A unique summer camp has reopened in Zhytomyr, Western Ukraine this year: an FJC camp for Jewish mothers and children, many of whom come from some the worst living conditions imaginable, where the campers get a desperately needed break and spend the 9-day session resting, re-connecting with themselves and learning valuable skills of better “life-coping.”
About 25 women and 60 children gathered from all over Central and Eastern Ukraine gathered in FJC’s Alumim Children’s Home for a summer camp last week. These are mothers and children displaced because of the war, as well as members of families in distress, who live in deep poverty and are treated by the LifeChanger FSU project. “They are brought together for a special camp that doesn’t only provide them a vacation, but also runs different programs and workshops that give them skills for running a better home, meeting with psychologists, nutritious food, which they do not always get at home, lectures – all kinds of undertakings that are aimed to engage people for making a change in their lives,” said Chani, a LifeChanger FSU coordinator.
The mothers and children also get a chance to “tune-in” to their Jewish identity. For some, this is their first time participating in anything connected to Judaism. Many come from mixed or assimilated families, and are cautiously taking first steps in discovering the culture and tradition behind their Jewish roots.”One woman asked to participate after her daughter went to the girls’ FJC Gan Israel camp earlier and came home glowing with excitement. She came to see what the fuss was all about, but really she is curios about this ‘ Jewish connection,” says Malki Bukiet, one of the camp’s coordinators.
The camp program is surely activity-packed to try and seize every opportunity to engage the campers, but nevertheless there is also plenty of time to just relax and be pampered, says Mushki Vilhelm, the camp’s programming coordinator. “The camp offers an opportunity of both physical and spiritual rest that these mothers and children so badly need. Some of our campers came from very remote towns and villages and it is their only chance to connect to Jewish heritage,” she said.
This special camp initiative is made possible with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).