Jewish Family Service Hosts Summer Camp for Refugee Children | Connecting Point | Aug. 5, 2019

Jewish Family Service Hosts Summer Camp for Refugee Children | Connecting Point | Aug. 5, 2019


JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE OF WESTERN
MASS IS HOSTING SUMMER CAMP FOR REFUGEE CHILDREN, ALLOWING THEM
TO EXPERIENCE FUN AND FEEL CONNECTED TO KIDS IN THEIR NEW
COMMUNITY. ONE OF THE LOCATIONS
HOSTING THE CAMP IS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER IN LONGMEADOW. SARA BEDFORD WHO RUNS THE NEW
AMERICAN PROGRAM FOR JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE JOINED US IN
STUDIO TO EXPLAIN.>>SUMMER IS TYPICALLY A REALLY
BIG PROBLEM FOR NEWCOMERS TO SPRINGFIELD, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU
HAVE A FAMILY WHO COMES, YOU KNOW, THEY RESETTLED IN MARCH
AND THEY GET THEIR IMMUNIZATIONS AND THEY ENROLLED IN SCHOOL FOR
MID-APRIL AND THEY’RE ENROLLED FOR ONE MONTH, ONE AND A HALF
MONTHS AND IT STOPS AND THEY HAVE THE PROBLEM OF SUMMER WHERE
THEY’RE JUST SITTING AND COOLING THEIR HEELS FOR 3 MONTHS NOT
LEARNING, NOT INTERACTING AND SO WE CAME TOGETHER AND REALLY
TRIED TO SOLVE PART OF THIS PROBLEM THIS SUMMER. SO IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE
JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER WE HAVE 28 REFUGEE CHILDREN WHO ARE
ATTENDING SUMMER CAMP AT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER THROUGH
FREE SPACES THAT THE JCC DONATED TO US AND THROUGH USE OF CHILD
CARE VOUCHERS FROM THE STATE. WE HAVE A COUPLE OF KIDS GOING
TO THE YMCA BUT WE REALLY WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT WAS KIDS HAD A
WAY TO ENGAGE THIS SUMMER, ENGAGE SOCIALLY, PRACTICE THEIR
ENGLISH, LEARN SOCIAL SKILLS, LEARN STRUCTURE AND SO THEY’RE
READY TO GO BACK INTO SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER. SECOND, WE HAVE AN IN-HOUSE
PROGRAM FOR REFUGEE HIGH SCHOOLERS TO MAKE SURE THAT
THEY — IT’S REALLY TO GET THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE AND S
OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY COULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AFTER HIGH
SCHOOL.>>SO WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT HAVING
THE KIDS AT CAMP ALL SUMMER, THERE HAS TO BE, YOU KNOW, SOME
LOGISTICS THAT YOU HAVE TO, WOULD OUT. THEY’RE LEARNING ENGLISH.>>YES.>>SO THE CAMP COUNSELORS ARE
ALSO FACING THAT SAME LANGUAGE BARRIER. HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO WORK THAT
OUT — I’M SURE, YOU KNOW, BOTH PARTIES ARE LEARNING AS THEY GO?>>YES, AND IT’S BEEN REALLY
SPECTACULAR THE JCC STAFF HAVE BEEN SO WELCOMING. WE HAD — WE WENT AND VISITED
THE STAFF BEFORE CAMP STARTED TO TALK ABOUT WHO REFUGEES ARE AND
WHAT ARE THE SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS OR WHAT THEY
MIGHT RUN INTO. AND THEY HAVE BEEN NOTHING BUT
ENTHUSIASTIC. I THINK THEY HAVE — I KNOW THAT
THEY HAVE OTHER KIDS AT CAMP WHO ARE ALSO LEARNING ENGLISH. YOU KNOW, THEY MAY NOT BE
REFUGEES BUT THERE ARE OTHER COMMUNITY MEMBERS BUT THE KIDS
ARE PICKING IT UP FAST. I MEAN, I HAD — I HAVE AN
11-YEAR-OLD AND A 5-YEAR-OLD PAIR THAT ARE ORIGINALLY FROM
