This summer, I was able to volunteer for an amazing non-profit organization called Camp Nefesh in Sacramento for my third year in the row. The organization runs a free summer camp for refugee children and survivors of human trafficking resettling in Sacramento, California. Due to COVID-19, we had to transition our camp online through Zoom and I was truly saddened that we couldn’t see the children in person. Most of our children came from Afghanistan on SIV (Special Immigrant Visas) where their father served as a translator for the United States government.
During our planning season, we were able to give each camper a basic supplies kit, fun activities (a mini basketball hoop and ball). We were able to deliver iPads to every family who was in need of an electronic device. All the counselors wanted to try to make an environment where we could have fun and also a safe space for the children to tell their stories. To do so, we each went through training to learn more about immigration and how to deal with people who experience trauma (physical, psychological, and sexual abuse).
During the month of July, we met with our campers and taught them about the different American culture and our different holidays, played silly games with them, did virtual tours, and led arts & crafts activities. As a head counselor of a team, I was able to lead others and create one-on-one connections with the campers through bonding activities and games. The main way to connect with the campers is by treating them with respect and showing them what it looks like to have fun. Even though it wasn’t the same as before, we were still able to give those children a small glimpse of happiness every day and be a place where they could just be a kid.
Being online was different than I expected, but God made a way for those children to have new toys, an iPad, school supplies, a way to have fun within the confines of their homes. God provided an environment where both the counselors and campers were able to benefit. Knowing the experiences of our campers and seeing the smile on their faces during camp gave me so much joy and hope for the new generations to come. Due to the donors, counselors, adult volunteers, we were able to make Camp Nefesh at Home available to 250 children this year. If you ever have the chance to volunteer in this capacity, don’t do it for selfish reasons. Do it because you care about the issues and want to seek change.
Call to Action:
- Learn more about the immigration and refugee process in the USA and listen to the experiences of survivors of human trafficking.
- Serve on a non-profit board and/or volunteer committee because your voice matters and our generation can make a change.
- Donate to charities and non-profit organizations.
- Take initiative! If you feel like your community is missing something, create an origination or club that will benefit others. Camp Nefesh was founded in 2018 by a teen and is currently led by teens and young adults.