Heritage camps are not like “tennis camp,” or “chess camp,” or even just “sleep away camp,” which are about children’s hobbies and interests. Heritage camps are about your child’s very being – celebrating who they are and where they came from. When you send your child to tennis camp or sleep away camp, they may come home playing better tennis or having learned some fun new songs. When they go to heritage camp, they should come home knowing more about their inner most person, feeling like a little of that hole in their lives is filled, something we as parents simply can’t do as well as the cultural role models our children meet at camp.
Why would you want to miss that?
Those words were written by Pam Sweetser, executive director of Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families, formerly known as Colorado Heritage Camps.
For thousands of adoptees and their families over the past two decades, Colorado Heritage Camps has become part of the tapestry of their lives. An annual pilgrimage to restore the soul, build friendships and nurture the family.
Throughout the summer, families gather at one of eleven (yes 11) camps that focus on various world cultures. Most camps run Thursday to Sunday. Camps generally begin with Friday morning opening ceremonies, a colorful mix of cultural entertainment, introductions of guest speakers, community volunteers, and the amazing camp counselors who serve as excellent role models.
Then the kids, from preschool to high school, all with colorful camp T-shirts, divide into their groups, and parents head off to learn about their roles at camp. Every parent has a role at camp— setting up a lunch, working at the camp market, introducing speakers at parent workshops, assisting with one of the fabulous camp parties—these are just some of the critical “jobs” parents take on to make camp a success, and to become connected themselves.
In the days ahead, the kids are involved in a huge variety of age appropriate activities– everything from cultural dance and music to arts and crafts to customs and language to games and sports to folktales and cooking, and more. For middle school and high school kids, there are also outdoor activities like zip lines, ropes courses, climbing walls, and rafting.
Children of all ages have the opportunity in one specially designed, age-appropriate workshop to express thoughts and feelings about being adopted or being a minority in a safe, open environment. All of the workshops are designed to foster a sense of cultural pride in the kids, to boost their self-esteem and to give them the chance to be with kids who are like them in so many fundamental ways.
Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families has two other unique and wonderful programs. “More Than Me” gives the middle school campers an opportunity to focus and act upon the needs of others. And “This is Me” is a unique set of activities developed for high schoolers that seek to assist them in the development of a positive bicultural identity.
The setting varies—some of the camps are held in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, others in the city of Denver. Lunches are frequently authentic (and delicious) cuisine from the country or part of the world being celebrated (and hot dogs are typically available for those who prefer them!) Evenings bring nights of fun cultural and family events, dances, skating parties, auctions and camp fires. S’mores….yum! Usually, there are family events as well as middle school events and high school events, giving kids that all important “hang out time.”
Some camps have family field day activities on the last morning of camp, then a festive Closing Ceremony complete with slide show of the camp, which is so memorable! Other camps simply have Closing Ceremony and goodbyes. No, not goodbye, more like “See you next year” and in the meantime, we’ll stay in touch. We’ll celebrate each other’s joys, and mourn each other’s losses because we’ve become family. That’s what Colorado Heritage Camp is about.
Again, why would you want to miss that?
Colorado Heritage Camps—Register and be part of the experience!
African Caribbean Camp
Domestic Adoption Camp
Ethiopian Heritage Day (part of African Caribbean Camp)
Indian Nepalese Camp
REECA (Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian) Camp