Event Blog

2018 Family Camp

DDMBA Family Camp 2018 Reflection
By Andrew Shen

While the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” often evoke esoteric concepts of spirituality, they are in fact representative of a more insightful lifestyle that we can all achieve. Such a concept is something that I have only gathered through serving as a counselor at the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association’s Family Chan Camp, held at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York. As a second-year counselor returning to this camp, I was excited for the opportunity to see both familiar and new faces, as well as guiding my campers to both have fun and learn.


As counselors, we arrived the Sunday before camp started to undergo a three-day-long training session. The training session featured morning classes and afternoon planning time, so that we were exposed to both personal growth resources and organizational blocks to make Family Chan Camp the best it could be for the kids. The morning seminars, taught by Lester and Julie Andrist, conveyed to us counselors the importance of social justice and community service. These principles weren’t just applicable to our lives back home; however, the ideals of ensuring fairness and aiding others guided us in dealing with our campers. The additional time we counselors had to socialize with one another and prepare for the campers made it so that our planning was top-notch and that we developed a strong sense of camaraderie.

Despite the sun beating down heavily on a Wednesday afternoon, August 1 was an energy-packed day for all of us: counselors, kids, and adults. As the constant flow of new campers slowed to a trickle and evening started to set in, we broke from dinner to begin icebreakers. After multiple action-packed rounds of Sharks and Minnows with the kids, we split off into our individual teams to begin to get to know one another. It was in these fleeting moments that I first re-discovered the best part of being a counselor: fostering a family-like sense of team unity, whether through our silly icebreaker games, our proud bandanna colors, or our multiple attempts at coming up with a creative team name. The endless laughs we all shared were simply priceless and gave meaning to the entire experience.

Over the next five days, counselor and camper alike learned from the various informative exercises and activities we participated in. The morning eight-form meditation prepared us both physically and mentally each day, thanks to the soothing rhythm of each exercise that allowed us to clear our minds. The many classes at Chan Hall taught by Zhaohui and Shu, as well as the venerable Fashi, allowed our campers to understand Buddhism in a simple yet meaningful way. Through the teachers’ engagement and patience, the children realized that Buddhist precepts could be easily applied to their daily lives, such as showing care for all other sentient beings or being mindful of their emotions. Although the youth campers were originally scheduled to visit a farm, inclement weather forced a change in our plans to go to the Quinnz Pinz bowling alley instead. In those two hours, each and every kid let go of all their worries as they had fun bowling with their teammates. Through donning our light blue shirts and coming in a large car convoy, the Family Chan Camp truly exemplified its first component: family.

And just when camp seemed to have started, it was already Saturday, the penultimate day marked by an endless amount of fun. While it was too hot to complete all of our Zen Games, we were once again undeterred as we converted a tent tarp into a makeshift slip and slide. The talent show and bonfire capped off an exciting day, since we saw performances from the campers ranging from gymnastics to Chinese yo-yo (as well as an exciting parent dance!) and fulfilled the quintessential summer camp experience of making s’mores at a campfire. All the kids were tired out, but from the smiles on their faces you could tell their palpable happiness and how much they wished camp would not end. 

With that, Sunday proved to be the culmination of all that we had done in the past week. The campers superbly carried out the tea ceremony, showing their gratitude for all who had helped them learn and grow in the past week—teachers, Fashi, counselors, and parents. After some group pictures and the distribution of camper awards, the camp quickly came to a sentimental end as we watched an amazing slideshow and video on all that we had done in the past week.

The Family Chan Camp at Dharma Drum Retreat Center is certainly a life-changing experience, no matter if one attends as a camper or counselor. Thanks to the numerous enjoyable activities throughout the eventful week, children and adults alike are exposed to countless ways in which they can develop compassion and their inner bodhisattvas in daily life.

Category: Event Blog

Weekly Activities

Sunday Open House

Every Sunday, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Our Sunday programs are open to people to explore and learn more about Buddhism. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Please CLICK HERE for Sunday Dharma Talk related info.

Dharma talk
11:00 – 12:30pm

Lunch Offering & Announcement
12:30 – 1:00pm

Vegetarian Lunch ($5 donation requested)
1:00 – 1:45pm

Chanting Service
2:00 – 4:00pm

Monday Evening Chanting

Every Monday, 7:30pm to 9:15pm
Devotional chanting of Amitabha Buddha’s name.
Bodhisattva Precept Recitation Ritual every last Monday of each month.

Every Monday, 7:30pm to 9:15pm

Tuesday Evening Sitting

Every Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm
All who have previous experience in meditation are welcome. Activities include sitting and walking meditations, yoga exercises, chanting of the Heart Sutra, and group discussions of Chan Master Sheng Yen’s books.

Thursday Evening Tai Chi Moving Meditation

Every Thursday, 7:30pm to 9:00 pm

Experience the great depth of Chan practice through the combination of Ta-chi with Chan meditation.

The modern people are often busy, stressed and tense. Tai Chi Moving Meditation helps to unify and ease the body and mind.

Moreover, it is an expedient to improve physical health.

Fee: $80 for 16 classes or $25 per month

[ First class is free for newcomers.  All levels are welcome! ]

Please call 718-592-6593 for registration.

Instructor: David Ngo

Saturday Sitting

Currently Canceled Until Further Notice