Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Spectacular 2012

Five days of Summer Spectacular camp is simply not enough. This year, the same as last, I felt like I arrived in Clarkston only to leave a few moments rather than a week later. Knowing the time would pass lightning fast I didn’t want to take even one second for granted.  Now that I’m home, I have to ask myself – What if I lived every day like that? But I digress. 

The city of Clarkston, GA receives and resettles refugees who come to the US to escape religious or political oppression, war, and famine. Families from Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Eritrea, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more countries combine cultures into one colourful, messy, fascinating city.

Clarkston is a city of survivors. You don’t have to search hard to hear the most incredible and horrifying personal accounts of men, women, and children fleeing for their lives. Families torn apart, homes and livelihoods lost forever.

Clarkston is a city full of challenges. Upon resettlement the federal government gives newly arrived refugees 90 days to find a job and start supporting themselves. Can you imagine arriving to the US after years of living in a refugee camp and being told you need to find a job asap? By the way, you were probably a farmer in your old country and you probably don’t speak English let alone read or write it. That’s right, now hurry up and find gainful employment in the Atlanta metropolitan area.  Crazy right? That’s why the services provided by agencies like Friends of Refugees are so important. They pick up where the government lets off and help refugees learn our language, customs, and become self supporting.

The Summer Spectacular kids’ camp is one of the many programs provided by Friends of Refugees. With so many vulnerable people living in Clarkston there are substantial gang problems. For only $25 per kid (I seriously don’t know how they can charge so little) they feed, teach, have fun with, and keep kids off the street over the summer.

Each week of camp a group of volunteers comes in with activities. This is where I come into the story.  The week of July 2-6 our church sent of group of about 35 volunteers to help with the camp. Like last year, I joined the middle school team – my favourite! No really, they are! :) Focusing on the camp theme of compassion we planned activities and games to help teach and practice compassion. We held a compassion themed scavenger hunt, made duck tape wallets and roses and melted crayon art for friends and family who needed cheering up, took the kids to pick up trash at a rundown apartment complex, and of course threw in games and a day of laser tag! It was a blast!

Ben put together a video of the camp and some of the other activities from the week. It’s really good so I’ll stop typing and let you sit back and watch. Hope you enjoy it and maybe, just maybe, the beautiful faces will catch your heart as they do mine and you’ll consider supporting Friends of Refugees with your time, prayers, or finances. You can learn more here:    

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