NJ Summer Camps for Refugee Children from Ukraine

The game is a universal language for children.

That’s why select camps across the Garden State have chosen to house children from war-torn Ukraine for free for the summer of 2022.

“I felt this camp could be a fantastic healing experience for these kids, and I think we were pretty true to that,” said Jonathan Gold, who runs Tamarack Day Camp at Randolph, the day camp Oak Crest in Somerset and Pine Grove Day Camp in Wall.

The three sites altogether house a dozen children whose families have fled Ukraine to live with loved ones in the Garden State.

“We gave them all full scholarships to camp this summer,” Gold said.

The children range from 5 years old to pre-teens, Gold said.

There is a language barrier, but staff members use online translators if necessary. And Gold was surprised to learn that some staff members could speak Ukrainian or Russian.

Young people, however, instinctively know how to interact with each other, he noted.

“It doesn’t matter what language it is, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from – if you can start to understand a game, you can communicate, and that’s what we’ve seen happen,” Gold said.

This is not the first time camps have responded to children affected by tragedy, according to the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. Under the Association’s Heal the Children program, the camps provided free services to children who lost a parent on September 11, 2001, and again to children whose homes were damaged by Sandy in October 2012.

“Providing kids with a fulfilling summer at camp is one small way to help them overcome adversity,” said Alicia Skovera, Executive Director.

Nationally, the American Camp Association has worked with the US State Department to place more than 100 Ukrainian exchange students in overnight camps across the country.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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