Summer is in full swing, and for G.O.D. International, this means that over 600 youth will come and go from our facility over the course of the next three months. Kick-starting our youth programs this summer is Camp Skillz, a two-week camp targeting disadvantaged youth.
Camp Skillz was birthed in summer 2012 and facilitated by participants on the SLAM Summer Internship, a seven-week program that challenges college-aged students to spend their summer in service and study of the Bible both stateside and abroad. Two of the seven weeks are spent facilitating this camp in Nashville. For nine interns this summer, their challenge is not just to build relationships with each other, but to work as a team to facilitate a camp that will impact the lives of youth that come from very troubled homes. Camp Skillz 2012 was a tremendous success, and many children have returned to camp this year. The first day of Camp Skillz 2013 was attended by nearly sixty kids, doubling the numbers from last year.
Campers are bused in daily from four different locations in Nashville. Attendees consist primarily of refugee children who often lack English speaking skills, and low-income youth from government housing in downtown Nashville. Neighborhood children from Hopewell are also invited to attend. The camp operates entirely outdoors, a challenge for youth who are primarily sedentary and accustomed to filling their days with television and video games. The detailed and busy schedule maintained by Camp Skillz requires creativity on the part of SLAM interns to produce activities that are engaging and educational. Like many of our programs, Camp Skillz depends heavily on volunteers, who readily give of their time, energy and resources to invest into children who may not otherwise be given the opportunity to attend a summer camp.
Camp Skillz teaches children that character is the best skill a person can possess, and teaches daily lessons through catchy phrases like “be humble, don’t grumble,” “it’s rude to not include,” and “don’t quit, commit.” Campers enjoyed a variety of daily activities from art projects to soccer games, drama and dance to gardening. It is a great opportunity for inner-city kids to be challenged to do things they aren’t used to doing, and to learn about cooperation with other kids while they do it.
Camp counselor and intern Stefanie Price has been impacted by the needs presented in the youth that come to camp. When she asked a camper to write a description of a picture he drew, he refused. “I asked him why not and he just looked at me and said ‘I can’t spell.’ He’s nine.” Though moments like these are sobering, Price is also encouraged by the positive impact that Camp Skillz has had on the youth attending. “We had one camper really struggle this week, but every day, he came back. He says he wants to be a counselor at Camp Skillz someday. He loves it here. This has become a safe place for him.”