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Since 1993, the Seeds of Peace International Camp located in Otisfield, Maine, has been wrestling with that dilemma.
Seeds of Peace, founded by renowned journalist John Wallach, brings together young people from war-torn regions to learn to see the human face of their enemy before being permanently blinded by hatred. With a primary focus on conflict management in the Middle East, Seeds of Peace has expanded to reach youth from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, and America. Ten years have produced nearly 2,000 “Seeds” committed to realizing human rights, peace, and security in the Middle East and around the world.
Seeds of Peace has battled internally as an organization for years concerning the necessity of security. Since our inception, we have had various levels of security, but in 2000, we made the commitment to being the best.
The first step was an evaluation of our facility by three different groups to determine our level of need. First, a private security firm that worked with one of Maine’s largest employers assessed our camp, followed by a public think tank dealing with security issues. Finally, the security department of the Maine State Police that deals with visiting VIPs contributed their analysis. After reviewing their recommendations, Seeds of Peace decided to employ the Maine State Police as our security force, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Their responsibilities include coverage of the main entrance into camp, travel and day trips out of camp, VIP security, and first alert for medical and disaster response. They conduct background checks on staff, visitors, campers, and adult chaperones. They provide a complete orientation for all camp staff before campers arrive. Seeds of Peace holds three sessions each summer, making the State Police responsible for sixty-six days, in addition to the challenge of traveling from Maine to Washington, D.C., for several days at the end of each session.
On a daily basis, the police patrol the camp grounds dressed in plain clothes. They blend in, allowing campers and staff to feel comfortable and safe without drawing attention to the heightened security around them. In addition, the security force forms relationships with staff and campers that assist their efforts and allow them to create the safest environment possible. We have found that the police are actually as impacted by the camp as the camp is by them — in fact, they decided to host a barbecue for staff following the summer program.
I soon realized that as camp director I needed to work together with the police force to make decisions that best suited Seeds of Peace Camp. To my advantage, I have a unique background in security dating back to 1973, when I headed Emergency Preparedness for the State of Maine. Having been trained at both the Kellogg Institute and the Pentagon undoubtedly gives me a leg up on many camp directors, but that background is certainly not a necessity.
Perhaps the word that most needs to be emphasized when dealing with security issues is commitment. Everyone, from the Board to administration, must be made aware of the issues and importance of securing your camp, your travel, your staff, and most importantly, your campers.
When developing our security plan, former Maine Governor Angus King said something that truly resonated with me. He said, “Please do everything you can. We will help you as best we can to develop a comprehensive plan with the right people in place, so I can sleep while your camp is in session.”
I understood what he meant — we all want to go to sleep at night knowing we have done everything possible to secure our camp. If you have not put security at the top of your list of preparations for summer 2003, I urge you to do so.
More information on Seeds of Peace can be found on the Web site at www.seedsofpeace.org . Tim Wilson presented a session at the 2003 ACA National Conference in Denver on the needs for security in a volatile world — how to assess security needs, who should be in charge of your security, how effective are your emergency services, and how much money should you spend. If you are unable to attend, you may contact Tim for information and help at email@example.com .
Originally published in the 2003 Winter issue of The CampLine.