Changing Lives at Summer Camp
by Ani Cholakian
Jinishian Memorial Program’s (JMP) summer camps offer poverty-stricken children a positive, fun and safe environment, a respite from their onerous lives. In 2010, JMP Syria organized three summer camps for children from Aleppo, Damascus and Kamishly. More than 100 children ages 9 to 13 participated in the camps. While emphasizing safety and having fun, campers learn life skills, gain independence and make lasting friendships. Among other things, the camps teach children how to cope with stress and anxiety and help build their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
Here’s what several children from the 2010 camp had to say about their experience:
- An 11-year-old female participant: “I have been ignored in my social life because my build is heavy and people call me fat. During this camp no one called me fat. I received the same attention as others and made new friends. I will not forget these days till the end of my life.”
- A 10-year-old male participant: “I have always inquired why I was born into a poor family; I always wished that we were rich with many things that others have. But during this camp I realized that I am also a person who can develop myself and instead of complaining about my parents being poor, I will love them and, eventually, I will work hard to be better off financially and help my parents, too.”
- A 9-year-old male participant: “Two years ago my mother died. For the first time since my mom died I have felt cared for at this 10-day camp. Other campers have cared for me tenderly. I am thankful and realize that there will always be people in my life who will love me.”
- A 13-year-old female participant: “It would have been impossible for my parents to take me on holiday, since my dad is bedridden and my mom works hard. Our apartment house is very small and compressed. I feel like I am in heaven here and I believe that I could not have had this opportunity otherwise. I love the clean air, the camp site, the delicious food , loving leaders and the daily activities. If this is not heaven tell me what is it?”
- A 13-year-old male participant: “I am very sorry that this will be my last year to participate. But, when l grow up, I plan to be a camp leader.”
In Syria, the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) operates under the sponsorship of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic and Protestant church denominations.