Palestinian Staff for Christian Camps
Many camps hire international staff for the summer. Reasons for doing so may vary from the necessity to fill positions to the desire to expose campers to different cultures. My experience may be helpful to other directors as they plan for the summer of 2016.
While in Jerusalem in the fall of 2011 I met Rev Alex Awad, a United Methodist missionary and the Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC). We discussed many topics, including my desire to expose campers and staff to Palestinian Christians and Alex’s desire to help BBC students gain opportunities for employment and exposure to the global community. Camp Kinawind (MI) has had a Palestinian on staff for three of the last four summers. Jumana and Fadi were both excellent members of the Kinawind community. Our campers, paid staff, and volunteers all gained from them knowledge about Palestine, awareness of the struggles of living under occupation, and hopefully a heightened openness to global issues.
Many UMCRM readers are probably aware of Camp America and/or the many other agencies that provide the required support to identify international candidates and to secure the mandatory J-1 visa. Most of those agencies are not able to assist us with Palestinians or with many other nationalities as they do not have representatives in those areas. However, most of those agencies do allow us to find our own staff if we have a process to do that. Here is how it worked for me and can work for you.
Step 1: Our original contact was Alex Awad, but he has now retired and is living in the USA. The new BBC Dean of Students, Shireen Awwad, is very excited about making such opportunities available to more BBC students. Shireen, who has studied in the USA and speaks excellent English, will facilitate the identification of interested and qualified applicants. Contact Shireen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Step 2: Discuss the applicants with Shireen and decide if any may be appropriate for your situation. If so, you can then interview one or more applicants. With Skype, Messenger, and other sources of direct free contact it is not difficult to arrange such interviews.
Step 3: If you decide to move forward, you need to contact an appropriate agency that has the necessary connections and expertise to process a candidate from Palestine and secure the visa. I use and strongly recommend 3Adventures and their staff member, Ron Furman. Contact Ron at email@example.com or call him at or
I have no official role in this process but am very willing to consult with anyone who is considering this option. It can be stressful, as the Middle East is a stressed region of the world. When I started this process many warned me, “Are you prepared to cause a big disappointment for some Palestinian youth?” –as if they have not experienced big disappointments! So far Kinawind has had 100% success with the visa and transportation issues. Please contact me with your questions. (Note: I will be out of the country for most of February and early March.) Calls are welcomed on my cell – 231.631.0405, or emails are fine also: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Elmore, Director
Camp Kinawind United Methodist Camp – Michigan
Fred has been active in UM camping since age ten, having been a camper at numerous Michigan camps and a volunteer counselor and dean for many years. He has spent 19 summers on the paid staff of three different camps, including the last ten summers as the director of Camp Kinawind. Most of his professional career was as a high school counselor. In the build up to the Iraq War, Fred became involved with the Michigan Peace Team and later traveled twice with MPT to Palestine.