by: Becca Walters and Michelle Bivas
A few years ago, we spent our summers with Urban Mitzvah Corps, a six week volunteering program based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. We were all given four work sites to choose from, and we both decided to work at Play S.A.F.E. It is a free camp for the underprivileged youth of New Brunswick. These children’s parents needed to work during the summer to be able to sustain their families, and they still barely scraped by. When we chose to work at this site, it was because we wanted a chance to be able to help these kids, who were so much less fortunate than us. We had no idea how much our decisions would effect us in the long run.
During our time at Play S.A.F.E., we worked in less than ideal conditions. The kids were split up by age and gender, and there would be around 50 kids per group. Each group was led by only 3 or 4 counselors for the entire day. During coloring time, the children would fight over having a piece of paper because there wasn’t enough to go around. If they managed to get a piece of paper, they would still struggle to get one of the few broken crayons that were available. During gym time, the kids would have a few flat balls, a bent hula hoop or two and some cones to figure out a way to have fun and stay active. The counselors typically sat back and allowed the kids to figure things out on their own, not giving them any sympathy or assistance. The rest of the day was filled with TV time so that the counselors could sit back and relax.
The volunteers were the only “counselors” who got involved with the kids. We played with them, helped them find that extra crayon, and helped create games to keep them engaged. When problems arose, from a scraped knee to home issues, we were the ones that showed we cared, and they loved us for it. They loved how much we cared, which is why we are currently running a philanthropy project to help these unfortunate kids. They deal with so much at such a young age, and we want to do what we can to make their lives a little bit easier and show them that there really are people who care about them. We explained what Camp Play S.A.F.E is to our Sharon campers, because many of them have grown up in comfort and don’t know the struggle of poverty. Since they are both kids at summer camp, we helped to open their eyes to how fortunate they are. Once we explained the camp’s situation, our Sharonians were eager to help. After hearing this story, we hope that you now feel the same way.
All session, Harlamites have been donating both money and materials to our Play S.A.F.E. fund. We are asking for donations of crayons, markers, pencils, art supplies, coloring books, sports equipment, board and card games, books, etc. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated so the camp can decide where the money is most needed. For this camp especially, every cent makes a difference. We need your help to improve this camp for the kids’ sake. Now that you picked up your campers and they have regaled you with stories, please consider making a donation. You can make a donation directly through camp. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact camp at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also talk with us directly at: Becca at Rebecca.email@example.com or Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org .We appreciate your help in advance. Thanks!
You can see the work of the Mitzvah Corps by clicking on the following: http://www.mitzvahcorps.org/programs/nj/