In a year where all in-person camps were cancelled due to the Covid pandemic, Mosaic, a pioneering trio of virtual youth camps, organised by a cross-institutional team of volunteers in the United Kingdom jurisdiction, was a truly impressive offering.
The team faced a complex challenge. Having followed an in-person camp model for a number of years, they were required to start almost from scratch, to build a non-residential, yet engaging programme for young people in their formative years, while competing with countless other digital content streams during lockdowns earlier this year.
A unique solution was designed to improve the religious education foundation of participants through a blended learning approach, whilst encouraging meaningful relationships among members of the young Ismaili community, regardless of physical location.
“Finding ourselves right in the middle of lockdown, we strove to help equip students with the skills they would need to make sense of what was happening around them, and to explore how our faith provides a framework to navigate through these confusing but humbling times,” said Seema Manji, a secondary teacher at ITREB (UK).
The Mosaic virtual camp reached over 80 participants aged 11-17 years across the UK and Europe, from Oslo to Sheffield.
“Despite the disruption to our physical events, our trailblazing Camps teams were able to react quickly and pivot Mosaic to an online format which had a broad reach and engaging, interactive content,” said Al-karim Nathoo, Chairman of AKYSB (UK). “This year has shown us that now is the time to be innovative and work harder to reaffirm the sense of belonging amongst ourselves, and continue to behave in a manner that is aligned with the ethics of our faith”
The team particularly wanted to engage those who hadn’t attended an Ismaili summer camp or Bait-ul Ilm classes before, with the hope of inspiring them to attend further AKYSB and ITREB programming across Europe in the coming months and years.
“Considering that before Mosaic, 30% of participants had never attended a youth camp and 18% had never attended religious education classes, this virtual camp programme successfully demonstrates an innovative intervention,” said Farhad Mawani, Chairman of ITREB (UK). “Providing a space for young people to turn to, to engage with and learn from their elders, and to connect — or perhaps reconnect — with their peers in the Jamat is an especially important service in today’s new normal.”
Each camp was four days long, with each day’s session lasting four hours. Every day on camp started with an energising “Wake up Shake up!” session, followed by highly interactive and engaging workshops based on the IIS secondary curriculum led by Seema and a team of 17 facilitators.
“I was blown away by the dedication and professionalism of the volunteers who made these virtual camps possible,” Seema continued. “Their care and commitment was evident in their organisation, approach, and vision of the experience, and in their rapport with the participants – not only did this translate into a high-quality virtual camp experience, but by default, they became role models for participants of conscientious and positive living in these trying times.”
With regular breaks and games throughout the day, each day would end with fun AKYSB-led activities such as quizzes and virtual treasure hunts. Despite the lack of in-person interaction, both participants and facilitators enjoyed the new digital format, and kept returning for more.
Youth camps committee member Ziyana Rajabali summed up the programme well: “Seeing the UK’s first set of virtual camps come to life was nothing short of an amazing experience! What really stood out was how our committed facilitators and motivated participants forged such close bonds and friendships, and created a virtual Mosaic family that we will never forget.”