Campers Learn More Than the Art of Making Soup: B’nai B’rith Camp Teen Social Action Program – "Summer Stock"
Brenda Tessler Donen
Last March, I was watching the local news and was intrigued about a story of a group of women that charged each volunteer with a $50 registration fee, which covered the ingredients and supplies for a soup making charity event at a prominent hotel. Soup Sisters, a non-profit charitable organization that operates in 12 cities across Canada, organized the event.
At the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg, under the direction of the executive chef, over 280 individually packaged servings of soup were prepared and donated to a local emergency shelter for women and children affected by domestic violence.
I was fascinated watching the group of volunteers working together to create bowls of soup and sharing it with people who are in need. During the next day or so, the wheels in my head were turning - all I could think of was how easy this activity could be transferred to a camp setting and what an incredible opportunity for campers and staff to be involved with and helping those in need in such a meaningful manner.
Shortly afterwards, I contacted Sharon Hapton, Soup Sisters founder who resides in Calgary and I shared my idea to pilot a similar program at Camp. For Camps, it is a no brainer – we have a commercial kitchen, a team of kitchen personnel and the Camp could approach various suppliers to donate the food ingredients, containers and merchandise for the kids.
From the onset, Sharon was 100% committed to the idea and was excited to see an offshoot of Soup Sisters be utilized in a youth setting. "Summer Stock" was created and launched at B’nai Brith Camp in Kenora this past summer. Under the supervision of our camp cook, and supported by adult volunteers from Soup Sister in Winnipeg, BB Camp campers and staff and our LTP (our CIT equivalent) participants prepared and created home made soups to two local charities near the Camp in Kenora, Ontario. These two charities included Saakate House (a women’s shelter) and The Kenora Fellowship Centre (a homeless shelter). Representatives from both organizations spoke to the participants prior to the cooking stage to raise awareness of the realities facing both shelters and their recipients and to encourage dialogue to ensure our youth have a better appreciation of the concept of healthy relationships and lifestyle choices.
The presentations also provided a framework on recognizing signs and symptoms, how to help a friend, where to get help and how to stay safe on dates and social media. The Camp dedicated three specific time periods throughout the summer to preparing soup. Over 160 campers and staff were involved in Summer Stock. Our campers and staff cut and diced foods, prepared the broth, handwrote the soup labels, poured the stock into containers, cleaned the kitchen and delivered the soup. As the Camp is located on an island in the middle of Lake of the Woods, special care and attention had to be directed to delivering the soup by boat to town and then driving the soups to the two locations.
Being part of Summer Stock was an incredible experience. Providing a tangible opportunity for campers and staff to engage in a meaningful group process of learning about Jewish values related to Tikun Olam (repairing the world) and Tzedakah (charity) and strengthening Kehilah (community) were immeasurable life lessons. The participants appreciated that even a bowl of homemade soup can make a difference in a person’s life.
As one camper pointed out, "the program gave me a great opportunity to be a leader with responsibility and perform a great deed. I know that our bowls of soups will make someone feel cared for – even if that feeling is for a short awhile". The feedback was so positive and impactful that the Camp plans on hosting Summer Stock four times next summer. It also hopes that other Canadian camps will consider hosting a Summer Stock event at their facility - the ‘power of we’ is an incredible gift to unleash and summer camps provide an ideal venue for transformative experiences. Summer Stock is a transformative experience that will strengthen youth awareness about family violence, homelessness and the importance of helping those in need within a safe and supportive youth-focused environment.
The Camp would like to acknowledge the following companies for their generous donations to this initiative - Richards Packaging, Soup Sisters and Special T-Shirt Company.