Homeless Kids Get The Chance To Just Be Kids In Awesome NYC Program

Camp Win's programs put an emphasis on education, empowerment, and fun.

A nonprofit in New York City is making sure all children have the chance to make the most of their summer vacation through a camp specifically offered to kids who are currently experiencing homelessness. For most children, summer camp is a quintessential part of summers growing up, but not every child has equal access to such experiences. Operated by Women in Need (Win), Camp Win is working to ensure that all kids have the chance to spend their school break having fun. 

"I've seen children evolve, and I've seen the impact homelessness has on children," Tamara Ortiz, Win's director of children's services, told A Plus. "And I get a chance to really see them bloom, feel very confident, feel a sense of safety and security in our programs... Currently, these children are with their families in shelter, dealing with homelessness, but when they are in our program, they're just typical children."

Abdul Belle, one of the dance instructors who works with Camp Win, told A Plus that he started out teaching dance to adults, but has found that he learns the most from his younger students. 

"They're no different from any other kids out there," Belle said. "Whatever any other kids can do, they can do. Just because you have a certain background doesn't mean you can't do certain things. It's all about your motivation."

Lasting 10 weeks, Camp Win includes programs that emphasize STEM areas and arts education, but also gives children who are currently living at one of Win's shelters the chance to try new things, visit different areas in the city and spend some time just having fun. It's sometimes the programs that are focused on the last, such as a dance class hosted at Broadway Dance Center,  where Ortiz says she can see the program have the greatest impact.  

"Dance is not something that's scary," she said. "They're not worried about someone saying that they don't do it right. They understand that they can freely express themselves and move. And so, some of the success stories are seeing the children feel a sense of belonging."

Every night in New York City, over 23,000 children go to bed in a homeless shelter, and 1 in 10 NYC public school students face homelessness each year. Through programs like Camp Win, those kids are given access to opportunities for growth and empowerment. 

"Most of the time, we're so focused on what's going on in our circle that we block out everything else that's happening around us," Belle said. "But if we slowed down a minute and take time to see what's going on over here and over here, we can all do a little and our little can be a lot to the next person." 

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