Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Camp

Sometime last summer I realized that my daughters, then aged 8, had grown legs long enough to carry them out of reach.

This year, the girls will travel farther still, attending their first "away camp," a full three weeks in the woods in a neighboring state.  It's an experience that will change them, as no doubt my own childhood summer camps changed me. 

I think I know now what my parents must have felt as they packed and labeled my clothes, cans of bug spray, shower clogs, & etc.: a strange mix of pride and panic.

You don't turn back from here.  You move forward, reuniting later with two kids who have, in your absence, become more their own properties than ever.  In a sense, it may be a second gift of life to your children.

But for many kids and parents, such a gift is impossible.  I heard today from a representative of the nonprofit group The Fresh Air Fund, which has (since 1877) provided opportunities for underprivileged kids in New York City to experience a few weeks of summer outdoors through a family hosting program.  According to their website:
The majority of Fresh Air children (boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City) are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes....A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.
Those of us at Querencia who gaze daily at summer sheep pastures or the cold vistas of Mongolia may forget that our own suburban backyards are exotic locales to many inner-city kids. 

For some, my little kitchen garden may be as close to living on a farm as they get.  Imagine a chance to walk in a stream or spend a weekend camping if all you've ever known are asphalt, steel and auto exhaust.

For our readers in New York and the greater Northeast, I would encourage you to look up the Fresh Air Fund and to lend your support.


Anonymous said...

Steve's sister air kids is a great thing. We have been bringing our boys up with the outdoor mentality living within the "city" environment. We spent many a day doing the kids version of the geo-caching through the local library network. Now my boys are almost 14 and 11 and are avid mountain cyclist and one is a CIT(councelor in training) for the Weymouth Rec./Esker Park helping teach fishing and biking. They also belong to the Fore River Young Marinesand spent countless hours outside learning navigation techniques an survuval in campgrounds or on Military bases and on the now docked USS Salem as a "playground"!. This also comes with hours of community service attached. We also log in many hours of bird watching and recycling amoungst my many hours of "making" then produce art! They hopefuuly will appreciate the world around them on their own asfter they leave the nest.

Peculiar said...

Some of the best river trips I've had have been with urban "Youth at Risk" kids. As you say, it's easy to take our lifestyles for granted. And though they often have some funny ways of expressing it, I've found them much more appreciative and exuberant about the canyons than our usual jaded, seen-it-all Sierra Club types.

Matt Mullenix said...

Jaded is a terrible state for a kid. Not too good for grown-ups, either.