Prairie Bridge International is an educational non-profit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, focused on helping Chinese nationals operate youth camps in China. In order to accomplish its mission, in 2014 Prairie Bridge International opened a subsidiary in Tianjin, China, called “Tianjin Prairie Bridge Educational Information Consulting Company, Limited”.
Prairie Bridge International traces its roots to 1912 when the Scandinavian Young people’s Society started a youth camp at Buffalo Lake, Minnesota. In 1957, Buffalo Lake Camp sold its property on Buffalo Lake, purchased property on Lake Shamineau near Motley, Minnesota, and changed its name to Camp Shamineau. In 1993, Camp Shamineau started an English camp in Austria. In subsequent years, Shamineau expanded its operations to Poland, Brazil and other countries around world. Currently, Shamineau owns three other camp locations in the United States in addition to the camps it operates internationally.
In 2003, Shamineau International founded Shamineau East Camp in Inner Mongolia. American architects built an American style main lodge complete with dormitories, cafeteria, conference rooms, recreation rooms, kitchen, and cafeteria on the beautiful grassland of HulunBeier in Inner Mongolia. Surrounding the American lodge were Mongolian Yurts, cabins, archery range, horse and camel riding corral, a river for rafting, and a hill for winter downhill sports such as sledding.
In 2014, Shamineau East sold the camp in Inner Mongolia and transferred the proceeds to Prairie Bridge for use helping Chinese nationals start camps throughout China. In 2015, Prairie Bridge assisted Chinese nationals who were starting camps in Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Shanxi, Hainan, Sichuan, Hubei, and Shandong provinces, and in Tianjin. Although Prairie Bridge is legally separate from Shamineau in Minnesota, the two organizations work closely together.
Prairie Bridge encourages its Chinese partners to use ethnic food, costumes, music, and dance to highlight different cultures. Often the focus of attention changes throughout the week from one culture to another, for example from Chinese culture to Mongolian culture or other cultures from within and outside China.
Because of the emphasis in the Chinese educational system on learning English, Prairie Bridge provides local children and adults plenty of opportunity to practice oral English by actively recruiting American tourists to attend camps in China and volunteer their time to mingle with Chinese young people. Local children and adults are then encouraged to interact in English with each other and with native English speaking volunteers during camp programs and activities.
Depending on location and climate, summer camp activities include horseback riding, camel riding, cross-country mountain biking, rafting hiking, orienteering, bonfire, singing, making handcrafts, watching English language cultural movies, playing football, baseball, and basketball, and playing games such as ping pong and carpet ball.
Also depending on location and weather, winter camp activities include tubing, cross-country skiing, skating, hiking, camel and horse sleighing, bonfire, singing, making handcrafts, watching English language cultural movies, and playing indoor games such as ping pong and carpet ball. Winter camps in the south of China such as Hainan often include an abundance of beach activities.