Who Put the TUKU in Camp Tuku and What’s it Mean?

One of the most common questions our summer campers ask during their time at Camp Tuku is: “How did Camp Tuku get its name?” Or, as we like to say, quite enthusiastically:  Who put the TUKU in Camp Tuku!

The question that kids almost always ask next is this:  Why is the Camp Tuku mascot a toucan?

And so we share with our campers–and here with you–the Camp Tuku story….

How Camp Tuku Got Its Name

When contemplating the name of the summer camp that would manifest from her lifelong dream, camp founder Sincia Liu felt a bit perplexed. She understood that names hold meaning and, as a representation of the camp organization, the name would convey the energy and values of the camp experience. To Sincia, the summer camp name was incredibly important. 

To help her gain clarity on what to name the camp, Sincia took the question into her daily mindfulness meditation practice. While meditating, she kept hearing the sound “too koo” or maybe it was “tu ku”? 

After the meditation session, Sincia explored the meaning behind the “tu ku” sound… 

What’s in a Name?

tu-ku sounded like TULKU, which comes from the Tibetan spiritual tradition and means “enlightened one.” TULKU also refers to students who, from a young age, are trained to teach and to guide others in a compassionate and mindful way to help them become their best self. (Dalai Lama is a tulku). 

The underlying meaning of the word TULKU aligned with the primary intentions of camp:  

  • To help campers become more self-aware and in touch with their own inner world 
  • To foster mindful appreciation and respect of others
  • To possess skills that can help campers become more resilient, more effective in their interactions with other, and better able to manage challenges they will encounter in life

Choosing the Toucan to Represent Camp Tuku

Tu-ku, which Sincia began writing as Tuku brought to mind the image of the exotic bird, the toucan. The camp Leadership Team, collectively–and excitedly–realized that the natural alliteration and playfulness of “Tuku the Toucan” was just what they were looking for in the camp name. But there’s a lot more to the toucan than just a pretty beak!

Toucan Symbolism

Sure we all find the toucan striking for its famously colorful, large beak. A sacred bird of South America, the toucan is also symbolic of:

  • Curiosity: Toucan loves to inspect & interact with people and things in its environment Communication: Toucans create vibrant vocalizations and songs
  • Connectedness: Toucans maintain close-knit & cooperative families
  • Creativity:  Toucan are a bit theatrical and love to entertain
  • Self-confidence, Self-esteem:  Toucan is known to sing loudly and proudly
  • Self-Compassion:  Toucans remind us that we are all unique and “each of us is okay, just as we are.” Toucan encourages us to be kind and true to ourselves.

These characteristics, along with the toucan’s bright colors and adventurous spirit align with Camp Tuku’s core tenets, such as compassion for self and others, curiosity, respect for differences/diversity, inclusiveness, open-mindedness, empathy, collaboration, generous spirit, and to hold positive intentions.

Your Kid Will Love Camp Tuku!

If Camp Tuku sounds like the type of summer camp experience you’ve been seeking for your child …

Learn more about our New York summer camp 

Learn more about our Arizona summer camp for kids


Discover what a day at Camp Tuku can be like for your child!

Day 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUBVH8aHRKk

Day 3 :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lCsxzhfe3c