This summer, about 60 children will get the chance to participate in archery, canoeing, rock climbing, snorkeling, and much more.
Many of them will be doing these activities for the very first time in their lives.
They’ll be at the YMCA’s Camp Hi-Rock in the Massachusetts Berkshires, through Camp Hope America Connecticut, a three-year-old camping and mentoring program for youth impacted by trauma including domestic and sexual violence, and child abuse and neglect.
The camp, which runs for two weeks, is free for the campers. It’s sponsored by the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, which pays $1,000 for each camper.
“We get referrals through the center as well as through our community partners,” said Sasha Collins, Camp Hope America Connecticut coordinator and youth trauma specialist at the Center for Family Justice.
The Darien Domestic Abuse Council, which works to promote the education, awareness, and prevention of domestic abuse, is helping to coordinate a supply drive for the campers. The drive runs through July 1.
Items that the campers will need, which are listed below, may be taken to Bankwell in Darien, at 1065 Post Road. All items must be new.
Monetary donations may be made to the Darien Domestic Abuse Council at 32 Sedgwick Avenue.
“Improving childrens’ lives”
The Center for Family Justice launched Camp Hope America Connecticut in 2017.
According to Collins, the camp helps to improve childrens’ lives in many ways, such as providing emotional support and encouragement, increasing hope and sense of belonging, and lowering levels of depression and anxiety.
She added that the camp also encourages children to develop life goals and interpersonal relationships, decreases their chances of having behavioral problems and experiencing psychological stress, and increases their chances of higher school achievement success in the areas of attendance, grades, graduation rates, and college entrance rates.
In addition, the camp promotes creative thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills, team work, mutual support, reasoning, group trust, and goal setting, Bailey said.
Additional activities children can take part in at Camp Hope America Connecticut include digital photography, drama, fishing, Frisbee and geocaching, as well as hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and paddle boarding.
Darien Domestic Abuse Council
Rita Bailey, executive director of the Darien Domestic Abuse Council, Inc., is helping to coordinate the supply drive.
“The Darien Domestic Abuse Council is comprised of local volunteers committed to promoting the education, awareness and prevention of domestic abuse in the community of Darien,” Bailey said.
The DDAC offers training through the Center for Family Justice concerning domestic violence, teen dating violence, and elder abuse.
“We work closely with the Center for Family Justice as they provide us with trainings, recertifications, and other learning opportunities,” Bailey said.
The DDAC refers people to agencies that can best provide their needs.
“Our mission is to bring awareness and education pieces to Darien,” Bailey said.
“We work with the Depot and have created a youth group called RespectWorks. We train them about teen dating violence and they bring information to their classmates at Darien High,” she said.
In addition, the DDAC works with the Darien Department of Human Services, Children & Family Services, the Darien Health Department, the YWCA of Greenwich, and the Rowan Center in Stamford.
“Some of the children who go to Camp Hope have never seen a lake, been in a pool, or been in the woods,” Bailey said.
According to Bailey, many of them have no place to go to get away from an abusive situation. Through the camping experience, “they bond with other kids and learn they are not alone,” she said.
There are therapists on hand at the camp, “trauma-informed intervention specialists, as well as counselors,” she said.
“Camp Hope America Connecticut is all about instilling hope in children and bringing them to a place where they have opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Bailey added.
Camp Hope America Connecticut Wish List