AMANDA METSKAS is Executive Director of Camp Quest, our current beneficiary in the “Big Bang” category — small charities (budgets under $1 million) making a big impact. Amanda launches our new ASK THE CHARITIES series by responding to questions submitted by our members.
QI’m sure you get this question all the time. We’re in southeastern Wyoming, just about maddeningly halfway between the Camp Quests in CA and MN. What are CQ’s plans for expansion, and might they include something in or around the Mountain timezone? — Dean W., Wyoming
A People regularly contact us because they want to see a Camp Quest get started in their area. We would love to see Camp Quest programs available to families everywhere, and I’d especially love to see a camp in the Rocky Mountains! Since we are a small organization with only one paid staff person, our expansion to new camps is driven by where we find local volunteers who are committed to starting camps. We help those independent groups of volunteers with training, troubleshooting, start-up grants, promotional materials, and other support. If you are interested in getting a camp started in your area, contact us and we’ll help you get going!
Q How do you explain what Camp Quest is about to people who insist you’re indoctrinating kids with Atheism? — Paul P. (no location given)
AThat is a great question. The accusation of indoctrination is the biggest misconception that people have about Camp Quest, and it’s leveled by atheists as often as it is by religious folks. I stress that Camp Quest is aimed at campers from non-religious families, but that we do not label the campers with a worldview. We give children and teenagers a space where they can explore different worldviews, make friends, and ask questions in an environment focused on critical thinking. We offer comparative religion programs that introduce campers to the basic beliefs and practices of many different religious groups. We stress that campers should question what they are told, even what they are told by counselors at camp. I like to say that we teach kids how to think, we don’t tell them what to think.
I think Dale McGowan sums up our approach really well in his blog post on the difference between influence and indoctrination when he says, “Teach kids to think independently and well, then trust them to do so.”