If you had come by Mano en Mano about 9:15 on April 16, you would have seen clouds of bubbles rising from in front of the building as a whole crowd of young kids and teens got to know each other through bubble blowing! This was the first day of the three-day “English Fun Camp” for children from Spanish-speaking homes that the Mano en Mano Adult Education Program sponsored during the spring break from school. The objective of the camp was to provide a fun atmosphere for the children to use English in extended situations with native English speakers.
The native English speakers the children interacted with were 11 wonderful teens from the Unitarian Universalist Churches in Ellsworth, Belfast and Bangor who were eager to do community service during their own spring break and who provided that fun atmosphere after a lot of work planning the three days. The teens, who were accompanied by three chaperones, including the pastors of the Belfast and Ellsworth UUC congregations, arrived on Monday night of camp week and camped out on the third floor of the Mano en Mano building. They left for Ellsworth on Thursday afternoon.
The teens were in almost complete charge of designing and carrying out activities for the 13-15 children who showed up at the camp everyday. Though the invitation to camp was originally for children in K-12, in fact “campers” ranged from age 2 to 10. They were divided into two or three groups and engaged in reading, puzzles, craft making, outdoor activities and much more with the teens. Camp hours were 9-1 with a snack served during the morning.
In addition to the activities planned by the teens, the older campers had the privilege of a Wednesday-morning session with Jenny Robish of UMM, who brought all kinds of fun things like animal skulls and other items for kids to handle as she enticed them to enjoy science. Jenny is going to run several “MESSY” camps at UMM this summer, during which children in grades 5 or higher will be able to do extensive hands on science activities.
To enhance the teens’ experience with the members of the Latino community in our area, they served a roast chicken dinner buffet to members of the Drop In English class and their families on Tuesday, April 16. Nearly 50 people enjoyed the dinner together. The teens joined the English students and families at their tables to converse about the adults’ experiences as migrant workers and residents of Maine. A delicious lunch of Mexican food prepared for them on Wednesday, April 17 by Silivia Guzman Paine was yet another opportunity for the teens to get to know the riches of the Latino culture here in Milbridge.
The UUC group had the opportunity to see a bit more of Washington County during the two afternoons they were around. One day they were privileged to have a brief tour of the Rays’ Cherry Point Fish Processing plant, where workers were picking and processing meat from whelks. The teens also enjoyed an outing to Jasper Beach near Machias and then had dinner at Helen’s Restaurant in Machias.
The young campers were royally entertained and the teens were delighted with their experience. At the service at the UUC of Ellsworth on the Sunday following the camp days, many huge pictures of the camp were displayed in the church sanctuary, and 6 of the 11 teens shared their reflections with the congregation. All said they had immensely enjoyed the chance to interact with the children and were grateful to have been given so much responsibility for them.
We at Mano en Mano were very grateful to THEM for their enthusiasm and hard work. The camp was the result of months of planning by Pastor Sara Huisjen of the UUC congregation in Ellsworth and Robin Lovrien, Director of Adult Education at Mano en Mano. The collaboration was a manifestation of the support for Mano en Mano the UUC congregation of Ellsworth has elected to provide to honor Mano en Mano’s engagement with immigrants and immigrant issues.
Kristen Hagemeister, Americorps Member at Mano en Mano, as always, provided invaluable back up help with all aspects of the camp, and the wonderful staff at Mano en Mano, including Edith Flores, Bethany Woods and Ana Blagojevic, quite literally made the camp possible by actively recruiting children during their many interactions with the Latino community. They also gave up a lot of office time during that week of the invasion of the little people and teens! Thank you to everyone for making the first–ever English Fun Camp a success.