With social interactions at a near standstill due to COVID-19 mandates, the landscape of children’s summer camps has been drastically changed – in many cases taking place virtually, if at all.
To maintain its connections, Feed the Lambs, a South County faith-based nonprofit, has continued its efforts to engage, educate and empower children through education and recreation. Their free afterschool tutoring and mentorship program normally takes place three days a week during the school year and they also provide a free seven-week camp in the summer.
When the school district transitioned this spring to online instruction, the staff and volunteers at Feed the Lambs followed suit, continuing their tutoring program via telephone.
“We made sure they got the help they needed,” said John May, board president.
They made the decision to continue the summer camp, albeit with reduced numbers, but with school buildings closed, they needed to find an alternative location. Fortunately, the House of God Church on Oslo Road generously offered the use of their facility.
“The parents were calling us before we even decided where we were going to go. I didn’t want to shut Feed the Lambs down, not when we can be of service to the kids and follow health guidelines. And that’s what we’re doing,” he explained.
To keep everyone safe, temperatures are taken, everyone uses copious amounts of hand sanitizer and soap, they make daily exposure queries, and masks are required for everyone while indoors.
Although last year their summer camp reached a record attendance of 125 students, CDC guidelines this year meant scaling down to a maximum of 40 participants.
Children participate in daily recreational activities, math and reading tutoring, arts and crafts. They also hear from weekly guest speakers and participate in field trips. Breakfasts and lunches are provided each day by the school district.
“The first week of our summer camp, the kids didn’t want to go home. The kids, they were just so happy to get out of the house to enjoy themselves. It’s a blessing just to see them happy. To see them be able to interact and play, that’s the most important thing,” said Kenya May, program coordinator.
“We’re still learning math and reading as the summer progresses to get the children prepared for their next school term. We’re giving them the three R’s: rules, responsibility and respect,” she adds. “First you have to have respect for yourself. Once you have respect for yourself, everything else follows. They’re enjoying themselves. They are so excited they’re ready to come back the next day.”
While the economic situation for many families has only worsened due to the pandemic, there are limited options for low-income families. May said a lot of parents are nervous about letting their children attend the camp, but that leaving children at home unsupervised can be a recipe for disaster.
“We’re committed to continue serving the kids even if it’s in a modified way. I’m not going to shut the program down. I’m going to continue going on because our job is to meet the peoples’ needs,” he promised.
Feed the Lambs relies on donations, fundraising and grants to run its programs. They hope to secure their own facility at some point to reduce costs and ensure the sustainability of their mission.
For more info, visit feedthelambsep.com.