“Pame Dodekanisa – Let’s Go to the Dodecanese” was the theme for the 2018 Our Greek Village camp – To Elliniko Horio – offered by the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. Over 80 youth ages 8 – 15 gathered at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center for this Greek language and cultural immersion program which offered unique and creative instruction led by skilled educators who shared their professional talents in this creative learning environment.

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A typical day in the Horio started at 8:00 a.m. with campers and staff gathering for the morning Orthros service under the shade of the trees. Following a hearty breakfast, classes and activities started including Greek language and culture, music and dancing, arts and crafts, and cooking. Taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings of Saint Nicholas Ranch, campers also enjoyed archery, canoeing, volleyball, basketball, and swimming. Special activities that focused on the Dodecanese Islands including learning about Hippocrates, Patmos and the cave where Saint John the Theologian wrote the Book of Revelation, the story of Saint Phanourios and the tradition of making Phanouropita when lost items have been recovered, and also folk dances from Dodekanisa such as the Hasapikos, Karsilamas, and Zembekiko. As a special treat this year, two Greek yiayia’s were at camp, baking fresh pastries and breads every day for the campers to enjoy!

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Before dinner each evening, campers once again joined in prayer at the Evening Vespers service. As the sun would set, it was time for Our Greek Village to gather around the campfire, sing songs, dance, share stores from mythology, and learn about the solar system through a visiting astronomer. On the last night, the entire camp celebrated the conclusion of Our Greek Village with a Glendi, complete with Greek dancing and food that the campers had prepared during their cooking lessons. “Our Greek Village is perhaps the most innovative ministry in our Metropolis. The experience provided to the campers is unique in that it truly transports them to Greece, giving them the opportunity to learn about various regions, customs and historical events,” stated His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos. “It is important for our children to maintain close ties to their faith and heritage, learn to speak the Greek language, and respect the many cultural and educational contributions of our ancestors.”

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Campers also attended the Divine Liturgy at the adjacent Monastery of the Theotokos the Life-Giving Spring and spent time at the farm of the monastery where they learned about gardening and growing fresh vegetables. They also received instruction on caring for the goats and chickens, and even collected freshly laid eggs from the hen house.

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Our Greek Village campers came from Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, DC. A comprehensive curriculum book was prepared to support the instruction received through the week-long camp. Special thanks to the Kallins Family Foundation for their longstanding support of this program; the Elios Charitable Foundation for their grant for the textbook as well as funds their provided for scholarships; and the National Hellenic Society which provided a grant to be used for financial assistance for deserving campers.

Following the motto, “It Takes a Horio”, Our Greek Village is led by a group of dedicated volunteers who work diligently throughout the year to plan this program. The leadership team includes: Bettina Polydor Kallins, Chair; Katerina Iconomou, Camp Executive Director; Georgia Covell, Rula Eliopulos, Tessy Tzoytzoyrakos and Rev. Father Demosthenes Paraskevaides. They each bring tremendous expertise that collectively contributes to the overall success of Our Greek Village.

The 10th Annual Our Greek Village camp will be held June 15 – 22, 2019 so mark your calendars and plan to attend. The theme will be Athens – Past and Present. For more information visit, www.ourgreekvillage.org or email ourgreekvillage@gmail.com.

PHOTOS ATTACHED (Courtesy of Our Greek Village)