Pinckney Group Summer Camp Program impacts lives at Seven Farms Apartments
The sea sparkled below. Sailboats drifted by like earth-bound clouds, and sea birds winged overhead in a blazing blue sky. It looked like a beautiful day by the ocean, but the only sound anyone could hear was a high-pitched shriek.
It was coming from a young girl who clung to the railing as if someone intended to throw her overboard and into the harbor below. She was yelling, again and again, “I’m scaaaaaared!”
She and her friends were standing aboard a historical military ship, the USS Yorktown, permanently docked at Patriot’s Point in Charleston. Her friends tried to explain to her that she couldn’t possibly fall off, but she was in no mood to listen to logic. You see, it was her first time ever being on a boat. Finally, another girl in the group coaxed her away from the railing and they went off to find another activity somewhere in the bowels of the enormous ship, one that didn’t involve heights or peering down at the tossing ocean waves.
Every year, warm weather rolls in and children are released from class. However, for most working parents, summer doesn’t come with a vacation. For parents who live below the median income in their area, as is the case for all of the Seven Farms Apartment residents, finding childcare and activities for their children during the summer months can be a struggle on top of managing rent, food, bills, work and home life. We, at the Humanities Foundation (HF), wanted to provide assistance for parents and enrichment for the youth living in our communities, and so the idea of a summer camp was born.
Thanks to the generosity of the Daniel Island Community Fund, as well as several local volunteers and businesses, Humanities Foundation was able to host the Pinckney Group Summer Program’s fourth annual camp at Seven Farms Apartments.
The 28 children in attendance participated in three weeks full of sports, educational activities, field trips, art projects, technology workshops, nature walks and so much more.
“The leaders at Humanities Foundation formally requested this project in response to the nine lives that were so senselessly taken on June 17, 2015 at the Mother Emanuel AME Church,” said Lamar Mowatt, Director of Resident Services at Humanities Foundation, “Our goal is to link economically disadvantaged, at-risk children to positive role models and leaders. We want to encourage our youth to become a positive asset to their community in which they live. Knowing of Senator Clementa Pinckney’s dedication to the youth, the goal is that this type of programing will honor his life and the lives of the other eight victims involved in the tragedy.”
The goal was to organize a camp that was as diverse as the children who would attend it. Humanities Foundation wanted to provide the children with a chance to explore and discover what they like as well as what they don’t, to be curious, to spend time with caring teachers, to learn to share space with other children, to appreciate each other’s commonalities as well as each other’s differences.
“Humanities Foundation wanted to create a space where children, many of whom might not be able to attend such a camp otherwise, could learn skills and receive the support that can help them grow into healthy, successful adults. We also enjoy building relationships with residents within our communities,” said Tracy Doran, President of Humanities Foundation.
Program activities brought out the true colors of many campers. Some were proud to receive a library card from the bookmobile, pulling books off the shelf to show their ability to read to friends. Others owned the field during soccer at the MUSC Health Stadium, home of the Charleston Battery. They displayed the tie-dye art they had made to their parents or grandparents. Many of them were jealous of the campers who managed to touch a stingray at the Charleston Aquarium, reaching their own hands into the tank in hopes of petting one of those graceful and surprisingly smooth creatures. Some showed how adept they were at problem solving when the team from SPAWAR presented them with a small robotic helicopter and asked them to figure out the best way to attach a camera. A couple campers even bowled better than the counselors on the trip to the bowling alley!
There were many milestones in which the children overcame personal hurdles: when a girl who barely spoke to anyone, constantly drawing quietly in her notebook, got up to sing a Mariah Carey song during karaoke, or a little boy who always denied doing anything wrong (even when caught red-handed causing mischief) went up to a little girl he had pushed and apologized, then asked if she wanted a hug without being told by one of the counselors to do so, or when the children who started out nearly refusing to read their daily journals out loud were asking if they could read next.
The feeling at the end of camp was bittersweet. On one hand, everyone involved was happy to see the children have the opportunity to engage with the activities offered at the camp, as well as with other campers and adults. The progress that each one of them made in their own way, whether building new friendships, acquiring a new skill or learning how to ask for help, was indisputable.
On the other, it was hard to see the camp end. At the Humanities Foundation, we have our eyes on the future: we hope to take the information that was gathered during this year’s camp, and use it to expand and improve. What did this year’s camp teach the counselors on how to better provide for the children? What resources could this summer program use more of? Could we extend the program without compromising the quality of the experience, in order to continue to have a positive effect in the lives of the campers? Could we bring this program to other properties? As the Humanities Foundation moves forward, the potential for all we can pro-vide continues to take shape.
For now, Humanities Foundation celebrates the victories and the memories made at camp this past year, and we extend a deeply heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who made this opportunity possible: the Daniel Island Community Fund, our camp counselors, our property manager at Seven Farms Apartments, all the volunteers who offered their time and all the businesses who offered their spaces and services.
At the end of their field trip to Patriot’s Point, the crew of kids ascended the stairs that went up to the top floor to see the landing deck. As they opened the door and stepped out into the sunlight, the ocean, the sky and the models of military planes surrounded them. They were up even higher than before, the wind whipping faster than it had on the balcony downstairs. A few of them kept a close eye on the girl who had been screaming before, ready for her to cling on to someone or something and melt into tears. But instead, she ran ahead, remarking on all the planes and pointing at birds, no longer afraid of the boat or the sea below.
These small, but significant, moments remind us at the Humanities Foundation why we do what we do, and inspire us to continue moving forward, bringing more and more opportunities for positive growth to the children of our communities.