Howard’s vision for the campers is the same as ACF’s; education is what will bring success to Huatung’s youth, and arts education is a key part of that. Music is an integral aspect to Taiwan’s aboriginal cultures, and the campers are all inherently talented. The Huatung Choir Camp unearths that talent and showcases it, proving to the children that they have worth, skill, and beauty.
“Through music, you learn to become a layered person,” said Jeffrey Kim, one of the camp’s vocal teachers and renowned countertenor from Germany. “You open up and express yourself, which I think is the most important thing for a human being.”
Campers spent most of each day in vocal rehearsal, learning choral technique to open up their voices and new songs from Aladdin and other musicals. Afternoons were often spent in elective classes taught by the volunteer counselors. Campers could learn new languages like German and Japanese, participate in Hour of Code, play sports, make crafts, and dance. These classes opened up camper’s minds to new subject they had never had the chance to explore before. Evening activities let the campers unwind and have fun, while making them feel comfortable sharing and performing.
Over the course of 12 days, the campers not only formed lasting friendships and bonds, but opened up to volunteers and teachers. At night, campers spent one-on-one time with counselors during buddy time. Having college students as role models and close friends gave the campers an opportunity to see what their futures could hold.
The role of the volunteer counselors is also one of learning and growth. “Growing up with The Alliance Cultural Foundation’s camps is really great,”said Chen Wen-Yu, a volunteer counselor from Taitung. Wen-Yu herself attended ACF’s English and Art Camps when she was young, and is now a returning counselor at the Choir Camp. “The first time I volunteered, I was just a regular counselor, and just did what I was asked to do. This time, I’m involved in the organizing and leading. I really feel like I’ve become an adult; a leader. It’s been a real journey.”
The camp drew to a close with a final performance at the Taitung County Cultural Center Performance Hall. “My excitement is all mixed up with my nerves,” said one soloist. “The teachers have been encouraging us a lot to not be afraid and just sing out,” said another. The campers took their new skills to the big stage and confidently sang in front of hundreds of parents, friends, and locals.
Leaving the camp the next day was hard for both the campers and volunteers. But when Howard asked who was planning on coming back next year, every single hand was raised.