THE CONGO AND THEY CAME JUST IN MARCH AND THE OLDER SISTER LOVES
LEARNING AND SHE LOVES BOOKS AND I GO OVER TO HER HOUSE AND SHE’S
TEACH THE YOUNGER — TEACHING THE YOUNGER ONES AND AFTER 2 OR
3 WEEKS AT THE CAMP SHE’S LIKE LISTEN TO MY YOUNGER SISTER. SHE’S SPEAKING ENGLISH. SHE’S LEARNING FROM HER FRIENDS
SO THE COMMUNICATION BARRIERS THAT THEY HAD AT THE BEGINNING
THOSE ARE MUCH, MUCH REDUCED. WE’RE WEEK 5 OUT OF AN 8-WEEK
CAMP RIGHT NOW AND IT’S BEEN TRANSFORMATIVE FOR THESE KIDS.>>AND TELL ME WHERE THE KIDS
ARE FROM. I KNOW YOU MENTIONED CONGO AS
ONE OF THEM. WHERE ARE THEY FROM.>>THE MAJORITY ARE FROM THE
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, AND WE HAVE ONE BOY FROM IRAQ. WE HAVE A FEW FROM SUDAN. WE HAVE A FEW FROM BHUTAN AND
NEPAL.>>AND WHAT IS THEIR LEVEL OF
ENGLISH WHEN THEY COME HERE.>>IT REALLY VARIES. IT REALLY VARIES. WE HAVE SEVERAL YOUTH WHO WERE
SOUTH SUDAN AND THEY WERE LIVING IN ISRAEL FOR A WHILE AND THEY
SPEAK HEBREW FLUENTLY, AND ON THE OTHER HAND WE HAVE A
4-YEAR-OLD FROM THE CONGO A CUTE LITTLE GIRL NAMED JENNY WHO
POLES TO ENGLISH. BUT SHE’S A RISING
KINDERGARTENER NEXT YEAR. YOU THINK OF HER GOING TO SCHOOL
WITH NO CAMP BEHIND HER AND JUST STARTING WITH NO ENGLISH DAY ONE
OF SCHOOL. AND THE DIFFERENCE THAT WAS 3
MONTHS ARE REALLY MAKING FOR HER IN PREPARATION FOR LEARNING AND
FOR HER SORT OF ACADEMIC CAREER.>>AND TELL US A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ‘CAUSE I HAVE TO IMAGINE THAT
THAT WOULD BE A BIG CHALLENGE ANYWAY. THAT IS A HARD AGE NO MATTER
WHERE YOU ARE. HOW ARE THEY ABLE TO ENGAGE AND
KIND OF FEEL COMFORTABLE AND YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW,
SEEING THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE OUT THERE. OPPORTUNITIES THAT I THINK, YOU
KNOW, WE MIGHT, LIKE, TAKE FOR GRANT BUT HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO
FACILITATE THAT FOR THEM?>>WE HAVE 10 HIGH SCHOOLERS
COMING TOGETHER IN JULY AND THEN A DIFFERENT 10 IN AUGUST SO
WE’RE KEEPING IT REALLY SMALL AND THESE ARE KIDS FROM ALL OVER
THE WORLD, SO FROM SUDAN, SO FROM NEPAL AND FROM EVERYWHERE,
FROM CONGO AND WE’RE REALLY GETTING OUT INTO SPRINGFIELD AND
THE SURROUNDING AREAS SO THE KIDS WENT TO PHARMACY CAMP AT
WINICK AND THEY ARE VOLUNTEERING AT THE FOOD PANTRY TO KIND OF DO
COMMUNITY SERVICE. THEY’RE GOING TO VISIT LOCAL AND
STATE GOVERNMENT SO PART OF IT IS REALLY JUST LETTING THEM GET
EXPOSED TO DIFFERENT — DIFFERENT FUTURES, DIFFERENT
CAREERS, VISITING STICK, VISITING HOLYOKE COMMUNITY
COLLEGE AND SO MUCH SEEING WHAT’S OUT THERE AND THE OTHERS
IS LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE AND LEARNING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
BECAUSE WHAT WE’VE BEEN — THE NEW AMERICAN PROGRAM YES WE DO
REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT AND YES, WE SERVE FAMILIES WHO — WHO, YOU
KNOW, NEED HEALTHCARE AND SO ON BUT WE REALLY WANT TO MAKE CITY
LEADERS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND SORT OF BUILD BRIDGES
BETWEEN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY AND THE REFUGEE COMMUNITY SO THIS
PROGRAM IS REALLY CRITICAL TO THAT ‘CAUSE THESE ARE — THESE
