Beyond the Farm: Revitalizing Language and Culture: PWR Lecturer Mutallip Anwar Leads Summer Camp for Uyghur Children
During June 2022, PWR Lecturer Mutallip Anwar organized and led a summer camp for children from the Uyghur diaspora living in California. Here is what he had to tell us about this important and fun community work.
How did this camp begin and who are the campers and staff?
The main goal of the camp is to revitalize Uyghur language and culture in the diaspora Uyghur community. As you are well aware, our language and culture are facing brutal crackdown back home in China. So this is our way of resisting the Chinese state's attempts to eliminate our cultural heritage.
The campers are 4 - 12 years old Uyghur kids who were born and grew up in the US. The staff members are also Uyghur American high school and college students from the Bay Area and Southern California. I trained them remotely for two months on Zoom and had them prepare lesson plans and materials before the start of the program on June 13th.
What did campers enjoy most?
Each day we had Uyghur language, art, physical activity, and science lessons, conducted in Uyghur (for the most part but the kids easily fell back into English without constant reminders). They enjoyed playing with each other and creating a lot of cool art projects. We actually made a video asking each student to describe what they enjoyed most about the program and each student had a different response.
Will camp members be in touch after the camp is over?
Yes, the main goal of the camp is to create opportunities for Uyghur diaspora community members to meet and network with each other. They stay in touch. Last year, two of the staff members met during the camp and fell in love with each other. They got married in May this year and many of the families and staff members from the camp last year attended their wedding to celebrate.
What's next for this camp?
We are planning to keep it going. The overall response from the participants this year was extremely positive and some are asking us to start branch programs in other major cities in the US.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Last year, my mother passed away. I was not even able to go back and attend her funeral. It was the darkest time I went through in my life. My mother was a teacher and she always enjoyed watching kids come together and learn. As I was grieving her passing, one of my friends suggested that what helped him the most when he lost his mother was to do something special to honor her legacy. So I started this program as a way to honor her and her life. She was always proud of my accomplishments, but I know that bringing so many families together and giving kids so much joy through this program definitely made her even more proud.