STARKS (AP) – Seeds of Peace gets most of the attention when it comes to Maine camps bringing together youngsters from different cultures.

At Camp at the Eastward, teenagers from South Africa attend camp with their peers from small towns in northern New England.

The camp is the first youth exchange for a partnership that has grown between the Northern New England Presbytery and the Amatola Presbytery, a group of small community outpost churches clustered around Alice, South Africa.

The South Africans who were at the camp for two weeks included three adults and 15 youths – 13 black and two white, or Afrikaner. They came from poor rural villages, overcrowded black townships, farms and cities.

The common denominator was their strong involvement in their church. At the camp, the South Africans and New England youngsters shared meals and participated together in swimming, arts and crafts, sports, and nightly campfires. And for evening worship, they sat in a circle to talk about their experiences and faith, and broke into song and dance to a rhythmic South African beat.

Seeds of Peace, which was founded in 1993 and is located in Otisfield, brings youths from warring nations together to learn about conflict resolution.

“We had in mind a mini-Seeds of Peace camp, where people from very different cultures would come together in a setting where they can learn about each other and talk about racial issues,” said the Rev. Scott Planting.

Planting is the minister at the Fairbanks Union Church in Farmington.

and religious leader for Mission at the Eastward, a cooperative of eight Presbyterian churches in western Maine that runs the camp.

Satara Ablort-Morgan, 18, an Afrikaner from Tarkastad, said the camp opened her eyes to many things, and made her realize that not everybody fits the stereotypical media image of Americans. She thought Americans would be greedy, pushy and out to get whatever they could.

“My concept of Americans has been revolutionized and has changed 100 percent,” she said. “The people here want to give you as much as they can.”

Cora Comstock, 17, of Starks, said the camp taught her the value of communication.

“It is hard to just read about another culture in a book – this camp really opens your mind to what life is like for them,” Comstock said.

The South African connection has been developing for several years. There have been exchange visits among adults and last year, the Rev. Luzko Qina, the religious leader of the Amatola Presbytery, came to the United States.

The plan is for the American youths to travel to South Africa next summer.

AP-ES-07-14-03 0216EDT

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