ARE FUTURE LEADERS, YOU KNOW, THEY’RE GOING TO GRADUATE HIGH
SCHOOL. THEY’RE GOING TO BE THE FIRST —
YOU KNOW, THE FIRST IN THEIR FAMILY TO DO MANY, MANY THINGS
AND THEIR PARENTS JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT’S OUT THERE BECAUSE
THEY’RE NOT FROM HERE AND THEY DON’T HAVE THE BACKGROUND THAT
WE DO AND SO IT’S CREATING THAT COMFORTABLE STRUCTURE. I MEAN, WE’RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO
HAVE A VOLUNTEER WHO’S RUNNING A SOCIAL IMPROV CLASS WITH THEM SO
THEY CAN LEARN COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
AND THOSE SORTS OF THINGS. SO IT’S CREATING A REALLY
DYNAMIC PROGRAM TO ROUND OUT THEIR EXPERIENCE. AND THEN WE’RE HOPING TO PAIR
THOSE YOUTH, THOSE HIGH SCHOOLERS WITH ADULT MENTORS FOR
THE NEXT SCHOOL YEAR AND SO WE’RE REALLY CARRYING FORWARD
THIS EXPERIENCE AND MAKING A TEAM OF THESE YOUTH A COHORT AND
THEN CONTINUING TO EXPOSE THEM TO NEW THINGS AND HELP THEM GET
ON TRACK FROM COLLEGE AND SO ON AND SO FORTH THROUGHOUT THE NEXT
YEAR SO THAT’S REALLY EXCITING.>>TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE
EXPERIENCES THAT WAS KIDS MIGHT HAVE HAD, YOU KNOW, IN THEIR
YOUNG LIVES, YOU KNOW, BEFORE COMING HERE.>>SURE. ALL OF THESE YOUTH — YOU KNOW,
THEIR PARENTS WERE PERSECUTED WHERE THEY WERE FROM. THEY WERE FORCED TO FLEE AND
WERE KICKED OUT OF THEIR HOMES AND OFTEN WE ONLY THINK OF THE
ADULT EXPERIENCES, YOU KNOW, WITH FLIGHT AND WITH TRAUMA OF,
YOU KNOW, OFTEN FAMILY MEMBERS BEING KILLED, OF BEING TARGETED
BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE, YOUR RACE OR YOUR — OR YOUR — IT
COULD BE SEXUAL ORIENTATION. IT COULD BE ANYTHING AND — BUT
OFTEN THOSE FAMILIES HAVE KIDS WITH THEM WHO ARE HEARING
GUNSHOTS WHO ARE FLEEING WITH THEM WHO ARE GOING FROM PLACE TO
PLACE TO PLACE AND THEY REALLY HAVEN’T HAD A SENSE OF
PERMANENCE, YOU KNOW, IN THEIR YOUNG LIVES AND SO WE’VE HAD
CADS WHO HAVE SPENT THEIR ENTIRE LIVES IN REFUGEE CAMPS, YOU
KNOW, GETTING RATIONS OF FOOD TO EAT WHERE THEIR PARENTS ARE NOT
ALLOWED TO EAT AND THEY’RE NOT ALLOWED TO GO TO UNIVERSITY AND
SO WHEN FAMILIES WHO GETS HERE YOU HAVE PARENTS WHO HAVE REALLY
HUGE EXPECTATIONS FOR THEIR KIDS, YOU KNOW, THEY’RE THE
GENERATION WHO’S GOING TO RISE UP AND LEARN ENGLISH AND GO TO
COLLEGE AND YES THE PARENTS WILL EXCEL AND PERHAPS FIND CAREERS
AND SO ON BUT THE YOUTH ARE HUNGRY REALLY FOR THOSE
EXPERIENCES REALLY THE MAJORITY OF THEM. I WAS THINKING — I WAS
REFLECTING ON THE WAY HERE ABOUT THE SUMMER CAMP AND REALLY MOST
OF THE KIDS THAT WE WORK WITH CAMP ONE OF THEY COME TO THE
UNITED STATES REALLY AS A REFUGEE CAMP, YOU KNOW, THE BLOC
BLOCK WHERE THEY LIVED ON AND THE PLACE WHERE THEY WERE
ASSIGNED BY THE UN AND THE PLACE WHERE THEY WERE ALLOWED TO STAY
IN AND WHAT CAMP AND THE REFUGEE CAMP AND THIS IS A GENERATION
WHERE WE WERE KIND OF FLIPPING JFS AND THE JCC WE’RE ABLE TO
FLIP THAT DIMENSION TO HAVE THAT NEW GENERATION AND NOT THINK OF
CAMP LIKE THE REFUGEE CAMP BUT SUMMER CAMP, YOU KNOW, THE
BOUNCY CASTLE AND — BUT ALL OF THESE KIDS ARE RESILIENT, YOU
KNOW, THEY FACED –>>THINGS WE COULDN’T EVEN
IMAGINE.>>THINGS WE COULDN’T EVEN
IMAGINE. ♪

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