Jeff Stephenson, P.E., is the Team Leader of [...]
For many children, summer is a time to play, vacation, go to camp and hopefully have fun, educational experiences. Children everywhere need opportunities for structured play and learning during the summer. Most adults I know have happy memories of attending summer camp as children, and I think all children should have a chance for those same happy experiences.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to help make a camp experience possible for children in Perry County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the child poverty rate in Perry County is 51.2%, one of the highest in Alabama. Many of these kids would never get to attend camp if it weren’t for an organization called Sowing Seeds of Hope. A partnership between Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the citizens of Perry County, Sowing Seeds of Hope works in the community to improve living and working conditions. Seed Camp is a day camp for kids in first through sixth grades that is hosted by Vestavia Hills Baptist Church through Sowing Seeds of Hope. On July 13-16, I went to Seed Camp with a group of 40 adults.
The camp was offered without cost and included transportation, breakfast, lunch and a variety of activities in the arts and sciences. I attended Seed Camp last year as well, and my motivation was simply to help out with a mission outreach of my church. But when I got to Marion, I learned that the local elementary school has no art program in its curriculum. That news hit me hard since I majored in art at Furman University and have always had a passion for art education. Seeing how Seed Camp provides educational opportunities in the arts to children who have no other resource for art education made me want to go back again this year.
My daughter, Emily (an art major at University of Montevallo), and I planned and led the visual arts program. We prepared a different art activity for each day of camp, purchased the supplies and taught the kids how to do the activity. We had four other very helpful adults who also assisted in our art rooms. I loved doing this because it was a chance to work in the art arena again, which made a nice vacation from my transportation planning job.
The kids were exposed to visual art through our activities, but there were many other teachers who had expertise in other fields, such as science, music, creative writing and performing arts. Among the group of adult leaders were a chemical engineer and a biochemist who led a science program for the kids. They did many hands-on activities to explore things like germs, rockets, circuits and ultra-violet rays, all of which the campers loved.
Seed Camp was a mixture of very hard work and great blessings. The telltale sign that you’ve made a difference is when kids hug you and say they are sad that camp is over. Children are a gift from God, and it is a privilege to be able to invest positively into the lives of children I would not otherwise have known. Through Seed Camp I now have a connection to 100 children in Perry County that used to be strangers but are now friends.