Camp HOPE America, TN in Memphis offers standard activities like swimming, ziplining, hikes, ropes courses, and silly songs. But it is a curriculum focused on providing campers “a pathway to hope,” that sets this residential camp apart. Small group cabin discussions and awards for outstanding character traits provide children the tools to cope with adversity. Camp HOPE America is a national evidence-based mentoring program focused on victims of domestic violence. The Memphis camp is the only one in Tennessee.
Camp HOPE America defines hope like this: believing in yourself; believing in others; believing in your dreams. University of Memphis researchers who evaluated campers before and after last year’s camp found significant improvements in several key measures including self-esteem, with an average self-esteem score of 4.35 on a scale of one to five.
“Above all else, we want to make sure campers feel safe, encouraged, seen, and appreciated. The feedback from last year’s camp has been great. We hope to be able to make the camp available to even more kids this year,” says Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director of Family Safety Center. The average camper last year was eight years old.
Investment in the future
Domestic violence usually happens behind closed doors, but it is reflected in public statistics that measure crime rates, student success, and overall quality of life. Research indicates that children witness nearly half of all incidents of domestic violence. One third of those eyewitnesses will grow up to be abusers, and one third will end up in an abusive relationship. And then the cycle begins anew.
“The Family Safety Center brings together multiple agencies that work daily on creative solutions to make Shelby County safer for victims of domestic violence,” says Murry-Drobot. “Given what we know about the generational impact of the tragic cycle of domestic violence, I think Camp HOPE America is one of the most effective programs FSC has in its toolbox.”
It takes 11 positives to undo one negative
Camp HOPE America began in 2003 in San Diego, California. By 2015, the successful program was introduced in five more states. Today 11 states have the camps. In March of 2016, FSC was awarded a planning grant from Verizon to bring Camp HOPE America to Memphis in the summer of 2017. In its first year, the Camp served 26 children ages 7 to ll, whose parents or guardians have received services from FSC.
Research indicates that hopeful children — a child who believes tomorrow will be better than today – are better problem solvers, stronger academically, and able to set goals. Using a comprehensive matrix of “hope and resiliency scores” researchers have proven that campers are more hopeful after their Camp HOPE experience.
University of Memphis partnership
The FSC has partnered with Dr. Kathryn Howell and her research team at the University of Memphis to conduct a thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of Camp HOPE America in Memphis. “Our comprehensive evaluation includes interviews with campers, their caregivers, and camp counselors to determine how participating in Camp HOPE strengthens youth resilience, improves academic engagement and performance, and reduces behavioral and psychosocial difficulties,” says Dr. Howell. “We will also measure whether the experience enhances the parent-child relationship.”
Support Camp HOPE TN 2018
Camp HOPE America, TN 2018 is scheduled for July 22-27 at For the Kingdom Camp and Retreat Center, in Raleigh. Project Director Kelbert Fagan is visiting local high schools and churches to recruit youth volunteers to serve as counsellors and talk about other ways in which the community can support Memphis’ Camp HOPE.
“Most of our campers need some basics to spend a week at an overnight camp so we accept donations ranging from toiletry items and flashlights to close-toed shoes and bathing suits,” says Fagan. “We are also turning to the business community for help. Last year, for example, a local hotel donated linens and towels.”
It costs approximately $350.00 for one camper to attend Camp HOPE. You can sponsor an entire week or just one day for $70.00. Visit familysafetycenter.org/donate and complete the secure online form to donate.