Merrowvista campers perform service project with G.A.L.A.

Eight eager teens from the Merrowvista Summer Camp program spent the last leg of their service-based camping experience at G.A.L.A. headquarters last week.  From the moment they arrived the excitement in the air was palpable:  here was a group of kids shining with enthusiasm for building strong, sustainable communities.

The session began with a tour of the Grange, including the G.A.L.A. office, wood boiler heating system, waste vegetable oil filtration station, and the grounds backing up to Pork Hill Farm.

A “whirling meditation” in the back yard illustrated the perspective of the world as a series of small circles intertwining to make up the global sphere we call Earth.  The campers set their intentions for the project, such as learning more about the way G.A.L.A. promotes sustainability, why composting is important, the pros and cons heating with wood, and how waste vegetable oil can fuel vehicles.

Three tasks were set in front of the group:  mow the lawn using “reel mowers” that run on people-power only; transport, chop, and stack the kindling wood for the wood boiler; and build a three-bay composting system.  The campers were split into groups with two “mowers,” two “stackers,” and four “builders.”  Everyone had the opportunity to participate in and learn about each station, and the jobs were completed ahead of schedule!

After Tuesday’s work was finished, G.A.L.A.’s bike-powered blender was utilized to make our famous blueberry smoothies, much to the awe and appreciation of the campers.

Tuesday night was spent by the fire with s’mores, storytelling, fire dancing, and reflections.  In response to the question, “What has been your most memorable experience at camp?” many responded “Right now!”  Josh Arnold, Founding Director of G.A.L.A., praised the youth for their enthusiasm and teamwork and thanked them for all of their hard work and great attitudes.

On cool, misty Wednesday morning before the van came to gather the campers, a question and answer session led to fascinating discussion about the functionality of the wood boiler heating system and a hands-on demonstration of fueling a waste vegetable oil–run car.

“They were really into it,” Chris, the campers’ counselor, said with a smile as the group high-fived and hugged goodbye.


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