By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — Chocolate makes a lot of stops along the way to becoming that candy bar in the store.
"It’s really labor intensive when you think of every step," chocolate educator Savina Darzes said. "Everything has to be done by hand because it’s a delicate plant. It’s an amazing journey."
Darzes, owner of locally based Chocolate Tasting and More, presented cacao pods, beans and products during the Human Rights Education Institute's third annual multicultural summer camp on Monday.
"When I heard they were doing a cultural camp, I just thought that was such a wonderful opportunity for the local kids,” she said. "When I heard they were focusing one day on Latin America, chocolate popped into my mind because that’s the birthplace."
A longtime student of the semi-sweet science, Darzes said cacao — from which chocolate is made — has many intriguing aspects.
"From the tree to your taste buds, the different cultures of the countries around the cacao equatorial belt to the human history element and the science — they’re learning something about it all the time," she said. "It’s been keeping me busy."
The Latin American chocolate station was one activity that engaged young minds during the first day of the camp, which will feature a different culture every day this week. Today's camp will focus on European culture. Wednesday is North American and American Indian day. Thursday will highlight India and Asia, and Friday will be dedicated to the culture of the Pacific Islands.
The camp gives kids ages 6 to 11 opportunities to explore different cultures through games, arts, crafts, music, language and food while learning from locals with cultural experiences to share.
"I think it’s really cool. I don’t really get to do this all the time,” said Reign Kaylor, 8, of Coeur d'Alene, as she worked on a painting project. "I enjoy mainly that I’m learning things about other cultures like the different ways that they can talk."
Reign's mom, Arika McGovern, said she brought her daughter to the multicultural camp to feed her craving for knowledge.
"I thought it was really cool for my child to get to learn about all these different countries," McGovern said.
"She loves to learn about different cultures. For instance, we just went and saw 'Aladdin.' She thought that was very cool and she was asking about, ‘Mom, where was that? Where was this taking place?' Kids this age are little sponges: Their brains are just absorbing everything," she said. "She’s been so excited about this."
Artist Christina Oss LaBang, who spent many years living by Lake Titicaca in Peru, volunteered at the painting station, where she taught kids about Peruvian symbols. The hummingbird, for instance, represents love; the llama represents service.
“We’re tying in the idea of symbols as meaning something,” she said. "It's a big concept."
Human Rights Education Institute executive director Jeanette Laster said the nonprofit's philosophy is to open people to diversity.
"Education is also a key to stomping out hatred,” Laster said. “By educating the young students that we all have differences and we’re all unique but we can all come together and be part of one world, that helps alleviate bullying in school and hate actions and those kinds of things.
“I really hope the students gain an awareness not only of the amazing things that are in other people’s cultures and learn respect for people who may not look the same as them, but also gain some interest in global issues."
Multicultural camp continues from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Friday at 414 W. Fort Grounds Drive, Coeur d'Alene. Admission is $5 per day or $20 for the week. Scholarships are available.
The HREI Youth Advocates for Human Rights Camp will be July 29 to Aug. 2 for ages 11 to 14.
Info: www.hrei.org or 208-292-2359