Kids Camp Offers Lessons in Health and Self-Esteem
In an effort to promote health and wellness in underserved communities, the USF College of Nursing hosted the Wholesome Winter Kids Camp in the town of Wimauma, Fla., to teach lessons of health, hygiene, and self-esteem to school-aged migrant children.
The three-day camp, held Jan. 2 – 4 at the community center at The Groves at Wimauma, offered kids crafts, games, and small group activities to develop positive communication skills.
For the past 18 months, the college has been working with Wholesome Community Church in Wimauma to expand its health education outreach in the migrant community. As a result, the college holds monthly health fairs at the church.
But organizers wanted to do more by offering a camp for elementary-aged children during the winter break.
USF nursing student Logan Marx, who volunteers at the monthly health fairs, brought the idea for the children’s camp to church leaders.
He said he spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador leading similar camps and thought the health-centered lessons could be easily modified. Marx is in the college’s Coverdell Fellows program, a fellowship that offers returned Peace Corps volunteers a chance to earn a bachelor’s in nursing.
“The past couple of semesters we’ve been doing a lot of health screenings with the adults, but I just wanted to do something for the kiddos, especially related to health,” he said.
Many of the activities centered on self-esteem and positive and negative communication skills. For example, campers drew a personal flag based on who they are and their interests. That self-reflection activity dovetailed into a discussion on what they think of themselves.
Children also sharpened their listening and communication skills by writing down specific instructions on how to make a jelly sandwich and by playing Simon Says. Other camp days offered lessons in environmental health and hygiene. The camp ended with a soccer tournament.
Marx said it was important to gear the camp toward children aged 6 to 12. A session tailored to teens was planned, but didn’t get enough registrants.
“During the formative years, we want to start good habits,” he said. “They’re going to learn ways to build their self-esteem up as well as build up their friend’s self-esteem. It’s an opportunity for us, as a university, to give to the community.”
Pastor Carlos Irizarry, leader of the Wholesome Community Church, said he embraced the idea for the camp, because it focuses on health and education.
Irizarry is hoping the early intervention could prevent some of the chronic health issues many of the kids’ parents are facing, including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
“For us, it’s about prevention. It’s about taking ownership of their health,” said Irizarry. “Even though they are living at the poverty level, you can still make good choices. That’s what it’s all about.”
Story and photos by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing