The Power of Hope Youth Camp Moves Online

by Samara Atkins, Power of Hope Camp Coordinator

For the last five summers, members of the Power of Hope Bolinas community have looked forward to being together in nature: being part of a community where one can relax into being oneself; be seen, heard, and understood; and not be tied to the tether of phones and technology. At these camps, we learn new things about ourselves and others, enjoy a beautiful feeling of authentic acceptance, take creative risks, and are supported by a wonderful community of people. We sing, dance, and learn together.

When COVID-19 hit, it shifted everything for all of us. Times were uncertain and constantly changing, and we were all trying to navigate the pandemic. We knew it was taking a toll on us, and we knew that youth were looking for tools to navigate this tough time as well. Although we were all hoping to physically be able to meet for camp at Commonweal, we knew our camp community’s safety was the priority and just couldn’t predict what the immediate future was going to look like. We opted to take the Power of Hope community online. 

Our goal was to recreate the supportive community that we have at camp—where we talk and listen to each other, which helps us all. We knew that we could provide a camp experience that would embody the pillars and the magic of what a Power of Hope experience provides. We knew we needed to tap into this love community more as well and resource the love and learnings with each other in this very tumultuous time.

We met over the next couple of months, figuring out what we needed and wanted camp to look like in a virtual space. We hoped that camp could reflect what was needed in these times and be able to call on the powerful knowledge of the community, staff, and youth alike to respond, cope, process, and do some healing from the perils of the world. We surveyed our past staff, campers, and their families and sourced some of our most special Power of Hope culture keepers. 

What we came up with was a virtual camp experience spread out over four weeks, complete with a few of our themed event nights that make camp most fun—like Music and Dance Night and Open Mic Night.

Youth had a space to breathe a bit, be with other teens and adults they trusted, express how they were experiencing two global pandemics, gain and share some tools and insight on how to navigate this new reality, exercise their leadership, know that they weren’t alone, and have a space to have some summer fun. 

We all got to engage in community together, do some introspection and reflection, and explore our emotions and thoughts. We made art with each other and created a collaborative art piece. We shared ideas on how to stay activated from our homes and be connected with Power of Hope family across the world.

What transpired was truly amazing, powerful, and necessary. Ask any of the folks who attended even one session, and they’ll tell you that this camp experience will leave a beautiful and beneficial imprint on their memory of this time. One thing for sure is that we are grateful to have the space, the people, the passion, and the power of hope. 

Quotes from some of our youth this year:

“Just wanted to say thank you for trying to make this experience as camp-like as possible…me and Sophie really appreciate it.” – Sierra

“I am so grateful for this opportunity, for camp, and the new form it is taking during these isolating times…” – Grace SP