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This summer, 80 young activists attended one of the three sessions of Youth Empowered Action (YEA) summer activist camp in California, Oregon and Massachusetts.
As a way to inspire compassion for all animals, both human and non-human, this week-long camp is all vegan, which raises lots of questions from campers and parents — conversations such as this are strongly encouraged. After finishing the camp, a 15-year-old camper explains, “All the food is vegan, but it is not a requirement to be vegetarian or vegan. We do that because of our values of sustainability and respect for all beings, humans and animals, and caring about labor and human health issues and issues like climate change, animal cruelty and global hunger. It would be hypocritical to serve meat at a camp where we’re working for a more sustainable and peaceful world.” About 50 percent of the campers are vegetarian when the arrive, and 100 percent of them love the vegan food!
I was lucky enough to be part of the Massachusetts session, and while working there, I met some of the most inspirational and motivated teens eager to create a better world. And I’m excited to introduce you to two of them.
Jose is a teenager from Worcester, MA: “When I look at the world’s hunger, it bothers me to no end.”
Although Jose is not vegetarian himself, at camp Jose connected with his peers who care about animal rights and discovered how world hunger is connected to what we choose to eat every day.
“Almost 50 percent of our food is sent to animals for human consumption. How are we supposed to feed our people when we are giving so much food away?” he said. “We waste so much water, too, to make just one pound of meat. I didn’t know the statistics before, and it is really bothersome to me. I only knew the term factory farming, but now I have a more in-depth understanding.”
Jose is trying more meatless meals at home now, and he’s starting a community garden in his neighborhood. I look forward to having him volunteer at the Worcester VegFest next year.
Shelby is from Los Angeles and is passionate about LGBT issues and vegan eating. For Shelby, one of the most important take aways from camp is the power of effective communication.
“I now know different ways to communicate with people,” she said. “Angry activism creates a negative stereotype about your cause. You need to relate to people on their level and know how to approach them.”
These budding activists envision the possibilities of building a better world — and YEA camp aims to provide them with the tools they need to start making important and meaningful changes. What other opportunities await today’s compassionate youth? Perhaps an internship at Compassion Over Killing — or volunteering for animals in their own communities.