GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Summer camp is usually a place for kids to make new memories, friends and maybe learn something about themselves. At one special camp in the Triad, kids are doing something else too, they’re healing.
This is the third year the Guilford County Family Justice Center has hosted Camp Hope, and it’s the biggest year yet. Walking into Camp Hope, you hear the laughter, the camp songs and the constant hum of camp life.
“Well, really everything is my favorite. I don’t really do favorites, but I can say everything is my favorite,” Knoah Glover said.
What really stands out at Camp Hope are the stories — and the strength.
“It makes me learn to never give up. It makes me learn that I always have someone to count on even through tough times,” Allie Sanchez said.
The 7-year-olds to 12-year-olds at this camp have been through a lot.
“All of these campers came from some pain. They recognize that domestic violence was happening in their home, but we’re really kind of creating a purpose out of that. A future focus that’s really about success and pathways to hope and healing which is part of the Family Justice Center mission,” Guilford County Family Justice Center Executive Director Catherine Johnson said.
Sixty campers get a sense of community and understanding with other kids who can relate to their stories.
“Oftentimes, children who live in homes with domestic violence think they’re the only person who’s had that experience, so we’re building community around that. But we also know children who live in homes with domestic violence who don’t get the support that they need are at a much greater risk of becoming an abuser or a victim later in life,” Johnson said.
So over the week, camp helps these kids break down their walls, breaking down a cycle of abuse at the same time.
“So we’re really trying to change that pathway for them and help them identify things they have within themselves to help them be successful,” she said.
“I was thinking that camp was going to be so weird and stuff since there’s going to be a lot of people I don’t know but, coming to camp, it really just lit me up,” Glover said.
It’s taking them away from some of the darkest times and memories and helping them find the good.
“We really see this trajectory of kids who are sharing their story, making meaning of that story, increased self-esteem, increased confidence, increased belief in other people, increased belief in their dreams, and that’s all part of our mission here at Camp Hope,” she said.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is so amazing, how they take some kids who have been through so much and they turn it all around,’” Allie Sanchez said.
Camp connections don’t end when everybody goes home. The overnight camp is a kickoff to a year-long program where kids will have reunions, and also get connected with more support services in their communities.
The camp is completely run through community donations. You can find ways to on the Guilford County website.