Dear LPC family and friends,
Sixty-eight years ago Natalie Peterson and Pavey Hoke were planning their first summer camp. World War II had recently ended, and struck by the effect that the war had had on people, Natalie and Pavey came up with a plan to bring together young people from different countries: a summer camp designed to build trust and international understanding. The plan was to provide a safe environment for children to get to know each other, respect and appreciate each other’s cultures and backgrounds, and learn to work and play together in different settings.
And so it began.
Fast forward to 2017
Countries and communities we LPCers live in are experiencing the effects of violence and war happening in other lands. Europe is experiencing the arrival of refugees in large numbers; both fear and compassion are showing their faces amongst the people and leaders of the receiving countries.
During the past two Christmas Conferences, there has been recognition of the turmoil the refugees are facing as well as the ugliness that has been displayed by many in the countries that are hosting them. In conference circles and during table talk we have discussed the parallel to LPC’s original mission and the need for improved international understanding.
As you may have heard, Luethi Peterson Camps is organizing an LPC Project Camp for Refugees for the summer of 2017. As a matter of fact, it will begin on the same day as the first LPC camp, August 1st !
We feel a project that introduces refugee children and experienced LPC-ers to each other in a camp setting will further support LPC’s mission and the original intentions of Natalie Luethi Peterson, and seems especially relevant in light of the current events in the world.
We are planning to invite 8 refugees and 8 experienced LPC campers. Our goal is to have all participants benefit from this project. For the refugee children we are providing a safe and friendly place and an opportunity to interact with other children in a positive way. For experienced LPCers we are providing an opportunity to get to know the child behind the label refugee or asylum seeker and to develop a better understanding of their situation. As with our more traditional camps, we are hoping that all participants will take home the values, of compassion and understanding, and carry these values back to their own community, perhaps in leadership roles.
The project camp will be 12 days (August 1 – August 12) in the country house Rosalupi in the northern part of Tuscany. Besides special focus activities it will include activities of a traditional LPC camp with singing, dancing, cultural exchange, language, daily sharing of chores, games, crafts, nature walks, etc.
The project is being organized and implemented by a group of directors, Andrea Place (high school teacher), Michiel Blumenthal (artist and working for various small cultural organizations), Mark Jordans (psychologist working with War Child non-profit), Katia Verreault (dance therapist and also working with Refugee Company in the Netherlands) and Micky Meme (anthropologist, ethnoclinic mediator working for Centro Studi Sagara with migrants). In addition, we will have at least one Arabic speaker (Yara Said, a Syrian national who is currently living in the Netherlands, has already agreed to be part of this project).
Natalie Lüthi-Peterson, the founder of LPC, died November 23, 2012, in Goldern, the place that she loved, with the family and friends that she loved. By now, Natalie’s life story is familiar to most of us, whether we knew her personally or not. How as an idealistic college student on her junior year abroad she came up with a plan (together with college friend Pavey Lupton) to help heal the wounds of World War II by starting an international summer camp. How she met and married Armin Lüthi and began teaching at the Ecole d’Humanité in Switzerland, eventually to co-direct the school with Armin. How she raised four of her own kids (Piet, Chris, Molly and Doey) and countless others at the Ecole. How she started a rich and wonderful tradition of Shakespeare, challenged traditional gender roles with men’s and women’s groups, taught hundreds of seniors the art of effective writing, and all the while nurturing LPC and running camps herself every summer until the 1980s. In 1949 when LPC began, there was still a strong edict that women who worked outside the home could never have happy family lives! Natalie did it all.
When we think of Natalie, we think of her animated demonstration of Prospero to a budding Shakespearean, her slapping her leg with enthusiasm at a new idea in an LPC conference, her war on the slugs in her garden, her finding the humor in a tense situation. We think of her talking with exasperation of a difficult colleague and how that would immediately be followed with, “but he’s so terrific at such and such!” We think of her listening intently to visitor after visitor and her interest in hearing of their lives, their children, their parents.
