Valley Life » Camp Noah teaches children how to cope

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This past week South Fork Middle School has played host to Camp Noah, a nationally recognized camp that is designed to help elementary school aged students cope with trauma.

Camp Noah often goes into areas after a major disaster has happened to help students cope with the traumatic experience of losing a home, a family member, a pet or simply going through a major disaster. Camp Noah came to the Kern River Valley to help students that are still coping with the effects of the Erskine Fire.

Although the camp came here because of the Erskine Fire, it was open to all students. The camp is put on by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, but while it is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, their program is largely secular so as to be inclusive for children from all kinds of backgrounds. That being said, the program uses the story of Noah to highlight the ways that individuals can come out of a traumatic storm and deal with the loss they may have experienced.

According to the Camp Noah website, their "vision is to serve disaster-impacted children and families by building resiliency, restoring hope and changing lives."

Walking through the camp on the third day, it was apparent that the camp was living up to its promise to help students build resiliency. During the first part of the day, the students are brought together to do various big group activities. The students are then separated by age group to do small group activities.

Small group activities allow teachers to interact with students at their level. In one of the classrooms, an adult was working with kindergarten aged students by having them lay on the floor and think of a place where they feel safe and secure. Following that, the teacher asked them to open their eyes and share their space with the rest of the group. In this way, they fostered a relaxed environment so the students could express themselves.
Every day of the camp comes with a theme of the day. On the first day, the camp focuses on developing a sense of self-worth in the students. The theme of the day is "I am Somebody Special." The second day, the students are asked to share their stories with the rest of the group. They are then taught how to relax and deal with their anxiety. The theme of the day is "Storm Stories."

The third day the students are asked to identify and name their feelings. They are taught how to process grief and loss, and they are taught how to empathize with others that have also experienced loss. The theme of the day is "Why am I Feeling this Way?" The fourth day is identifying themselves as a survivor. They identify their own unique talents and develop teamwork skills. The theme of the day is "I Can Do That."

The final day is all about looking toward the future. Teachers seek to nurture in students a sense of hope for the future. They identify future goals, and they develop an action to reach those goals and to give back. The theme of the final day is "Can I Help You?"

In many ways, the Erskine Fire affected everyone in the valley. While we continue to rebuild and help those that lost their homes in the Erskine Fire regain their independence, it is important to help the children that suffered regain their confidence and feelings of safety.

Camp Noah has helped the students that participated regain that feeling of security while teaching them ways to deal with future trauma.

Photo by Ashley Loza
Jasmine Khadour paints Noah's Ark during an arts and crafts activity with Camp Noah on Thursday, June 29.

Photo by Ashley Loza
A few children take some time out to release some energy by doing laps out on the grass.

Photo by Ashley Loza
Children have small group sessions with camp staff to discuss coping with disasters. These children are coloring coats of arms they've designed to display things they are good at.

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