The YMCA of Greater New York has announced the launch of Cabins of Hope, a program that will provide scholarships for ten Haitian children and two counselors to spend a month at the New York YMCA Camp, a 1,100 acre sleep away camp in Huguenot, New York.
The YMCA developed the program with the support of UnitedHealth Group and Continental Airlines with additional contributions from Target Corporation.
The children were selected from teen members of the YMCA Youth Centre in Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed in the January 12 earthquake. Six months later, many continue to cope with emotional and physical trauma from the disaster and lack a clean, safe place to live.
Six months after an earthquake killed more than 220,000 people in Haiti and displaced another 1.5 million, another organization CARE is also ramping up efforts to ensure that survivors have a sturdy roof over their heads and a strong foundation to rebuild their lives. (Read: CARE Cares for Quake-hit People in Haiti)
In addition to offering relief from the stress of their everyday lives, Cabins of Hope will help these kids recapture some of the simple joys of childhood.
The program also will aim to strengthen their social, physical and linguist skills so they may return to Haiti more empowered to help rebuild the youth programs at their Y in Port-au-Prince. Among the children whose lives will be touched by Cabins of Hope:
Vanessa Vellard plans to walk the tightrope. The ballerina-like fourteen-year-old lost five friends in the earthquake and these days just concentrates on working hard. She’s curious to see “if the Americans like people from other places,” she says, adding that she’s looking forward to eating meat more than once a week. . .and to trying a bagel with cream cheese.
Gaëlle Lubin, who lost her mother in the earthquake, is looking forward to teaching her new American friends how to play osselets, a jacks-like game that Haitians play with goat knuckles. An aspiring nurse, fifteen-year-old Gaëlle was studying at a friend’s place when the quake hit. Since their Port-au-Prince home was destroyed, she and her sisters are staying with an uncle and his family outside of town.
“Like all Americans, our hearts went out to the people of Haiti during the devastating earthquake, especially our friends at the YMCA Youth Centre in Port-au-Prince,” said Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “It is our hope that Cabins of Hope not only will give these children a much-needed, fun-filled respite from their everyday lives, but also will help them return to Haiti recharged, empowered and stronger in spirit, mind and body.”
These intrepid Haitian youngsters will be joined at the camp by Cabins of Hope Friendship Ambassadors from the Flatbush, Brooklyn community. These children were nominated for their posts by local NYC elected officials including New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams and New York State Assembly Member Rhoda Jacobs.
UnitedHealth Group funding will go toward special camp activities, including a field trip to New York City, and logistical and transportation support. Continental Airlines will provide the round-trip airfare for the campers and two counselors, while Target will provide a gift card to outfit them with essential clothing and supplies for their trip.
While at sleep away camp, the children will enjoy summer fun activities alongside the other campers, such as canoeing, arts & crafts, swimming, field trips and rock climbing, under the supervision of certified YMCA counselors.
They also will partake in English-language immersion as well as meet with counselors from the YMCA Counseling Center in Staten Island.
Photo courtesy: YMCA