This summer, Dar-us-Salaam and the Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM) are trying something new in regard to summer camps for the Muslim youth. For the first time, the two masjids combined their resources to hold a joint summer camp.
The idea for the collaborative camp made its first rounds in late April 2012, very close to the summer.
“For the past three years, we’ve been doing a summer camp in Germantown,” said Haroon Baqai, principal of Al-Huda School in College Park, Md. and a summer camp organizer from Dar-us-Salaam. “Then an idea came up that we should do a summer camp with ICM, so instead of doing one in Germantown we consolidated with ICM.”
Iqbal Yousuf, a youth trustee with ICM, was the one who thought of a joint summer camp initially.
“Basically there are a lot of children and parents, so there is need of service,” he said. “Rather than doing it on our own, we should join with people more experienced [in] teaching.”
The camp began successfully on June 20, with around 40 students attending. The number was around what the organizers expected, Baqai said.
Walida Mukhtar, a teacher at Al-Huda School, was invited to direct the camp at ICM.
“Some of my roles include developing a good relationship with the parents,” she said. “I resolve conflicts and help the children become comfortable enough to talk to me.”
Some of Mukhtar’s other tasks include laying down rules and regulations, making arrangements for field trips and responding to emails.
The summer camp lasts approximately six weeks, from June 20 to July 27, and offers a variety of courses.
“It’s mainly a summer Qur’an reading camp,” Mukhtar explained. “We incorporate Islamic Studies as well.”
The Qur’an program is the main focus. However, there are other tracks available, such as language arts, math, and even karate courses. Tuition for the camp ($450 overall, with discounts and financial aid available) covers operational costs of running the camp: namely paying staff, buying supplies and funding field trips. “We have a payment schedule,” Mukhtar clarified, “so some parents enroll their children some weeks and not others.”
Cooperation between masjids in Maryland when it comes to summer camps is unprecedented, but there are plenty of reasons why the change is for the better.
“ICM was looking for someone who has done summer camps like this in the past, and who had experience in education,” said Baqai. “It’s a good idea to use experience, and also have a local masjid as a home-base.”
It is also clear that ICM and DUS contribute equally to this new project.
“ICM is a community that is very involved - parents are very involved in their children’s lives,” Mukhtar said. “It just needs the extra effort from the community, with the volunteer work and coming in early to set up.” The support from the community is necessary to improve the summer camp.
The camp has entered its second week, and thus far things are running smoothly.
“Overall it has been pretty good considering that this is the first time we’re doing it,” Baqai said. “The only challenge overall was that it was a late idea, and we put it all together very quickly.”
Mukhtar, similarly, has no complaints.
“The board members [at ICM] are very helpful and responsive,” she said.
Considering the optimistic start, the DUS-ICM summer camp may make this summer a useful and constructive one for the Muslim youth.