Infinite Potential at Eye Love You Camp

by | Oct 19, 2015 | News, page 2 | 1 comment

Eye Love You camp found its origins last May term during Professor Tim Sieber’s “Make it Work” seminar where Kamal Bilal, a sophomore at the Johnston Center for Integrated Studies, outlined a plan to create a weeklong day camp in his hometown of Chicago. After gathering a team of around twenty staff members in Chicago, Bilal set to work establishing a presence on various social media platforms, including a Go Fund me page.

When the initial funds had been raised, the question then became where to meet. After weeks of searching, Bilal paired with the “I Am My Brothers Keeper”​ ​ Youth Center in the south shore of Chicago. The camp hosted forty children ranging from five to twelve years old at the end of last August. Campers received a breakfast each morning before jumping into a wide array of activities including tie dye, sports, painting, drawing, dance, photography, and fashion design.

Eye Love You Camp also provides a space for education on self empowerment, food nutrition, and financial literacy. Food nutrition was especially important for campers, most of whom live in food deserts, areas where healthy, low cost food is tough to get. Bilal designed the Eye Love You camp with the intentions of breaking down barriers that campers experience in their everyday lives.

“[The goal of the camp is to] teach them about self love, and […] everything they’re going to live through being a person of color in America, especially a person of color in Chicago,” Bilal said.

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As part of their self empowerment education, campers were taught the power of positive affirmations and expressed their love to each other during an exercise designed to improve comfort with vulnerability. The educational component of the camp accomplished the heart of Bilal’s goals.

“I feel like from a young age living in poverty as a person of color in Chicago you’re going to be like a drug dealer or a rapper, and that’s the only way to make money and have a life and support yourself. I’m trying to get them to know that they have infinite potential, that their minds can create, they can envision anything they want.” Bilal said.

The spiritual element of the camp was influenced by Bilal’s own development during his junior year of high school, when he was exploring meditation and chakra systems and positive affirmations. Bilal and his friends started a booth at school to provide information to students about chakras.

Attending The camp was free for the children, but it certainly paid off in other ways. Jeanette Coleman, the head of the “I Am My Brothers Keeper” Youth Center, expressed her support.

“They were excellent {…} more than I could have ever anticipated, in terms of professionalism of the young adults,” Coleman said.

Coleman went on to share stories about specific campers.

“One child has been diagnosed ADHD and a few other diagnoses, sometimes he would be considered a troublemaker […] [was] able to develop a rapport with the staff members,” Coleman said. “[He] really connected with the staff, smiling during activities. It makes a difference.” Staff members were mostly Bilal’s friends from high school. The combination of young adults and children seemed to add a new energy into the Center, as Coleman stated.

The camp was a success this summer, and thanks to an anonymous donation a week before the camp started Eye Love You camp staff members were able to give campers school supplies, and an extra vegetarian lunch at the end of camp.

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The community at the University of Redlands has been key in funding the camp and providing public support, but this school year Bilal is planning on increasing involvement in California. Eye Love You camp will be hosting workshops throughout the year at the Boys and Girls Club in San Bernardino, and hosting an all school party as a fundraiser. There are plenty of ways for University of Redlands students to get involved in Eye Love You camp, whether it be helping to organize the all school party, or creating ideas for workshops with the Boys and Girls club. The Camp will also be presented at the upcoming Enactus competition this summer.

As part of his Green Design class last semester Bilal created an Enactus chapter at the University of Redlands. Enactus invests in students with bright ideas like Bilal, and uses its vast resources, donations, and partnerships with companies like The Coca Cola Company, and Fortune to support them, and showcase the projects during a national competition. Right now Eye Love You Camp is the main project for the Enactus chapter at the University of Redlands. Bilal is trying to establish the camp as a sustainable effort that can function in his absence while he is abroad next semester and after his graduation.

After weeks of organizing, Eye Love You Camp hosted a gala as a fundraiser. Bilal mentioned how he was unsure if people would enjoy the camp, however the Chicago community came in strides to support the Bilal and his team’s hard work. Eye Love You camp stands as a testament to the impact each person can make on their community, as Coleman expressed.

“One at a time, that’s how you do it. Just to be able to give that kind of attention to the kids […] it makes a difference,” Coleman said.

When asked about his leaderships and organization skills Bilal hesitated.

“I wouldn’t call myself a leader, I’m just ready. I’m just wanting to have change […] being a leader is being the first person on the dance floor,” Bilal said.

[Images courtesy of Kamal Bilal, Redlands Bulldog photographer] 

1 Comment

  1. Malick Bilal

    I was immensely impressed with how efficent the whole thing went. Kamal got very little assistance from me. Once he had me as a doorman at his own hip hop event. He got rappers to proform live on the Westside of Chicago. The gamut of worlds he touches to make this camp work is captivating.

    FATHER

    Reply

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