outside, swim and do activities they’re not necessarily getting all year round.” 

Terri Akman is an MK contributing writer.

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