Camp Kimama is the only international camp of its kind in Israel, attracting thousands of children and youth, aged 7-17, from countries around the world. "Ive been coming to Kimama for five years now, and each year I meet new people from all over the world. Some of them have even become some of my best friends," says Ilana Rozental from France. "I used to only speak French, but now I speak English and even a little Hebrew - all because of Kimama and the friends I met there."
Kimama means butterfly in the Native American Shoshone language, symbolizing freedom, creativity and development. Indeed, the flapping of this butterflys wings on one side of the world brings about change on the other side. We at Camp Kimama believe that the international encounters at the camp can bring about change in the whole world, says Avishai Nachon, executive director of Camp Kimama.
In the right place at the right time
Founding this camp was the brainchild of young adults and educators who had previously been sent as Jewish Agency emissaries to serve as counselors in youth movement summer camps in the United States and Canada. For five years running, Nachon trained and coordinated these overseas emissaries. About ten years ago, after imbuing young Americans with the ideals of the Zionism, these emissaries in turn came up with the idea of setting up similar camps in Israel - stimulating camps for overseas youngsters that would inspire and challenge, while providing fun and enjoyment.
Avishai Nachon, 36, with his background of military service in the Education Corps, two B.A. degrees (one in Music Composition and Conducting, the other in Business Administration and Education) and an M.A. degree in Labor Studies, was in the right place at the right time to undertake the challenge and turn the concept into a superb, inspiring enterprise.
The first camp opened in 2004 at Michmoret, on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, with 160 Israeli and American participants. Camp Kimama now operates in Michmoret, the Carmel and the Galilee, with 1,500 campers, and there is a plan to expand to anywhere in the world where there is a Jewish community.
Enormous range of activities
In the entrepreneurs vision, and also in reality, the only international camp of its kind in Israel imparts an astounding opportunity to experience and learn about unfamiliar spheres, while encouraging the formation of new connections and friendships. The camp is run in Hebrew and English, with each age group receiving the appropriate educational program and values. The youngest children learn about friendship and the environment and older ones about Jewish identity, while the seniors engage in leadership training.
Each session lasts two weeks, offering an enormous range of activities that are challenging, fun and enjoyable. There is a strong emphasis on educational values, expanding horizons and strengthening individual awareness together with the development of independence, leadership and self-expression.
Every camp runs its own style of activities. At Michmoret the emphasis is on the sea with sailing and water sports, organized in cooperation with the Wingate Institute, as well as performance arts (music, theater and dance) and media workshops (cinema, photography). At the Carmel Camp in Kfar Galim, students learn to train dogs, as well as surfing and swimming; and they also enjoy fashion workshops in cooperation with the Shenkar College of Design. The focus at the Galil Camp in Kibbutz Amir is on nature and extreme sports, including rafting, cycling, horses, ATV trips, etc.
Jewish communities around the world
Camp Kimama operates during the holidays of Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover, as well as during the long summer vacation. In addition, twice a year there are skiing camps in Austria and Italy.
At all the camps, the Internet, emails, Facebook and cellphones are banned – in other words all modern means of communication. In order to make sure parents aren't anxious and are able to keep updated, daily bulletins are provided on the Camp Kimama website.
Parents who are still apprehensive about sending their offspring off alone can breathe easy. The staff of over 100 counselors and leaders are all experienced educators and skilled, professional counselors. The camp is under the supervision of the Ministry of Education
In light of Camp Kimama's outstanding success, the owners have now set their sights on establishing similar camps in every Jewish community in the world. Its not too big a vision – one of Camp Kimamas measures of success is the fact that some of its campers have made aliyah, starting families and building their lives in Israel - thereby forming even more connections between Camp Kimama, Israel and the Diaspora.
For more information about Camp Kimama, go to www.campkimama.org/en.
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