LETTER TO VICTORIA OCHICHE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FROM FORMER CAMPER WHO NOW VOLUNTEERS WITH CAMP ELIZABETH AS A JUNIOR COUNSELOR
This camp I discovered something
about myself, and it was that I stopped dreaming. Just speaking with Kierra
made me realize just how ambitious and how bright eyed I used to be about my
future. While at camp Kierra was at times alienated,
yet she still had much confidence in herself. It wasn't her character or her
person that was damaged by the insecurities, if anything the rejection from
others made her all the more stronger. She reminded me of my dream and how the
actions of others should never cause you to stop dreaming.
And from Jaylah I
was reminded of the innocence we have in Christ. Her attitude was never dreary
and never somber. Everyday she came by my room to borrow my bible and prayed
every morning. She challenged me so much, and it wasn't in anything she
said, but it was her positive attitude and her love for Christ. I remember on
the way back the radio played "Rain on us" and as I
sat next to her she just began to weep. Her vulnerability and spirit reminded
me so much of myself. It reminded me of the times when I went to the Lord to
find a friend and not to just find an answer. In realizing these things, my
heart is soft and tears began to flow. I never expected or ever anticipated
these girls to change my life as much as they have.
I want to thank you wholeheartedly
for trusting me enough to be apart of Elizabeth Haven and thank you for being apart
of my life. I promise you that I will produce the grades you and my family know
I'm worthy of achieving.
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON
Office of University Communication Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713/743-8199
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Richard Bonnin
July 31, 2008 713/743-8155 (office)
BEYOND BARS: UH SUMMER CAMP OFFERS HOPE TO GIRLS WITH
Two-Year-Old Camp Elizabeth Program Aims to Break Cycle of Crime,
Boost Self-Esteem of Young Girls
HOUSTON, July 31, 2008 — A summer residential camp under way at the University of Houston is working to break the cycle of crime within families, taking particular aim at addressing the needs of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 who have parents or other close relatives in prison.
The need for such a program is borne out in sobering statistics. On any given day in the United States, there are more than two million minor children with an incarcerated parent, according to the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents. More than seven million children have a parent under some form of correctional supervision.
Separation from parents by prison can be devastating to children, resulting in feelings of abandonment, sadness and anger, and can lead to eating and sleeping disorders, lower academic performance and disruptive behavior. Studies show that children of prisoners are six times more likely to go to prison than their peers. They are seven times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.
Volunteer counselors, a forensic psychologist and a professional clinical therapist are addressing the issue by giving of their time and expertise to Camp Elizabeth, now in its second year.
The program is named in memory of Jane Elizabeth Wynn, a single mother of 10 children who as a young woman emerged from an abusive relationship with her former husband to receive training and employment in a clerical position in the twilight years of her life.
Twenty-seven girls were selected for the weeklong camp from a list provided by Prison Fellowship (a 32-year-old organization that serves prison inmates and their families). In addition, some of the campers are from families displaced by Hurricane Katrina who continue to experience anxiety. All camp costs are covered by donations.
Trina Gordon, a forensic psychology adjunct professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, will be the keynote speaker when the camp concludes Friday (Aug. 1). Anitra Shelton-Quinn, assistant professor of school psychology at UH-Victoria, is involved with the camp as a consultant, dorm counselor and camp clinical therapist. She also is on the board of directors of Elizabeth Haven, the nonprofit organization that is putting on the camp.
Girls in the camp receive guidance and a caring perspective from volunteer counselors from Houston, Dallas, Louisiana and Maryland. All counselors must undergo a background check and a volunteer training session. The girls are housed in campus dorms.
“Our goal is to build self-esteem,” Shelton-Quinn said. “There isn’t a young woman who can’t accomplish great things with the proper support system. But there are many young women who just need a little help, a little support, a little encouragement. That’s where Camp Elizabeth comes in.”
In addition to building self-esteem, the camp helps participants learn coping strategies to better deal with the stress of having someone they love in prison. Counseling and physical fitness activities also are part of the program. The camp concludes at 1 p.m. Friday (Aug. 1) with a fashion show and tea in which the participants will model and keep new outfits picked out for them by camp staff.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.