Four Days in the Life of Heritage Camp
This is a “sample” of four days in the life of a family who attends one of the Heritage Camps in Colorado.
Keep in mind that each of the camps has its own personality, its own way of doing things. As an organization, we simply provide a pretty foolproof recipe. How each camp mixes it up depends on those who volunteer to coordinate it!
Most camps begin around 4:00 with registration on the first day, and end about noon on the last day. A few of our camps now offer full day activities on the first day, so please check the web page for the camp you are interested in for those specifics.
We have registration and a time for families to socialize, meet new friends and reconnect with old pals from previous years at camp.
This is usually in the afternoon/evening hours of the first day to give people plenty of time to arrive at camp and get settled in. Most camps share dinner together the first night as well.
The fun begins in the morning with Opening Ceremony, usually a colorful mix of cultural entertainment and traditions, introductions of guest speakers, facilitators, community volunteers, and those amazing counselors who will be with us at camp, plus those important announcements you surely won’t want to miss!
Right after Opening Ceremony, the kids (from preschool through high school) have time to get to know their counselors and other kids in their group with “Friendship Games” of varying kinds, depending on the age of the group. At this time, the lucky parents are trained in their parent roles at camp. Every parent has a role to fulfill for approximately ½ day at camp in all kinds of fascinating and thrilling capacities! That’s how camp gets done — with the exception of three paid staff members, this organization runs on volunteer power!
Lunch is next, a delicious cultural meal, prepared and served by parent volunteers and/or volunteers from the community. This is a wonderful time for families to enjoy each other, the (hopefully) beautiful Colorado weather, and to sample food from their child’s culture. Oh and we have hot dogs too, just in case…
After lunch, it’s off to workshops for the kids (from age 3 to 17) and their counselors. Taught by talented community members and parent volunteers, these workshops cover 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 some 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 and to boost their self-esteem and to give them the chance to be with kids who are like them in so many fundamental ways.
Little ones under three years old are in childcare at this time with experienced caregivers and parent volunteers. You are welcome to keep your child with you too, but we ask you not to bring him or her to the parent workshops!
For parents after lunch, workshops are also on the schedule. These workshops run the gamut from cultural presentations like language, arts, history, politics, traditions and customs to parenting workshops that cover everything from how to anticipate the stages your adopted child may go through in development to handling learning disabilities or issues of grief and loss to making a return trip back to your child’s birth country. These workshops are taught by experts in their fields or by parents and others who’ve been there. We are proud to say that we have had many renowned speakers, authors, etc. at our camps. Each camp often has programming for parents that rivals national adoption conferences. Some workshops actually just provide parents with time to share with each other and learn from people who may be going through some of the same things you are. The parent workshops are enriching and often lots of fun, but you can also go take a hike or go take a nap if you’re not scheduled to volunteer at this time, so relaxing is always on the schedule!
In the afternoon, families reunite and are free to take advantage of being in Colorado! For the camps held at Snow Mountain Ranch, there’s horseback riding, hiking, biking, miniature golfing, roller skating, swimming, and more to do as a family or with camp friends. At the Denver area camps, families can visit some of Denver’s great tourist sites; play in nearby parks, swim, or do something fun with other camp families.
In the evening, we generally gather back together for some lively evening event. Some camps have fabulous entertainers; others have “sock hops” or family parties. Still others have campfire sing-alongs and marshmallow roasts. We usually have separate gatherings for the middle and high school kids, so they have that all-important “hang out” time together.
In the morning, we again have a full roster of workshops for all ages, including parents.
Once again, families gather for a cultural lunch.
After lunch is also full of a variety of workshops and activities for all ages.
Late afternoon is family time.
Evening is another fun night of cultural and family events, often a time when the kids get to show their parents what they learned at camp. It is a time to be shared with the many new friends and the treasured old friends that you may only know because of heritage camp!
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.
This is when we often hear from kids, But I’m not ready for camp to be over yet” Or even, “Can’t we live at heritage camp?” It’s an experience that will stay with your entire family for a year, until you can come back and experience it all again!