As they came off the bus, the kids were screaming, “It’s grass! It’s grass! Let’s go roll in it.”
I heard one kid ask the counselor, “What was next to the slide?”
“It’s called a swimming pool. You swim in it.”
They were in awe over a tree that you could climb, and being able to run on the grass for as far as you could see. All the things that I take for granted on a daily basis, they had never even seen before.
These kids are from the inner-city communities of Los Angeles. They had been invited for Harold Robinson Foundation’s Camp Ubuntu, a 3-day “retreat weekend” at the Canyon Creek Ranch, which is nestled in the Angeles National Forest. The philosophy of this weekend is that if these young kids can experience team work, community, connection, love and hope, it can make a difference in the choices that they make in the future. As the kids played and worked together as a team through an obstacle course, they began to trust one another.
While getting to know the kids, I heard stories of family members, who had died of drug overdose, of fathers who were in jail and of gang warfare. As I listened, I realized that this was there norm. One night after the campfire, everyone went to their bunk beds to go to sleep. In the middle of the night, I looked down, and one of the kids was sleeping on the floor, and another one was in the bathtub in the bathroom. I learned that this is how they sleep every night because it’s safer to be on the floor or in the bathtub when the gunshots fill the nighttime skies. Sometimes I would see fear and anger in there eyes, and then the next minute, they would laugh with joy. It made me feel so sad to know what they saw and experienced on a daily basis. It’s not right–they are just little kids.
Even though we only spent three days together, it was enough to connect with them for a lifetime. The head counselors all come from the same neighborhoods as the kids attending the camp. The counselors would share their personal stories of how they got into drugs, became gang members and went to prison. When they got out of prison, they knew they had to live a different life. Many of them devote their lives to this camp, giving their time and sharing their stories to show these kids they don’t have to get involved with drugs or gangs. They can make better choices and not go down the wrong path.
On the last day, when everyone is around the campfire, each person gets to share what they have learned or experienced. Many kids said that they learned the real meaning of what it feels like to be part of a family. They learned to love someone who they never knew, versus hate them because they didn’t know them. They saw that people actually care about them, and that something exists outside the one mile radius which they call home.
As a counselor, I heard stories about what it is like to grow up in the inner-city communities of Los Angeles. What I heard from these kids about the lives they lead is far worse than you could ever think. I went to Camp Ubuntu as a counselor in training, to be of service and to help kids less fortunate than myself. In the end, I feel like they helped me, more than I helped them.
As told by 14-year-old Orion Askinosie – a counselor in training.
The Harold Robinson Foundation is holistically working towards building up our broken and impoverished inner-city communities in our own backyard. We work on many levels within the community, the education system, and with families and children that have been disproportionately effected by poverty, violence, academic failure and incarceration. Our programs start with life changing, 3 day, overnight camp retreats, miles away from the daily stress and pressures of the cement jungles in which these kids and their families reside, and then we carry the work that is started at camp back into the community. Camp Ubuntu is where we start breaking down the stereotypes, exposing children to possibilities that they never knew existed. We blanket them with love, support, and hope. We inspire dreams and give both kids and their families the tools to begin to achieve those dreams. Camp Ubuntu is where the healing process begins.
Next weekend, the Energy Muse team is riding in the Harold Robinson Foundation‘s Pedal on the Pier event to raise the funds to send as many children as possible to Camp Ubuntu. Please help us reach our goal of raising at least $2500 for this incredible foundation.
Why should you donate to this foundation?
- Every child deserves opportunities, no matter where they stand on the socio-economic ladder. 28.3% of all the children in Los Angeles live below the poverty line. 47.4% of children living in a single parent home in Los Angeles live below the poverty line. 61% of the children in Watts live in single parent homes. 92% of Camp Ubuntu’s students qualify for free/reduced lunch, meaning our average family (4) has a maximum annual income of $35,000.
- Humanity; as human beings, we are here on the EARTH to help one another.
- I AM BECAUSE WE ARE; we are only as strong as our weakest link.