“...peace must first be established among individuals, until it leadeth in the end to peace among nations. Wherefore, O ye Baha’is, strive ye with all your might, to create, through the power of the Word of God, genuine love, spiritual communion and durable bonds among individuals. This is your task.” (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha p. 245)
In 2007, the first residential summer program for Junior Youth, based on the Baha’i Writings, started. Forty-four young, anxious, eager students arrived… some forced by their parents, some not members of the Baha’i Faith, some glad to be away at “summer camp”…. all wondering what this was going to be about. Through the devotions, classes, arts program, and fun evening programs, they became good friends. They had laughed, played, and worked well together for several days. They had built a truly joyous community. By the end of the gala event, the students had bonded together so well, that they left with tears of joy and sadness because they were leaving one another. Many of the students stayed in touch, and most of them returned in 2008. This experience has been repeated every year.
The program has evolved to include a more well-developed academic class, and more time is devoted to learning about and sharing ideas about the service projects of our Junior Youth Groups. The student body has expanded to include people from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, California, Washington, and our home state of Texas. But the spirit of love, of joy, of community building, of reflecting on the Sacred Writings and learning to express our ideas, continues to flourish every year.
Many of our staff members are graduates of the three-year program. In their applications to serve, they wrote about their experiences:
I really love the CFT program; it definitely changed my life and helped shape the person I am today. I am so interested in staffing there because I want other junior youth to get the same experience I did and be able to just feel the security, happiness, and love for one another that you get when you’re there. (From a female staffer)
The TFP/CFT program has brought me the most joy within Baha’i educational programs. Both as a student and a staff member I was able to make lasting friendships and gain knowledge about the Faith in which I can share with others. (From a male staffer)
“One of the greatest programs for me who have been the TFP/CFT program because it had enlightened me to learn more about the faith and deepened me. I gained many moral teachings from the program and gained a lot spiritually. The people and friends I met had been the one of the best things because, I am still in contact with them and they have made a great impact on me, especially the people I look up to such as the camp counselors and directors. ” – From a male staffer
When I was a junior youth and I attended TFP I felt as though it was one of the greatest things that happened to me because coming from a community where there are not many active youth that I can relate to it was nice to meet other Baha’i junior youth that were going through the same thing. Also having a junior youth group brought me joy because I realized how doing such a simple thing for these kids and showing them that you care could mean so much to them. – From a female staffer
Through consultation and games, prayer and reflection, we create a loving environment and encourage students to think critically about the world around them, to share their thoughts and feelings, and to encourage them to develop capacity to serve humanity, to change the world. We encourage independent thinking, problem solving, consultation, and collaboration in a spiritual environment filled with unconditional love.