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July 22, 2010 - Image 42

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-07-22

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by Elie Neuman

life-changing journey

Elie Neuman, third from right, in

the river racing paper boats with

some of her Costa Rican campers

Teen works with Costa Rican children
and learns much about herself.


his summer, I set off on a jour-
ney that would change my per-
spective on life. Starting June
22, I traveled to Costa Rica where I
met up with 16 other North American
teens. Our mission? To rim a summer
camp for impoverished children ages
7-12 in the town of La Fortuna.
We were participating in Summer
Camp Leadership sponsored by Ohio-
based Rustic Pathways. The only par-
ticipant from Michigan, I discovered
this program at a Summer Fair held at
the Jewish Community Center in West
Bloomfield. A few of the other partici-
pants were Jewish; it was interesting to
see how Costa Rican children have no
knowledge of the Jewish religion when
it came up in discussion.
This was the first camp experience
for most of these children (called Ticos)
and they were unsure of what to ex-
pect. When my new friends and I cre-
ated a human tunnel for the children
to pass through upon their arrival, they
seemed extremely shy and confused
about who these crazy people scream-
ing and chanting were. It was very in-
spirational to see their metamorphosis
— by the eighth and last day, they were

screaming with us.
The children we worked with were
chosen as the best and brightest from
their respective schools because, in La
Fortuna, going to this summer camp is
a huge privilege.
Every day, the children would ar-
rive around 9 a.m.; we would all sing
songs, most in English. One major as-
pect of the camp was to teach English
to the Ticos. Then the kids would split
into three groups and go to different
One was "outdoor" where we played
games with them such as hide-and-go-
seek and did relay races. We would
usually jump into the river afterwards
in our clothes as very few Ticos own
bathing suits. Another station was arts
and crafts. The third station was "in-
door" where we played active games
such as freeze-dance. The children
would leave around 3 p.m.
One of the most difficult aspects of
my experience was the language bar-
rier. The Ticos we worked with knew
only Spanish so being a four-year
French student certainly presented a
Through this struggle, I learned the

most important way to communicate
with people is through your actions.
Although the extent of my speaking
with the children was Como-estas (How
are you?), my smiles and enthusiasm
towards them and the activities we em-
ployed sent the message to the children
of our mission: That we were all there
for the same reason — to have fun and
learn about each other's ways of life.
Leaving Detroit a naive, well-off
teenager, I came back rich in lessons
to last a lifetime.
One day for arts and crafts, the chil-
dren were to bring in a white T-shirt to
tie-dye. A 9-year-old Tico named Luis
Miguel arrived with the largest smile,
showing all of us counselors his brand-
new T-shirt still in the package. With
his family, the rarity of getting a new
shirt was a huge deal.
From this energetic boy, I learned
that no matter your situation, you must
have a positive perspective and cher-
ish the little things because you are
alive and that is all that matters.
For two weeks straight, I ate rice
and beans at every meal and, let me

tell you, it gets frustrating. The
first thing I told my mom back
home was, "Please tell me that
we're not having rice and beans for
When one of my fellow teens asked
our guide why the Ticos don't com-
plain about constantly having rice and
beans, she replied, "Costa Ricans are
just happy to be getting food, let alone
concerned over having a variety of
This vital lesson I will carry with me
for the rest of my life: It's not about
what you own in material value, be-
cause these children didn't have much,
but the relationships you create with
people who fill your life with mean-
ing." { }

Elie Neuman, 16, is a

senior at

North Farmington

High School.

youth groups

by Sam Gringlas

At CLTC: Elana Solomon, 15, of

lifetime experience

Cherry Hill, NJ., Ellana Unger, 15,

and Austin Goodman, 16, both of

BBYO's summer leadership training conferences
build relationships, skills and more.

he thermometer read 97 de-
grees. It was late June and the
American Hebrew Academy
campus in Greensboro, N.C., baked in
the sweltering heat. Although school
let out a few weeks before, the board-
ing school would soon bustle with
Jewish teens from across the country.
Each year, BBYO holds its Chap-
ter Leadership Training Conference
(CLTC) at the academy. Seven two-
week CLTC sessions occur each sum-
mer, half in North Carolina and half
at Camp Beber in Wisconsin. This
summer, 26 Michigan teens will at-
tend a CLTC session.

TT2 teen2teen July 22 . 2010

At CLTC, participants have the op-
portunity to build relationships with
other Jewish teens and learn how to
become better leaders in their home
Participants are split up into mock
chapters where they elect officers and
have "practice planning a function,
fundraiser and Shabbat services.
Attendees can make deeper con-
nections with Judaism through Shab-
bat, Israeli dancing, singing, daily
minyan and other Jewish program-
"I learned about how to be a leader
in a BBYO sense as well as stepping

West Bloomfield

up and being mature on a whole new
level," said Austin Goodman, 16, of
West Bloomfield, who attended CLTC
2 in North Carolina.
In addition to 11 adult staff mem-
bers, two alumni teens entering col-
lege help coordinate the program.
Alec Reifer, 18, of Plano, Texas,
coordinated CLTC 2. "CLTC is often
coined the best 12 days of your life
and every year it lives up to it's expec-
tations," he said. "I know the bonds
and relationships made will last long
after everyone returned back to their

The meaningful experiences teens
share at CLTC often stay with them.
"At the end of CLTC, I had emo-
tions that I had never felt before,"
Goodman said. "It's not 'goodbye,'
it is 'see you later.' You make friends
that you have something special with
for a long time. It was truly one of the
most amazing feel-
ings of my life." {

Sam Gringlas, 16, Is a

Junior at North

Farmington High


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