10 Jul WE’s 1st Annual Migrant Summer Camp A Huge Success
An idea birthed during a dinner conversation last fall turns into one of Waters Edge UMC’s biggest ministry highlights for 2015
For a number of years now Waters Edge has been in outreach to the area’s migrant community, primarily through assistance during the Christmas holiday season and when we were made aware of other needs. Last fall our outreach expanded to include a weekly tutoring opportunity for migrant children at the St. Helena’s Library. But the more we learned about the challenges faced by this community, the more we wrestled with how WE as a church could do more.
Late last fall a group of WE folks concerned about these questions met with Joe Taylor to solicit his advice. Joe, who teaches English at Beaufort High School, also works on behalf of the Beaufort County School District to help connect migrant families with services and programs designed to assist them during their time in Beaufort. From this conversation the group learned more about the needs of the several dozen migrant families who live here year round and the hundreds of adults and children who call Beaufort “home” for five to six weeks during the picking season each year (late May to early July).
“Visiting with Joe and his wife Amy and hearing their stories was truly eye-opening,” remarked Pastor Lane Glaze. “I think all of us at dinner that night began to feel God nudging us to do more. I know I did!”
The group completed a grant request shortly before the Christmas deadline, asking for $20,000 as seed money to launch a more extensive outreach to the migrant community, included most significantly a summer enrichment program for children and youth. In early April the group was notified that the grant had been awarded 100%…only eight weeks before the migrant families were expected to start arriving in our community!
Under the leadership of Melissa Mandell and a team of WE volunteers, the summer camp quickly began to take shape. Rachel Taylor, Beaufort native, rising senior at the College of Charleston and daughter of Joe and Amy, was hired as the Director along with several other counselors. Plans were put in place for recreation, snacks and a variety of enrichment opportunities. Transportation and drivers were secured. Amazingly, this idea that had been birthed over a dinner conversation more than six months earlier was taking shape.
In the end, WE’s inaugural Migrant Summer Camp served more than 150 different children and youth, from aged 4 to 16 years old. Children were offered swim lessons at the YMCA. Despite living within a few miles of the ocean, children were able to see the ocean for the first time. Visits by park rangers, storytellers and naturalists gave children the opportunity to experience wildlife, in both real and imaginative ways.
Janelys Villalta, one of the counselors and a rising sophomore at the University of South Carolina, reflected, “Working with the migrant children this summer was life changing. Helping these kids and being able to learn about their lives was inspiring, and it’s an experience I’ll always remember.”
Pastor Lane was equally inspired by the experience. “The highlight of the camp for me was the wide and diverse partnership that was created to serve this need in our community. To have a predominately white congregation partner with a predominantly black congregation to serve “brown” children…how much more beautiful can it get! And when you consider the other agencies and businesses that partnered with us – the Penn Center, the YMCA, Hunting Island State Park, SC Aquarium, Moes of Beaufort, Creative Beginnings Too Childcare and the Beaufort County School District – it’s the kind of thing that should happen more often in our community. We were truly blessed.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]