An Overview of
Youth Camping Trips
The purpose of a youth camping trip is three-fold: 1) To allow the youth to experience communal Muslim living in an environment where they must depend upon each other. 2) To introduce Muslims to nature in a more intimate way. 3) To provide a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere where the Muslim adults and youth can partake in halal leisure.
Although this may be contrary to the prevailing practice, a youth camping trip is not a good place to load the youth down with long-winded speech after long-winded speech. Too many adults and "leaders" in our community approach Islam as if it were nothing more than an occasion to lecture somebody. The early Muslims were not boring, droning lecturers, why should we be?
Yes, there is a place for a couple of speeches, but the main focus of the camping trip should be on cooperation, discovery and practice of Islamic values. We've lectured the youth enough about their duties as Muslims- let's let them practice these values.
Pre-planning for a successful trip is of the essence. Every camp I personally have operated was pre-planned to the minutest detail. The benefit of such meticulous pre-planning is that if something unexpected does occur, only the new challenge must be undertaken. Everything else is taken care of already.
To plan your trip, the following elements must be followed:
1. At least three responsible people must decide to work together on this project at least four to six months before the camp is to be held.
2. The available camping sites must be surveyed and reserved. Whether you plan to hold your camp in a cabin-type atmosphere or in tents, you must visit the campgrounds first, see what is available, and when you've found suitable conditions, reserve those places with a cash deposit. Why do you have to reserve so early? Millions of boy scout and girl scout troops hold camps in the summers and want your space. Remember that.
Make sure you choose camping areas that offer a lot of activities such as boating, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, etc... Although the girls may not have the opportunity to go swimming, they will not feel cheated if they have lots of other fun activities to do.
When choosing a campsite, you must have an idea about how many campers you want to serve. In my first camp I had five campers. The second year there were 30. The third year there were 50 and the fourth year there were almost 70 kids, male and female.
How should you proceed? Based on your experience with the local Muslims, pick a maximum enrollment that you think you can handle and then plan accordingly. I don't recommend to have more than 30 campers on your first camping trip. It will be as much a learning experience for you as it is for them.
This of course means that you cannot and should not allow more than your target number to register. You must hold firm on this because you may have registered a camp-site that can hold 30 people and if you allow 65 to register, what are you going to do? Chances are the program will become chaotic and everybody will have a bad time. Stick to your pre-set limit.
3. You must advertise well. Make a nice flyer. Post posters in Masajid. Make announcements in Weekend schools, etc... But don't just distribute your info once. Do it several times. You may be surprised to find that although you distributed hundreds of flyers, nobody you meet will have heard about your camp. The average cost per camper for one weekend should be $40.00. For weeklong camp charge about $100 per camper. For a two week camp, $150 or thereabouts.
4. You can have single-sex camps or co-ed camps. What this means is that you can run an all boys camp or all girls camp or you can run both at the same time, although all activities are separate except for the speeches and Salah. We always operate co-ed camps and they have run very smoothly. The way it works is simple: Divide the camping area into a boys side and girls side. No one is allowed to go on the "other side". In campsites we have chosen, the camping area was divided by a dirt road that ran down the middle of the camping area so there was a natural divider. If you rent a cabin type facility, then you can have boys cabins and girls cabins.
There is an advantage to having co-ed camps. Among these are the following: 1) If there is a boys only camp, the chances are likely that no girls camp will be held at all. You know how chauvinistic many Muslims are when it comes to equal activities for girls. 2) It makes the parents more eager to get involved because then your volunteers can bring their whole family along. In our experience this is a big plus for motivated volunteers. 3) You allow the boys and girls to interact in halal and appropriate ways so they can practice the benefits of respectful and moral behavior. 4) You can get two camps accomplished at one time.
5. Food arrangements. You will need a lot of plastic "coolers" and ice bags for the halal meat you bring. Avoid bringing chicken if you can because hot-dogs and hamburgers are much easier to cook on the open grilles that most camping areas have. The following is a sample list of food items to bring. You will have to decide quantities based on your projected enrollment. But all the food the day before you leave.
Hot dogs, hamburgers, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, mayo, mustard, lettuce heads, whole potatoes (wrap them in tinfoil and throw them in the fire for an hour for baked potatoes), tomatoes, ketchup, onions, potato chips of assorted varieties, chick-pea salads, potato salad, pita bread, salsa, American cheese slices, cereal, milk, assorted fruits and dates, granola bars, cookies, various drinks such as OJ, Cola and such, ice-bags, water bottles, plates, forks, spoons, napkins, tea bags, cups, garbage bags, tin-foil, tongs, serving spoons, tea, big pots for the tea, ladles to serve the tea, several spatulas.
6. Logistics: Plan the transportation route and a meeting point. The addition of several vans is helpful. Some people rent vans to transport the campers. Let parents know when and where the kids must be dropped off and when and where the kids will be brought back. Usually the Masjid is the central meeting place. Make sure you have enough cargo space for kids luggage.
7. What to bring: If you are "roughing it", like we always do, then you will need to bring the following: Tents (This is a one-time purchase) enough to house everyone, giant water coolers for juice mixes, several large tarps for the Salah area, a first aid kit, table clothes, lanterns and fuel, flashlights, garbage bags, two or three portable canopies, fire-wood (usually purchased at the camp grounds), water, soap bottles, the food, camping knives, two or three hammers, nylon rope, matches, charcoal briquettes, charcoal fuel, two shovels, a metal rake, two buckets, three or four whistles, notepads and pens, emergency phone numbers, a list of your campers and their phone numbers, a cell-phone, sports equipment (two volleyball sets, soccer balls, basketballs, etc...) a broom, bug-repellant spray and coils, a compass and a few folding chairs or stools.
More to come...