If it is impossible to imagine LPC without Natalie, it is because LPC is an organization that embodies all the character traits that made up Natalie herself. If you read through the hundreds of Facebook comments that are now pouring in from former and current LPCers, you will see repeatedly, “Natalie believed in me and made me feel like I could do things I hadn’t thought I could.” “She trusted us, and so we rose to the occasion.” As a true educator, Natalie believed in learning by experience. But just as importantly, she never thought there was just one way to get something done. Whether it was lack of ego, a rare open-mindedness, or something she was not even conscious of, these are extraordinary qualities with long range consequences. And they have become embodied in LPC. LPC as an organization allows campers and counselors the space to try leading a new activity, or to sing a solo, or hike up a mountain. Camp assemblies create the opportunity for addressing problems for which there may be many solutions. Counselors are entrusted by directors with huge responsibilities. LPC is, in fact, Natalie.
A number of years ago, LPC’s Christmas Conference of directors began to worry how the organization would continue without Natalie’s leadership. Natalie herself was unconcerned (“You’ll figure it out!”) but was probably also relieved at the forming of the LPC Ex-Com, a rotating trio of directors which for years now has served as LPC’s final authority when the Christmas Conference is not in session. (It should be noted here that we decided it would take three directors to replace Natalie!)
In the coming months, LPC directors and the Lüthi family will suggest a way that Natalie’s memory can best be honored, and those who want to will have a chance to contribute or help. Natalie was never comfortable with the outpouring of gratitude expressed by parents and kids who loved LPC. She seemed amazed each and every time someone told her how much LPC had meant to them. But this remarkable woman made an extraordinary contribution. Maybe she would have allowed us all to say one last time, Thank you, Natalie. You changed our lives.
– Gigi Wizowaty
Armin Lüthi , Natalie Lüthi-Peterson’s husband of 59 years, died of cancer September 10th at his home in the Ecole d’Humanité. With him were his four children, Doey, Molly, Chris and Piet.
There are so many ways to remember Armin. Although music was his first passion, he was, first and foremost, an educator. He taught math but he saw teaching opportunities everywhere. There are scores of Ecole students who remain convinced that Armin loved to peel potatoes. Every morning he would peel the Lüthi family’s allotment of potatoes with great enthusiasm (and speed). Potato by potato he proved to students that work could be fun, that menial tasks were beneath no-one, and the value of everyone working together.
What Armin explicitly did NOT want his legacy to be was that of a wise man, which he felt was not at all an accurate reflection. The wise man image may be tough to erase. For one thing, many of his friends, family and former students have a favorite Armin quote that could be construed as wisdom. My favorite is, “There is no bad food. There is only insufficient garlic!” (He once told me he had never said half the things people said he did!)
Rather than providing answers, Armin asked questions. He defined his own role, both in the Ecole and in LPC as that of “Palace Fool” (his term.) By this he meant that he was simply the one holding up the mirror so that truth would be reflected back. At LPC meetings, he would listen to campers and counselors talk glowingly about their wonderful camp experiences, and then he would ask, “But what was terrible in your camp?” Because only in thinking about what had not gone well, could LPC continue to improve. When directors at the Christmas Conference would report how much fun the kids had had, Armin asked, “Is that enough? Is LPC just a place for children to have fun?” He wasn’t being critical – like Natalie, he often marveled at the impact of LPC on campers’ lives. He felt it was his job to get us to continue to think about the whys and the hows, so that we would keep trying to do better.
When we remember Armin we will remember his violin and his years and years of leading singing. He loved to sing himself and spent several summers singing with the Europa Cantat, but what we will always cherish is the music he shared with us. When we sang well he was satisfied. When we sounded terrible, he had us try again the next day. He was a demanding taskmaster but one with great humor. His facial expressions alone could convulse students. And he inspired us to make music a bigger part of our lives.
Armin and Natalie were a team, working together on their own family, on LPC and on the Ecole all of their lives. That they could do all three at the same time with such fantastic results is a formidable life’s achievement. The stories of the challenges they faced, the people they worked with and the educational methods they pioneered could fill several volumes. For those who have been lucky enough to know both of them, they filled our hearts.
– Gigi Wizowaty