August 8, 2013

An Exercise In Flexibility

by Sophie McKibben

Sophie McKibben '15 is an Impact Providence intern this summer working for Dorcas International Institute RI as the co-director of the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment (BRYTE) Summer Camp. A story on BRYTE Camp was recently featured in Brown News.

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Running BRYTE Summer Camp, a six-week program in South Providence for 55 newly arrived refugee youth between the ages of 7 and 14, has been a whirlwind of new experiences for me. Though I chose Brown because it was the only school where I wouldn’t have a maths requirement, I have some how become fundraiser, budget manager and accountant. I’m camp Nurse, drive daily (I got my license in May), dance willingly and in front of many people during morning meeting, give time-outs, and clean endless spills of milk or juice or raisins. Each day is an exercise in flexibility—and a “fake it until you make it” type of outlook.

Camp is almost over—we end on August 9—and though I’m kicking myself for just in the last few days figuring out the right way to do many things, I’m so proud of the work that people around me have done—so excited about newfound confidence and friendships among the campers, so proud of the ones who came in speaking no English at all and now are willing to, in front of everyone, give it a shot, so inspired by the amount of work our staff does in any given day—and still manages to come back the next day with a huge smile on their faces.  No part of my day, I realized as I wrote it out, would be possible without the guidance, friendship and tireless work of Sabine Adrian, Brown Class of 2013 and a founder of BRYTE Summer Camp, who co-directs camp with me, or the 23 Brown students, teenagers in the refugee community, and volunteers who work at camp each day.

My days are sometimes endless and always chaotic, but no matter how difficult a particular campers behavior there are always little moments that make it worth it. Not every day is a success, and I often wonder about my role in this special community and how best to “Impact Providence” or at least this small window of Providence with which I have begun to feel familiar. In the chaos that is the last few days of camp—the playground fights, final show rehearsals, packing up and tearful goodbyes of the older campers who won’t be able to attend camp next summer or the little ones to whom a whole year is an unfathomably long amount of time—it is impossible to really evaluate camp and it’s impact well or with any sort of distance.

Today, we took all the campers to a beautiful blueberry farm in Johnston, RI, which is a change of space from the South Providence Elementary School where camp is held each day. Instead of concrete playgrounds and hallways in which you have to be silent, the farm felt free and relaxed. Lying underneath some blueberry bushes, chatting with some of the older girls, I realized how much a part of my life they had become—how important they were to me, and how grateful I was that I had gotten to spend the summer with them.

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