CONNECT, a virtual camp that was brought directly to the homes of 1,075 participants during a 10-day period this July, was an effort to bring the global youth together through creativity and exploration. Due to its success, registration is now open for a second session to be held this December.

Despite many camps being cancelled or rescheduled this past summer, CONNECT was born out of the simple need to gather, explore, and create in the midst of a global pandemic.

“Uniting 1,000 participants in 10 days from all across the world may have seemed a little impossible but Camp CONNECT showed us that when we all come together to do something we love and put all of our time, love, and energy towards it — anything is possible,” said Neelam Makhani, a facilitator from Canada and Global Encounters 2017 alum. 

Bringing the theme of community, hope for the future, and a renewed sense of appreciation for technology’s uniting spirit with volunteers from over 35 countries, CONNECT set a new precedent this summer: the simple idea that camps in our Jamat no longer look only to the physical space for deep learning and renewed conversations.

Camp CONNECT was bold in its objective: to provide a virtual space for over 1,000 participants from the global Jamat to connect with their brothers and sisters, have meaningful conversations, and develop lasting relationships. 

Aly Remtullah, associate camp director for CONNECT said, “The global nature of the program allowed our youth to experience the power of pluralism in action by building bonds with one another, learning about our similarities and what makes us unique, and understanding what we can learn from one another.” These bonds were built over AKDN project highlights, entrepreneurship workshops, global virtual family visits, as well as numerous other activities. 

While the traditional Global Encounters Camp takes place physically every year, this summer, CONNECT was a step towards an even more inclusive effort, inviting the global youth to spend 10 days with each other exploring the world and their role in it, creating relationships that would last a lifetime, and gathering with their brothers and sisters in a virtual space that transcended any physical barriers. In response to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s words from March 2020, “We must remain strong and prepare to build, and to build well, when this crisis passes,” CONNECT was a trailblazer in uniting the youth of the Jamat into a virtual space surrounded by hope, community, and innovation. 

Rahim Rajwani, a volunteer for CONNECT, stated that, “It [was] inspiring to see lifelong friendships being formed and everlasting impacts being made on the youth as they developed new skills virtually from professionals, which will, inshallah, help them achieve their future goals and ambitions.” 

Suhailo Mamadniyozova, a facilitator from Tajikistan and alum of the GE program said, “Regardless of the unconventional setting, CONNECT proved to be an effective platform for the greater Jamati demographic and has opened the opportunities beyond one room, one culture, or one community.” 

CONNECT proved that when the Ismaili community wants to unite despite physical distance and when the youth of our Jamat want to connect despite borders and oceans separating them, they can and do. CONNECT was an exploration of the potentials within a virtual platform and it proved the simple truth that connections can occur, relationships can develop, and impact can be made, regardless of how far apart we may be. 

After the success of the first session of CONNECT, Global Encounters is thrilled to launch another session in December to bring our global youth together. For this session, CONNECT will be partnering with the AKDN on the theme of Climate and Social Action. Registration is open for youth ages 14-17 and will close on 7 November 2020. Visit the Global Encounters website to register now.