I was shocked and confused when I heard the news that Hidden Villa’s Executive Director and Board are planning to cut back camp programs, and end its 12-day residential camp. I went to Hidden Villa Summer Camp for four years as a camper and then proceeded to work another six summers as a counselor and program director. The time I spent at Hidden Villa Summer Camp changed the course of my live and has affected me in ways my parents never imagined that first summer they shipped me off to camp.
For all who have survived adolescence themselves or are helping their children through this difficult time, you can realize the value of Hidden Villa’s 12-day programs for teenagers. As a child, it was the only two weeks of the year where I really was able to be myself, where long lasting friendships were formed across race and class barriers, and where I began to really think about my role in creating a better world. My closest friends today are these same people, who I would never have met were it not for the magic of Hidden Villa Summer Camp.
During my experiences as a counselor, I realized my commitment and joy for working with a diverse group of at-risk youth and the importance of creating new leaders in the movement for equality and social justice. Since ending my work at camp I have worked in group homes, juvenile detention facilities, after-school programs, and now I’m a bilingual teacher in Hayward. I now send 6 of my students each year to the 2 week Residential program at camp. I watch every year how they return changed in some significant way, how in two weeks at camp they are able to get something I can’t give them in a year of schooling.
The reason we’ve been given for the changes and cutbacks to camp are primarily financial. But I am unable to understand why no fundraising letter has been sent to the mailing list. Or why there was no mention of the financial crisis at the well attended 60 year camp reunion, which was full of people whose lives were changed by camp and would be happy to make a donation to keep its programs running.
A group of previous campers and counselors have formed the Committee to Save Hidden Villa Summer Camp. We are a group of teachers, social workers, counselors, and youth advocates who have no other agenda then the desire to see camp continue in its current form. We’ve been spending our nights and lunch breaks trying to get the word out, to fundraise, and to help pull together those thousands of people who know how important these 2-week sessions are. For 60 years Hidden Villa Summer Camp has brought together young people from different backgrounds and created a true multi-racial environmentally aware community that I have yet to truly see or experience in any other place. The impact that these 12 days have made on the lives of thousands of people is incalculable. It’s not too late to change the Board of Directors decision and to raise the money needed for next summer. For more information please go to Web Link Together we can ensure that future generations will be touched by this special place.