Over the weekend, Keenan, Atticus, Paloma and I traveled to Alexandria, Minnesota to attend Haiti in Our Hearts Haiti Camp 2010 (which was also their 20th Anniversary Camp!) For only a multitude of reasons, only one of my Haitian Sensations attended camp with us (more on that later.)
To say it met my expectations is an understatement. Simply put, the camp rocked.
We met the divine Mz. Geralyn and her North Dakota crew there. I love that woman to pieces! She is every bit as funny and wonderful in person as she is on her blog. I first learned of the camp through Geralyn, and while the camp itself piqued my interest, it was her self-professed life philosophy of "Have Blender, Will Travel," that hooked me.
So, I got a bit crafty prior to camp and created some mugs for our "beverages of an adult nature" (like coffee!) Only I didn't realize just how BIG the mugs were until I brought them to camp. . . .
Unfortunately, we didn't get to use the mugs really, other than to nearly die laughing over and taking a photo opportunity. But we hold them with the promise of good times to come in Orlando next March, because I don't think I could go another year without seeing Geralyn at least once!
The group as a whole was interesting. Nearly half of the families there were the "old-timers," folks who had been coming to camp for many years now (a few even had gone to all 20!). Most of the children in these families were teenagers, and some adult children even attended.
To meet so many women who have walked in our shoes and survived, who have raised their children and seen them off into the world as adults, was invaluable. Several kind souls gave me wonderful encouragement. "It is SOOOOO tough," they would say, "and you can't understand it unless you're in it (ain't that the truth!). But you WILL get through it. Life DOES go on, and this difficult time is a season. Children do become adults, and the world keeps on turning." With those words of encouragement often came huge warm hugs, and I felt myself grow stronger. Just knowing other people went through this and actually survived helps me feel a bit more grounded during those moments when chaos rules.
The other half of the families were newbies, those who had been coming 2 years or less. Many families had post-earthquake placements with them. Most of us had children between the ages of 18 months to 8.
On Friday evening we had a welcome meeting, followed by a dance. One thoughtful mom brought tons of glow-in-the-dark bracelets for all the kids to party with, and they were in heaven!
Saturday morning they held a Haitian market for the children. For $1, the children received 20 (photocopied) gourdes. Each child first had to purchase a banana and an orange for the Manmi's (this lucky Manmi got 3 of each!). Afterwards they were allowed to purchase trinkets and candy.
The camp had a wonderful lake complete with tons of water toys (which were pretty darn cool.)
The moms sat up on the dock, watching, and we were all highly entertained by Marc "Gilligan" Laurie. My cheeks still hurt every time I smile from all the laughing we did.
Sunday came all too quickly, and before we knew it, we were taking photos and saying good-bye to our new friends until next year.
If you have adopted children, especially adopted children of a different race, I encourage you with all of my heart to seek out a heritage camp experience for your kids.
To see my son surrounded by other Haitian children was incredible. Many of the families at camp had children of several races, from a multitude of countries (although I must say that we were the only Chamorros represented at camp--imagine that!). To hang out with families as diverse as ours--without the "fishbowl" effect--was priceless. To see 3 of my children play and connect with kids from all different races, heritages and families was amazing.
I can't wait to go next year!
Which, seriously, is a good thing, because I have no choice. Geralyn nominated me for the Board of Directors, and further put me in charge of Event/Activities planning for Haiti Camp 2011. Which is kind of like crack for my Type A, control freak, love-to-plan self, but in a good way. I'm thinking of an activity which rounds up all girls with babysitting certificates and locking them in the gym with all children under the age of 10, so that all the moms can let loose and have fun. . .whaddya think, G?
Haiti Camp 2011 is gonna rock. So put it on your calendars!