One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: Camp Friendship, Memphis, TN
Contact(s): Carolyn Tisdale, Director, Refugee Services, Catholic Charities: (901)722-4775
Purpose: To provide a mutual learning experience for American and refugee youth while instilling in them a respect for the cultures and differences of others

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1997, the Memphis parishes in the Catholic Charities Refugee Service Program created Camp Friendship to meet recreation and re-adjustment needs of newly arrived refugee youth. While the Catholic Charities Refugee Service Program had provided a summer camp experience for refugee children to adjust to American culture, it did not operate programs for both American and refugee children to share and exchange cultural information. In an effort to improve the exchange component of the camp and to increase parish participation in the work of the refugee program, a meeting was set up with parishes to explore opportunities for expanding the camp. During a brainstorming session, the idea for Camp Friendship was developed, and, in June 1997, a one-week session of Camp Friendship was held.

Program Operations

Holy Rosary and Holy Spirit Parishes host the camp, utilizing youth groups from the various parishes to staff the camp and serve as peer counselors. One refugee youth is paired with one American youth for the duration of the camp session. Children are responsible for getting to know their partners on an individual level, and assist the mate in learning about American culture while learning about his or her mate's culture as well. Group leaders are older youth from the parishes and refugee community who serve as counselors and interpreters and receive a small stipend to facilitate activities. Volunteers from the parishes make lunches on a daily basis. Camp activities include field trips to the zoo, museums and movie theaters. Dance lessons and musical exchanges are also held. Professionals from the community work with the youth in music, theater and painting. Children are encouraged to share their culture with the group through different art forms. The closing day of the camp is centered around sharing different foods of the world. Families are invited and requested to bring a native food dish. Community leaders as well as staff from the various parishes and other agencies working with the refugee community are invited to participate in the final event, which includes presentations of multicultural dancing and singing. Parents are invited to share native clothes and their own personal experiences.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Twenty-five refugee youth and 25 American youth participated in the June 1997 camp with an additional six youth serving as camp leaders and interpreters. Several families remained in contact and provided support during the year, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of the youth will continue with the project again in 1998 and have served as ambassadors for the refugee program.

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