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Campers drum up a good time

Campers drum up a good time
Doreen Schindler

St. Stephen’s, Millburn hosted the largest group to date – 18 campers – at their 7th annual Drumming Camp last summer.

The St. Stephen’s Drumming Camp was established in 2013 in partnership with the Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry which outreaches to children who have an incarcerated parent in Essex County. The parish offers a week-long summer camp where children ages 6-12 learn African Drumming, and other arts and crafts.

A slew of volunteers organized transportation, meals, arts and crafts, games, s’mores by the campfire, and donations of backpacks filled with school supplies for the children as they headed back to school. Local businesses – Peter’s of Millburn, Oscar’s Deli, the Millburn Diner, and Pizzetta – made contributions of either discounted or free food for the campers and volunteers. And none of this would have been possible without the generosity of a former parishioner, now deceased, who, though he wished to remain anonymous, made provisions in his charitable trust to fund the Drumming Camp.

The Drumming Camp was led by Yah'Ya Kamate, the incredibly talented musician and teacher who truly seems to work magic with drumming and dancing. A native of the Ivory Coast, Kamate plays the djembe and the doundoun (a bass drum) and was a member of his country’s national dance company before coming to the United States in 1994. He currently teaches at the Alvin Ailey School in New York as well as leads workshops at various schools, hospitals, churches and juvenile detention centers.

The camping week culminated with a drumming and dance performance presented by the campers. Kamate allowed the children to share his story of migrating to the United States. The campers took turns speaking a line or two, a powerful way to remind us that we all come to this place with different experiences and history and yet, all of us are God's beloved children.

The Rev. Paula J. Toland, Rector of St. Stephen’s, said, “Our audience was treated to a spectacular show: a drum machine procession, a story, dancing, and, of course, drumming. All of this and great weather, followed by a wonderful meal. A perfect end to a fabulous week. So much to be thankful for!”