The first time I came to the Middle East, I volunteered for a children's Summer Camp.
I landed at the airport in Amman, Jordan at the age of 18, having no clue what the next weeks would look like. Turns out, that trip changed my life.
Now here I am, years later, writing to you as the Executive Director of that same organization I first volunteered with. You may have seen my over on our Instagram. Or received letters from me if you're on our email list.
Growing up, I never attended Summer Camp - so I had no idea how transformational they can be for kids. But there I was, watching these kids be deeply impacted and truly changed in a week at camp.
I began to see how life-changing it could be for kids to come to a safe place, where the leaders and camp counselors truly loved and valued them, where they could have fun and just be kids.
I was deeply impacted by Heart of Mercy's Summer Camps the first time I witnessed them. So much so that I am now part of HOM and writing to tell you all about these camps. :) HOM has organized camps for the kids in our program for 20+ years now. In fact, many of our current camp leaders and counselors used to be campers and have returned to serve the next generation of kids!
It's hard to describe the impact our Summer Camps have on the kids in our program…but I'm going to try.
On the first day, when the kids arrive, there's a nervous excitement in the air. Over the next week, it's truly incredible to watch kids, some of which are in an environment to truly “be kids” for the first time, come alive with joy.
The nervousness and hesitation of the first day are replaced with joy and peace. I don't say this lightly or with exaggeration - by the time these kids go home, their lives have been changed. Year after year, I watch these kids leave camp having hope for their futures and knowing they have a safe place and people who will champion their lives.
Our staff and camp volunteers run the camps back to back in the summer so we can host as many of our students as possible. We also do our best to make sure each child has the opportunity to come to camp three years in a row. By their third year, most want to return as a volunteer or counselors in the future.
This element of our program is one we believe has some of the biggest and long lasting impacts on our students. Thank you for caring about these kids. We wouldn't be able to continue programs like this without you.
Until next time...