Camp Hope America
For the past three years, Youth Empowerment Siskiyou has facilitated a trauma-informed summer camp program benefiting local children exposed to domestic violence, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or other forms of family trauma.
Camp is focused on creating collaborative, trauma-informed, hope-centered healing pathways for trauma-exposed youth to believe in themselves, in others and their dreams.
Camp Hope America attendees have shown significantly positive outcomes year after year.
1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence 1. Meta-analytic studies consistently find that children exposed to domestic violence are at a higher risk for emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties both in the short- and long-term. Moreover, children exposed to domestic violence experience additional stresses associated with the trauma of repeated separations, child custody battles, and isolation from extended family supports. Children exposed to domestic violence are also at a significantly higher risk for future abuse and neglect.
While the research on exposure to domestic violence continues to emerge, existing evidence suggests these children are at risk for increased anxiety and depression, social isolation, increased physical and psychological aggression, and a propensity to perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence. The higher the exposure to childhood trauma, the higher the rates of illness, disease, and criminality in adults. Given the prevalence of children exposed to domestic violence in the U.S. and the negative consequences on their future, an effective systems-level intervention is needed to provide children the opportunity to develop positive coping mechanisms that will allow them to thrive in difficult environments. One such intervention with the potential for systems-level influence is Camp HOPE America.
At Camp HOPE America, we have the opportunity to use fun-filled avenues to bring hope into the lives of our campers. Throughout the course of a week at camp, campers might participate in a variety of activities ranging from field games to rock climbing, tubing to high and low ropes courses, art projects to silly campfire songs, and cabin discussion to Character Trait Awards. By utilizing meaningful activities, we have learned how to create an environment where kids feel safe, seen, encouraged, and loved.
While it is mostly fun and games (which we love!), we also use an evidence- and values-based curriculum that teaches campers to believe in themselves, in others, and in their dreams. During cabin small group time, campers are learning about various figures (either historical or present-day) that have overcome adversity and exhibited positive character traits. Campers are challenged to see self-application and are led in a cabin discussion with peers based around a statement of empowerment like “I am becoming my best self.” This time creates a sweet bond within each cabin and also ensures a safe place to process past experiences and dream about a brighter future. The day always ends with a campfire where campers and counselors sing silly songs, discuss the story and statement of the day, answer the question “Where did you see hope today?,” receive Character Trait Awards, and sing camp fire songs.