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Camp ViBeS

09/23/2021 02:36:55 PM

Sep23

This summer marked another year of uncertainty of whether the carefree tradition of fun and community would continue through summer camp. Recognizing a need for both social and emotional fulfillment, our VBS Youth and Chesed Departments worked together to make sure that our young teens had a meaningful summer through Camp ViBeS – VBS Intentional Experiences. After four, two-week sessions, our teens experienced a bevy of unconventional adventures such as trapeze, surfing, goat yoga, kayaking, and countless hiking adventures to hidden gems. However, what makes Camp ViBeS unique is the emphasis on chesed (loving kindness), and tikkun olam (repairing the world) while creating an overall mindset of gratitude. 

Camp ViBeS was developed and led in partnership by VBS Director of Youth Engagement, Camryn Kruger; Nick Greene, multitalented Jewish professional; and Nitzan Barlev, Community Organizer. It was created as a means to engage our 7th-10th graders in the greater LA area. The pandemic has impacted all of us, and youth were not spared from the feelings of apathy, isolation, and anxiety that have plagued many of us. The antidote for such feelings are mindfulness, gratitude, and a sense of community. 

Two days each week, the camp focused on volunteer work to help local non-profits and the environment. This past summer, the campers gardened with Simi at the Garden, a community garden that serves low-income families in need of fresh produce; sorted clothing donations for the LGBT Center’s unhoused Queer youth; prepared about 500 bags for OneGeneration’s senior health fair; assembled over 300 hygiene kits for North Valley Caring services and created Summer Fun Days for their youngest participants; created care packages at A Place Called Home; had a competition to see who could clean up the most trash off LA County beaches; assembled 300 snack packs to NoHo Home Alliance for their unhoused clients; put together 300 brown bag lunches and personalized notes of encouragement for Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission; and gave back to VBS itself where we helped paint a mural, potted plants, and sorted lost and found items for Goodwill.

On one balmy morning with Simi at the Garden, our campers were pulling weeds, laying down mulch, watering plant beds, and emptying wheelbarrows. To most of our city teens, this isn’t necessarily summertime fun. However, the attitude of the camp and intention behind this hard work transformed it into so much more. We were repairing the Earth. We were ensuring the nutritional needs of our neighbors were more easily met. Sofi, a 7th grader who joined us for all four sessions, reflected on her experience at Simi.

My favorite volunteering days were going to Simi at the Garden. Simi at the Garden is a non-profit organization for the community.  I loved helping the staff tend the garden. If it was pulling out weeds, or watering the garden, I knew that the small work that I did will have a huge impact for the community. After doing all the volunteering work over the summer, I felt gratified knowing that the people I helped will now be happier than before.

Similar statements of gratitude were common at Camp ViBeS where, every morning, Nick Greene led the group in a reflection activity. Maddie, another 7th grader who joined each session said “I’m so grateful to be part of a community that has a camp like this one, and to have parents that gave me these values [of giving back].” 

To see more photos and information on VBS Youth Department programs, visit their pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784