A consistent theme has emerged from the stories coming out of the Graceland University community over the past years: Gracelanders are making the world a better place. Students, faculty, alumni… the actions they are taking and the impact they are making provide strong evidence that Graceland values – learning, wholeness and community for the enrichment of lives and the betterment of the world – are taking hold in them and the parts of the world they touch.
While this practice is strong in individuals around the world, one place in which a large-scale impact is made by a growing group of people connected to the university is at Camp Moja, a summer camp sponsored by Graceland’s sponsoring church, Community of Christ, for people with intellectual disabilities. The camp takes place for one week each summer and is made possible entirely by volunteers.
Volunteers for Camp Moja are charged with the care and fulfillment of more than 60 campers. They provide medical care (Camp Moja’s medical director is a 2001 Graceland alumna); daily classes of crafts, music and activities (the class organizer is a 2000 Graceland alumna); and “big event” activities each evening (the events director is a current Graceland employee).
The co-directors (2001 and 2006 Graceland graduates) as well as many of the counselors and support staff are also Graceland students, alumni and employees. This year, nearly half of more than 60 volunteers had a connection to Graceland, and that number is growing as volunteers share the impact of their experience with the people in their circles and invite them to come experience it for themselves.
After spending the majority of her professional career assisting individuals with disabilities, Graceland University Director of Retention and Student Disability Services Coordinator Nicole Briell spent her first year at Camp Moja in 2017. This year, she recruited others to get involved and isn’t done yet.
“Since coming to Graceland just a couple years ago, it has been apparent how the people of the university take the mission of celebrating and acting on the worth of all persons to heart,” shared Briell. “That mindset is paralleled at Camp Moja and by all the volunteers – especially those connected to Graceland – who not only support the idea that all people are special, but live it out through this selfless week of giving back to a population of people who not only need it – they really deserve it. With these shared values, it makes perfect sense that people with a Graceland connection make a great addition to the Camp Moja family.”
That same connection is felt by those who have even longer ties to both Graceland and Camp Moja as well.
“I came to Graceland the same way I came to Camp Moja: wanting to make a difference in the lives of others and to be a part of something wonderful,” explained Sarah Peck ’17, who is currently interning with Graceland Admissions and has been volunteering for Camp Moja since 2012. “I found that Graceland and Camp Moja not only allow these aspirations of mine to come true, but that they overlap in a way that exemplifies the values of each to be one in the same. The accepting and loving community and the worth of all persons are what I see deliberately considered in every action and every plan that goes towards both of these wonderful experiences.”
Graceland Admissions Counselor and Camp Moja Co-Director Cris Dykeman ‘01 sums up the Graceland-Moja connection. “Graceland instills altruistic ideals, and Camp Moja is one of the best opportunities to bring those to life. We all win: campers and staff, investing themselves in each other and spreading Graceland grace.”