This Friday, we wrapped up our first week of Summer Camp with Acción Callajera in the communities. Acción Callajera is a local NGO that has worked with CIEE for many years to provide safe spaces for the local youth. On top of that, they are dedicated to providing wraparound services for youth throughout the year who would normally go without these valuable projects. During the summer season, they host camps throughout the region – that’s where CIEE comes in.
Morning camp took place in the community of Hoyo Puchula. Located near the Cibao Stadium, this tightly-knit community is built in a large sunken space in the middle of Santiago -- which is one of the ways it got the name "hoyo". With businesses and buildings surround it, it would be easy to pass. Yet our participants were eager to descend the winding cement steps and maneuver through narrow passage ways to get to our camp space. In the afternoons, our crew traveled to the community of Navarette. There, we packed into Escuelita Barrio San Miguel” to serve the largely Haitian population of the barrio. Though both communities experience significant poverty and rely on the support of external organizations, there was no shortage of enthusiasm from the campers. These small spaces each felt like a happy oasis in the middle of the sweltering July heat.
Although we had our program orientation with CIEE, this was our first opportunity to get to know our campers – and their first chance to get to know us. And we did that in a way that makes the P.E. teacher in me happy: THROUGH PLAY. Many of the activities were call-and-response games in Spanish. Think “When I say….You do.” My personal favorite is a game called “Ohhhh Guacamole”. It got us up and screaming – or whispering – the ingredients for guacamole in a response to the movements and beats of the leader. To stretch our creative muscles, we worked in small groups to make friendship bracelets for one another with colorful beads and string. At the end of each session, each group got to shake their sillies out with a dance party!
I am so proud of my program participants for being fully engaged and fully active with the kids from the community. They opened themselves up and stretched beyond their comfort zones to make a connection with the kids in the program. As we reflected on the ride home from camp one day, one participant stated that she wanted to make sure the kids felt understood and that they felt encouraged to pursue the best life for themselves. I hope our participants feel encouraged to do the same.