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Interfaith Camp For Kids

While most kids are enjoying summer vacation by the pool this week, a group of teenagers is taking time to sit on the floor, eat rice, and think about God. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez visits the first Houston Interfaith youth camp, that challenges students with learning, service, and leadership.


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“I am Justin, I am from Mexico, I have gone to private schools all my life, and both my parents are professionals….”

“My father is a street vendor who sells a variety of things, including jewelry and clothing, to tourists…”

“I am Drew, a young Filipino fisherman from a long line of fisherman…”

No, this is not a strange meeting of the UN — it’s a group of about 30 Houston teenagers, who’ve each been assigned a profile. Half of them sit on the floor, with one bowl of rice for everyone. Some are at tables, with a plate of rice and beans. Just three have been given pesto chicken and green beans, a napkin for their lap. It’s supposed to give them a sense of how much of the world lives—hungry. Fifteen year old Natalie Engel sits on the floor.

“It would be really upsetting, especially if we were old enough to have a family, and have to think that this little bit of rice would have to feed all of us. We’d only get a handful.”

This “hunger banquet” exercise is just one of the activities at the Interfaith Youth Camp, run by Interfaith Ministries. Over 3 days, the teenagers learn about world religions and social issues, engage in community service, and do leadership development. Interfaith Relations Manager Lauren Santerre says that the idea is to prepare kids for the kind of diverse world they’ll encounter as adults.

“I really believe that the coming generation is going to be an amazingly different generation. We are so put together in our schools and business, and we’re rubbing up against each other, if you will, that I think it’s really really important that we educate our youth about how to interact with people that are different from ourselves.”

“For the past year or so, I’ve been having a lot of inner struggles with my faith and what I believe in and God…”

Lily Gross is 12, raised in a Jewish family.

“So my dad told me about this camp, and learning about new faiths was really interesting to me so I could help myself figure out more of what I believe in.”

While some students are searching for their beliefs, others found that the presentations made them appreciate their own religious traditions. Here’s 16 year old Razan Muhtaseb:

“I like how, when he was saying that Islam is a religion of peace. So during Ramadan, you refrain from everything. It’s like a pause in your life.”

Lily Gross and Razan Mutaseb both think that the best thing they can do after this camp is tell their friends and that, little by little, they can replace conflict with understanding.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez.