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  • Kathleen Kerin / Guest Blogger

A boat, a leader & a song

BuildaBridge welcomes guest blogger, Kathleen Kerin. Kathleen served as the team Leader for this year’s Camp Noah program in North Philadelphia this past summer. Sponsored by Liberty Lutheran Congregational Service, Camp Noah provided a week-long summer camp to children evacuated from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. There are over 500 families living in Northeast Philadelphia. Camp Noah served as space for children to strengthen their self-efficacy, resilience and hope-filled visions on the future. BuildaBridge joined Camp Noah for a songwriting program.

I was a Team Leader for this year’s Camp Noah program; held at New Creation Lutheran Church in North Philly this past August. Sponsored by Liberty Lutheran in Ambler, PA, with curriculum from Lutheran Disaster Relief in Minneapolis, MN – Camp Noah was built for kids who need a life preserver.

Camp Noah was named for a boat. A hand-crafted, wooden sailing vessel created to preserve life. You might even say it was built as a matter of life and death – for kids who have been touched by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and, as we found, other natural disasters.

Camp Noah offered nurturing art and play and music and learning and good food to kids who joined us from the neighborhood. One of the amazing and wonderful events of the week was an entire morning leading and learning from the young participants through conversations about experiences in their life. Philadelphia’s Build-a-Bridge program led by its Executive Director, Ami Yares and one of their amazing artists and operations coordinator Nathalie Cerin, helped the kids to write a song. From thinking about the lyrics to voicing their own experiences, the kids wrote three verses and a refrain about experiences in the world, making changes, and engaging their own selves in the process.

First, Ami and Nathalie led the kids in thinking about what it is they wanted to write about; using song and experiences in musical expression. After a time the kids began to create on paper – with word and picture images. The third step was to engage the kids in writing and grouping the words and images into lyrics and phrases. The result was an amazing song about engaging life – even in the midst of experiences that might make them want to run away and hide.

In the space of two and a half hours, the kids gathered in groups of different ages and helped one another – coming together for a purpose that they were able to hear at the end of their hard work. It was a concrete experience of care and being welcome for kids who have been in places of fear and loneliness. The song they wrote and sang at the end was fabulous. But even more fabulous to them? Being heard – and being given a chance to share their wisdom. An amazing gift of BuildaBridge to the kids and the leaders of Camp Noah; an invitation to build a bridge from traumatic experiences to a life that can be healing and one in which joy is possible … and present!

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