Spring is in the Air: But Summer Camps Are Approaching Fast
It’s only April and flowers are just beginning to bloom and the first of the year’s leaves are appearing in the trees.
And it won’t be long before summer’s here, schools out and millions of American children will be spending carefree days playing in their yards, swimming in pools, going on family vacations and going to summer camp.
But for thousands of children in places such as War, West Virginia, Beattyville, Kentucky, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Cleveland and Gainesville, Georgia, the days are anything but carefree.
When school is out, these children aren’t guaranteed a nutritious breakfast and lunch like they get at school – they’re lucky if there’s some peanut butter, jelly and a loaf of bread in the house. The days can be filled with hunger and boredom.
But in these communities, thanks to supporters of Americans Helping Americans® there will hundreds of children who will be able to spend a week at a summer camp where they be sure of getting nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day, participate in some educational activities so they don’t forget in the summer what they learned in school – but, perhaps most importantly – simply have fun being a kid with, for a time at least, without a worry in the world.
Appalachian Outreach Kids Club
In Jefferson City, Appalachian Outreach (AO) has been able to provide a summer camp for children at the Cherokee Housing Authority where they attend a four-day-per-week summer camp where volunteers provide them with a safe environment and structured activities.
AO Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam says that as a result of funding received from Americans Helping Americans® they are able to provide a summer camp for the children in the low-income public housing project, as well as those living in Samaritan House, a shelter for homeless single women and families which serves an average of 55 families each year, totaling about 115 individuals.
Said one Kids Club volunteer, who had been doing Kids Club this summer with AO last summer, “Our last day was last week and it was a bittersweet time. I enjoyed building relationships with the kids and my coworkers.
“The kids enjoyed the summer and learned a lot. I hope I have the opportunity to do this again next summer. Thank you.”
Caring Hands Ministries
In Cleveland, Caring Hands Ministries was able to send some children in foster care to Camp Appalachia that transformed the life of one little girl – she made friends.
Prior to entering foster care, her mother would never let her go out and play.
“I always had to come in and take care of her children, clean the house, try to make supper – and get yelled at,” she says. “I was not allowed to talk to kids at school ‘cause she said I’d tell the stuff.
“Then I’d get in trouble and got detention because I didn’t talk and couldn’t do my homework if it asked about your family,” she added.
Her foster mother noted that the girl suffered physical abuse at home as well.
But being able to attend Camp Appalachia transformed this girl’s life.
“I never had a friend before,” she says.
Her foster mother says that the girl not only had fun at camp but the change has been lasting in that she is more open to talk to her and her social worker since talking to her new friends she made at camp and to the Caring Hands program director.
“She has continued at least one friendship with a girl from camp into the school year,” reported Caring Hands Executive Director Ann Fleming.
In Gainesville, a 12-year-old boy was given the choice in juvenile court – juvenile detention or L.A.M.P. Ministries. The boy chose L.A.M.P. Ministries which was able to send him to camp.
“He needed the positive influence, the chance to learn new ways of living, make new friends who were not on the fringes of a gang, have good food, learn teamwork and cooperation and change the way he saw himself,” reported L.A.M.P. Ministries Executive Director Mary Mauricio.
Mary explained that the boy lives with his grandmother who “wants to do right by her grandchildren” but to support them she leaves home to be at work at a chicken plant at 6 a.m., then cleans stores after work so she is not with them much.
“The area in which they live has a lot of bullying, a lot of gang activity and gang ‘wanna-be’s’,” she said “His friend dared him to steal some CDs to prove he could be tough, or otherwise he would get beaten up.
“He did it, and got caught.”
The boy skipped school a lot last year, but since attending camp his attendance is good. He has also joined L.A.M.P. Ministries’ youth program where he has developed a much better attitude. In addition, he has become very concerned and protective about his younger sister.
“He wants her to avoid the problems he has given himself,” Mary said. “He recognizes that it was his choices, not something he had to do, and that is a very big realization.”
“He has not been in trouble again,” Mary added.