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August 8, 2004

Camp Tufton

I was walking back from the pasture with Tevon, all 50 lbs of him (soaking wet). Actually, he was soaking wet, and covered in mud for that matter--results of the hour of football drills the boys had just done in the pouring rain. It was Day 3 of Camp Tufton and the boys were engaging just as enthusiastically in their activities as they were on the first day. We were headed to the ocean about 2 blocks away for a sea bath. On the way, we stopped off at a community water pipe with spiggot on the road. Tevon washed a bit of the mud off his heavy shoes and said "Miss, water's good for you, right?" "Yeah, Tevon, of course it is." I replied. Tevon looked at me again, "Miss, who makes water?" "What do you mean Tevon? No one makes it, it's just there" I said, suspecting he was imagining some water-making process similar to the way juice is made every morning in his home. Unsatisfied, he said "But Miss? Who makes it?" "Well, God does, Tevon." Curiousity satiated, he took my hand and we sauntered off to the sea...leaving muddy footprints on the conrete behind us.

Tevon is just one of the 16 boys I had the pleasure of spending last week. It all started when Micah, mentioned a camp that he and another volunteer, Mike, were planning for the "Tufton Hall Boys" a few months ago and wanted to know if I'd like to help out. I knew a little about these boys, but not much and was curious to get to know them better. Since I am now officially out for the school holiday and am seeking out activities to keep the "summer" weeks busy, I agreed. Tufton Hall is a home that was established for boys who need a place to live and can't be accomodated with family or in foster care. Some have no parents, some have parents who are incarcerated, or who for other reasons are unable to care for them. Some of the boys have themselves been through the juvenile justice system. I tried not to find out too much about their families though and instead tried to accept them for who they are--knowing that any "anger management" issues most likely had a all to valid cause. I knew little else about these boys, but quickly found out a lot about them. The boys ranged in age from 6 to 17 and are some of the most resilient, joyful and playful children in Grenada. Many of them were very cuddly and loved to hold hands, hug and just be near you. Being a middle school special ed teacher, I learned to guard my physical boundaries very carefully, but after a few hours learned to drop these and give the boys the affection they were so obviously seeking.

The boys live in a two story "house" right on the main street in Victoria, on the west side of Grenada. They have a dining hall and "hang out" room downstairs and a bunk room upstairs. The house was very well maintained and taken care of and served as a fine base for camp. Mike and Micah did a nice job of organizing daily and evening activities that included hikes, craft making, football (soccer), blob tag, drama, drumming, yoga (lead by guess who?) and many other good ole'camp activities. We ended on Saturday with a football match, certificates of completion and a hike up to the river for a river bath and a feast of oil down, prepared by some friends in the community. By Saturday afternoon, I was pretty exhausted (partly from acting like a 10 year old boy for a week and partly because I was traveling back and forth to Grenville every night to prepare for our folk group's upcoming performance.) For as tired as I was though, I must say that those boys who seem to have just gotten a crappy lot in life, sure are living life like there is no such thing. From the wild abandon that they go for that ball in the muddy field to the innocent abandon that they just accept the answer to their curious musings about water, they sure taught me a little something that week about joy, resiliency and the desperate need for us all to "play".