H2O “Helping Others” hosted three in-person summer service camp sessions in 2021. Middle school participants enjoyed eight days of volunteer work, small group interactions with awesome counselors, brainstorming, speakers, games and more! We have tailored the program to the Covid restrictions, choosing to maintain our service onsite or at outside local sites. As we look forward to returning to trips to area agencies like the Greater Cleveland Foodbank and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we have found great satisfaction in the work this summer.
The camp theme, “When We Feel Like Heard”, guided and unified the breadth of our experiences. Campers incorporated their thoughts on the service, information from the speakers we heard, and their own experiences to reflect on what it means to be heard. As one camper wrote, “This theme has so much depth and meaning. In service, this means listening to those in need and not only listening to their needs and helping them get what they need, but also making sure that they feel heard as people as well. (Shannon Katzenberger, grade 9). Another camper expressed the need to hear from others, but also to be heard in his own life: “If someone who has not been able to speak out finally makes themselves heard, it can change their life. For this reason, it is important as an organization or as an individual to hear from everyone in your community, but also to strive to be heard and not lose your voice. (Alessio Matera, 8th grade). They demonstrated a balanced understanding of the importance of truly hearing from others and cultivating your own voice to make a difference in the world.
The project highlighted this summer, to which every camper contributed, was the site we called “Parks and Recreation” as a nod to the popular TV show. On the first day of each session, Dave Baas from the City Planning and Development Department introduced the campers, getting them to reflect on how the community of Lakewood formed and how it has changed over time. . They learned to use three key planning considerations: a big picture (how parks should grow and change), involve the community (are parks safe, healthy and accessible for all ages) and look ahead. future to meet today’s needs while keeping the future in mind. With new perspective and knowledge, they toured Lakewood Parks large and small to document existing features and come up with new and additional features. Each small group had an iPad with a GIS application to locate their observations on a map, then offered critical thinking with a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). They documented over 700 distinct elements of the parks. They recognized the value of open spaces and recreational equipment. They noted items that needed updates, offered additional water bottle filling stations and recycling cans. They expressed interest in new or expanded activities, such as disc golf, gaga pits and additional skateboarding facilities. Ultimately, the information they gathered will help start the work of updating the Lakewood Parks Strategic Plan in the near future. Campers liked to feel heard, that their opinions matter and understand how communities are built and supported.
Eleven camp groups, 65 volunteers, worked on an outdoor art installation that was placed in Madison Park. The project was summed up by camper Abriana Heinz: “In order to complete the project, we all worked together by threading wire through several fences which, when completed, would read like a visual message. Together, the fences created the message “Peace, Love, Basketball”. This message represented the theme of H2O this year, “When We Feel Heard,” as not only was the basketball players’ message, playing, heard, but H2O’s message of peace was and is being broadcast on and on. outside the field. “
The return to camp in person included the return of one of H2O’s most popular projects – the clothing drive! We collected hundreds of donation bags and thanks to the Lakewood City Schools we were able to store and sort them, hosting a one-day public sale. All of the items cost fifty cents including some high quality items! We raised nearly $ 1,000.00 to support H2O’s service projects before offering the remaining clothing for free in partnership with local agencies.
While the mornings at camp were focused on volunteer projects, the afternoons were filled with games and rewarding activities. The guest speaker was Kari Kepic from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Health), who presented a youth-focused presentation titled “Ending the Silence”. They learned about the warning signs of mental health problems and what to do if they or a loved one is showing symptoms of a mental health problem. Another afternoon, artist Randee Stroud led workshops on creative expression. Camper used clippings from magazines, texts and old books, focusing on creating a work of art / poetry using existing words on the page or adding their own. They were invited to apply the theme however they chose.
These are just a few of the activities at the 2021 Summer Service Camp. I hope to share more stories and keep the memories of this very special summer. We will keep the theme “When We Feel Heard” in our hearts as we embrace new work of service in the community. The H2O program will bring meetings to Harding, Garfield and Lakewood Catholic Academy in October and we have already launched a program for high schools. Please contact me at [email protected] with questions about H2O.