August 12th – 16th marked the 30th annual MYNA Camp, an event where roughly 100 youth aged 12-18 come together for a week of physical activity, personal development, and spiritual retreat. The ever-packed program this year included presentations from Sr. Fizza Mir and representatives from Naseeha Muslim Youth Helpline and ISNA Compass. I’ve been attending camp for four years now, and in trying to sum up the camp experience, I found myself thinking of all the core members, attendees, counsellors, and supporters who come together every year.
So, I’ll let them tell you their stories themselves.
“MYNA Camp has always been something I look forward to; from my first time going in 2011, I haven’t missed a single one. It’s more than just the bonfires, water balloon fights, and other activities we don’t really get to do every day; you find yourself immersed in an environment where everyone loves and respects each other, and shares the core belief in Islam that brings them together despite their differences.
Being camp head really opened my eyes to the effect five short days of being in that kind of environment has on people. I got the chance to interact with more of the campers, and from what I heard from them, they left feeling empowered and motivated to better themselves and the communities around them – the same feeling I’ve been getting for the past 5 years.”
Mona Munim, 2015 Camp Head
“In the months leading up to camp, I kept thinking to myself that as a core, we had never been so well prepared for an event. We had plan B’s and plan C’s, we had everything booked, and I didn’t think anything could go wrong. Although that proved to be a naive conviction, and one that was shattered within the first two hours, I still came away from the camp more satisfied than I hadprobably ever been. There may not have been as many of the familiar speakers and attendees that had made camps in the past so memorable, but there were new activities, people, and ideas that made it even more enjoyable. From Ahmed Saleh and Razeem running incredible sessions for the older campers, to Arshia coming up with an impromptu workshop with an hour of planning time, it was often the things I hadn’t been expecting that made camp so much fun.”
Mahmood Haddara, Public Relations 2015
“MYNA Camp to me is a great experience. As a core member, helping to organize and run the camp has been challenging but also interesting. It is a great opportunity to learn all sorts of skills, particularly in leadership and adjusting to different situations. MYNA Camp is one of the greatest responsibilities that the core takes on and I feel like it helps the core develop more than even the campers. MYNA Camp is an opportunity for the core to meet people, learn skills and have fun.”
Suhaib Chowdhury, Finance Head 2015
“There was serious, awesome brotherhood and sisterhood.”
“There’s one moment that really stood out to me this camp. There was one girl, who was so struck with stage fright before the group skits on entertainment, and she was crying and she was telling us, ‘No, I don’t want to perform, people will make fun of me,’ and me and the counsellors were telling her, ‘You don’t have to go up if you can’t, but you can’t let what people might think stop you from doing what you want to do.’ So she decided to go up and she performed with her friends and on her way back she was high-fiving everyone and thanking us for encouraging her to go up. On the last day of camp, after we got back to ISNA and everyone was saying their goodbyes, I was standing with her and Mona, and she was so excited to come back next year, and asking us, ‘Are you coming back to camp? Are you counselling next year? I want you to be my counsellor.’ And it reminded me of what Ahmed and Razeem said in one of the sessions for the older groups, that it’s not always what those younger than you are saying, sometimes what’s more profound is that they’re saying it to you.”
Hiba Ahmed, Alumni
“As a counsellor who transitioned from a camper I have the utmost respect and love for counselling. It’s always an honor to work with the amazing youth that come to MYNA camp. The sleepless nights and countless bug bites are always worth it at the end of camp when I know that campers are leaving camp with a better more tangible understanding of Islam, life-long friends, and a mentor/big sister they can contact when they need to.”
Sarah Hassanein, Counsellor
Personally, I can only echo the sentiments of everyone else. MYNA Camp makes the lack of WiFi, the four hour bus rides, the early mornings, and all the sacrifices worth it. Without MYNA Camp, I would have never thought to involve myself in the Muslim community through MYNA. I would never have imagined that I could have a beautiful family of Muslim brothers and sisters who’d share my struggles and successes. Without MYNA Camp, I would not be in the position of writing this very piece. I owe so much of where I am today to that one week four years ago, an experience shared with more than 30,000 MYNA Toronto youth over the years.
Mahmood sums it up, “Camp was a reminder of the brimming potential within our youth, the extensive wisdom of our elders, and just how much fun it is when the MYNA community comes together.”