Family is a key ingredient that keeps Rockwall activities cooking

October 30, 2019
Family is a key ingredient that keeps Rockwall activities cooking

As a flurry of summer activities greatly enhanced the ability of young people and their mentors in Rockwall County, Texas, to improve lives and neighborhoods, a common denominator was the involvement of whole families — some for the first time.

“We were able to meet and engage 12 new families” through these activities, says Rockwall Baha’i Naomi de la Torre.

Families from a neighborhood come together for a family art devotional in Rockwall, Texas, during which they did canvas marbling art and said prayers for the betterment of mankind. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Alongside local Baha’is, these friends of the Faith arose to help serve by hosting activities, teaching children’s classes, preparing meals, providing snacks and supplies, or assisting with cleaning, she says. 

In addition, “We had fruitful reflection spaces” following activities “where participants, children’s class teachers, animators [facilitators of junior youth groups] and family members attended and shared what was learned.”

Says de la Torre, “We discovered that many parents were surprised to see how much their children had learned and asked insightful questions about the Baha’i Faith and the community-building process.”

Nalasi Mendy gives a presentation on his home country of The Gambia during the “Embrace the World” camp in Rockwall, Texas. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Most of these parents, she says, are now participating in weekly core activities of community building and are meeting regularly in their homes with their children’s teachers and animators.

In the four years since her family moved to Rockwall, de la Torre has seen activity grow to the point 250 people in the area are now involved.

She has lots of stories like the one about a parent who has been attending a women’s devotional gathering for several years and had just witnessed her children’s participation in a weeklong skill-building camp.

“This camp is a truly amazing ministry,” the mother shared. “I would like to learn more about how I can become involved.” 

Says de la Torre, “This same mom is now considering starting a junior youth group in her home, just a few blocks away.”

Another family that participated “is now attending weekly firesides about the Faith and eager to engage every member of their family in a core activity,” she says.

Junior youth group animators at the “Changing the World with Art” summer camp in Rockwall, Texas, design a mural on the floor with Baha’i writings about walking on a path toward social justice and world unity. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Rockwall County Baha’is and friends conducted four camps over the summer — each with a theme and a purpose:

  • A camping trip for entire families of youths and junior youths to learn more about community building. Youth animators led the junior youths in study of texts aimed at building character and their ability to act as agents of positive change. 
  • A neighborhood camp on the theme “Changing the World with Art” that focused on using art as a form of social action. The 70 participants, ages 4–15, were too many for one home. So a neighbor who is engaged in core activities opened her home to host half of the camp. 
  • A camp at which 10 animators and children’s class teachers from the neighborhood studied Book 3, Teaching Children’s Classes, Grade 1, from the Ruhi training curriculum. A small junior youth camp held at the same time gave the older and younger teens an opportunity to create together a vision of walking a path of service.
  • A neighborhood camp on the theme “Embrace the World” that has now been held three times during school breaks. Its aim was to learn about the beauty and diversity of humankind through presentations given by neighbors on their cultural backgrounds.

“Not only does learning happen quickly within the context of an intensive camp space, but these new animators and children’s class teachers gain confidence and vision as they connect more deeply to the community-building process,” notes de la Torre.

As one animator told her, “Being an animator has changed my life. I am beyond grateful for this experience of community building and walking a path of service.”

It’s a perspective more and more families of these young people have begun to embrace as well.

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