Play + Work = Plork


The double doors open to the sun-dappled yard and a breeze stirs the smaller pieces atop the huge mound of fabric scraps. Four young people bend over their white cotton panels, carefully applying colorful shapes of fabric to their designs. A camp counselor at the sewing machine attaches completed panels to the large curtain quilt.

“Are you using this green flowered piece?” one camper asks another.

“No, I’m looking for a larger purple piece,” he replies.

A third camper offers him a piece, “Did you see this one?”

Camp director Anastacia Ebi explains that working together helps everyone live the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. At the rise of morning meeting, we divide into small teams to work in different areas of Mountain Friends Camp. Campers and counselors take turns with different plork projects: preparing lunch, building trails, repairing tree houses, collaborating on art projects, and hauling rocks to fortify steep trails.

Campers doing trail work, photo by Anastacia EbiWhen he first heard about plork, Elijah was one camper who imagined that it was grueling work disguised by a pleasant title. “I was surprised to learn that plork is really enjoyable.” Trail work is Elijah’s favorite plork, and he helped to build some one-rock dams to slow the flow of rainwater, catch sediment, and repair places damaged by erosion. While using the new Meandering Gully Trail, Elijah and other campers could see debris caught in the dams, where water from the summer thunderstorms was slowed. Lydia, a counselor-in-training, said that it was fun to do a hike for plork, adding, “We make trails more accessible for those who may have difficulty with the terrain.” Eddie said, “We made steps at steep parts of the trail. In all it was very exciting.”

When asked about plork, campers often talk about it as a way to make new friends. Charlotte explained, “Everyone does their part, and you work together as a community.” Cat said, “You do stuff for the whole community.”

Sunshine, who was a camper during the first years of Mountain Friends Camp, described labor-intensive community projects such as re-plastering adobe walls and digging holes to plant trees in an orchard. Now a camp counselor, Sunshine praises plork for teaching children the value of working together.

Another camp counselor, Sam, offered kitchen plork as one of his favorites: “Because you reap the immediate benefit of your own work.” Heather agreed, describing layered salad jars, spring rolls, and the solar-oven brownies as her favorite recipes. “Everyone took turns helping in the kitchen. We were friends cooking together.”

Sam also appreciates working on trails, because it makes a visible difference now and in the future. “We benefit the earth and help to stop erosion.” Campers and counselors enjoy recognizing their plork projects from previous years. When they see freshly sanded cabin railings or colorful pavilion curtains, they can say, “I did that!”   ~~~

Camper Eddie Webb and counselor Betsy Lombardi composed this article about Mountain Friends Camp together. To learn more, go to:

Mountain Friends Camp song


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