Ask Kim 2 – Off to Camp: Beyond Belief in the Woods

by | August 3, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Kim Newton, M.Litt. is the Executive Director of Camp Quest Inc. (National Support Center). We will learn some more about Camp Quest in an educational series.

Here we talk about successes of Camp Quest, and kids’ outings outside of a faith framework, and more.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: As Camp Quest was founded in 1996, its profile has existed long enough and succeeded sufficiently enough to garner some international notoriety. I heard from a South African secular group the possibility of working to found a Camp Quest in South Africa. What have been the important points of success for Camp Quest?

Kim Newton: We are so fortunate that through our camps and wider network of supporters that Camp Quest has inspired new camps in other countries including the UK, Switzerland, and Norway. The South African Secular Society is doing amazing work of organizing secular people in various provinces there, raising awareness about non-religious identities. We’re very supportive of their effort to offer secular family programs. They’d like to be able to offer a camp, and we’re working to provide some guidance for them in that process. One of the greatest things we can do is to continue to support secular education opportunities across the globe, and to be a resource for groups that could learn from our experience of starting and running camps. Important points of success for us have been times when our leaders have come together to decide that we are going to be a community based in values of respect, camaraderie, and generosity, particularly when supporting new camps and programs. We’re at our best when we help others; this is what kids learn at camp, and what we practice as an organization, too.

Jacobsen: How has Camp Quest developed into an international alternative to some of the faith-based youth activities? 

Newton: What’s great about Camp Quest is that we offer more than just an alternative to religious programs. Campers engage in a positive, nurturing camp that blends humanist values and ethics with traditional outdoor activities and fun — that’s something all kids can enjoy. 

I think the tradition of summer camp that has developed in our US culture over the last century is particularly special. Though children in other countries will participate in extracurricular activities on school holidays, other countries don’t necessarily share the same camp tradition that has become so prevalent in the US. For example, my husband is from the United Kingdom, and he did not go to camp as a child; he shared it was somewhat unusual for children to attend sleep-away camp when he was growing up. 

People across the globe have found us, thanks in part to the internet and to the outreach we’ve done with the wider secular community. Increase in international travel and the availability of summer jobs in the US for international students has helped those in other countries to experience American-style summer camp programs and to take those experiences home. I think we’re going to start seeing a rise in secular camps in other countries, and I’m proud that Camp Quest has helped to inspire that growth. 

Jacobsen: How can organizations get in contact with and begin to found their own Camp Quest in their locale?

Newton: Organizations that would like to learn more about Camp Quest can contact us by email at or call our National Support Center at 540-324-9088. We’re always happy to talk to groups that would like to support both existing camps and new programs. Right now we’re working to complete a feasibility study for new program expansion. We’re excited about what the future holds as more groups, both domestic and international, begin to build secular youth programs. 

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Kim.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Nicolas Moscarda on Unsplash

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