Four Day Overview of Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families
This is a “sample” of four days in the life of a family who attends Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families. Keep in mind that each of the nine camps has its own personality and 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 volunteers to coordinate that particular camp.
Families check into registration and have time to socialize, meet new friends and reconnect with old pals from previous years at camp. There is an optional family dinner that evening, followed by the 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! We also share important announcements that you won’t want to miss. Some camps will have their optional family dinner, then wait to kick off their day on Friday with the opening ceremony.
First thing in the morning, 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, parents are trained in their volunteer position. Every parent volunteers for approximately ½ day at camp; that’s how camp gets done! With the exception of four paid staff members, this organization runs on volunteer power! Then adults are off to their workshops!
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 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 time for workshops for the kids (from preschool through high school) 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 also have the opportunity in one specially designed, age-appropriate workshop, to express thoughts and feelings about being adopted and/or their racial/ethnic identify 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 ways.
Little ones under two 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!
After lunch, adults also attend workshops. Workshop topics are comprised of cultural presentations or interactive sessions (on language, arts, history, politics, traditions and customs), adoption-specific issues (such as birth country travel, supporting children with learning disabilities, navigating grief/loss, etc.), or race/cultural identity development. These workshops are taught by experts in their fields, by cultural community members, or by adoptive parents. We are particularly attuned to the importance of certain topics being taught by members of the cultural community, so that they are authentic and meaningful. Some workshop sessions are more loosely structured to provide parents with time to share with each other and learn from common experiences. 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 or Estes Park Center, 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 together for a lively evening event. Some camps have fabulous entertainers; others have “sock hops” or family parties. Still others have campfire gatherings 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.
After a long day, bedtime is welcome and rest is needed for another full day to come!
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 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 very 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!