A $1,500 Matthew 25 grant from American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) helped provide for a 2016 residential summer camp experience for traumatized children in Saco, Maine. The Royal Family Kids’ Camp was offered by United Baptist Church in Saco. The camp has operated for 17 years.
“All of our children have experienced trauma to one degree or another,” explains Beverly Lowell, the camp’s director. “The trauma is reflected in their behavior. Some are overly aggressive. Others are far too withdrawn. Few of the children trust anyone, and they are suspicious of anyone who treats them well. Most have fallen behind in school and often are the target of bullies. Their social skills are minimal because they have been so focused on trying to survive and cope.”
The ABCUSA grant provided for three full and one partial scholarship for the one-week camp experience, which costs $325 per camper. “The grant is much appreciated,” explains Lowell. “It costs us $19,000 a season to run the camp, and we work hard to raise the necessary funds.” The camp offers swimming, horseback riding, archery, woodworking, drama, music, Bible stories, puppet activities, a Victorian tea party, canoeing, an “everybody’s birthday party,” and more. The camp features a two-children-per -counselor ratio to encourage the possibility for caring relationships.
In addition to trauma, Lowell explains, the children experience scarcity in their material, physical, emotional and spiritual lives. “Having three full meals a day and an afternoon and bedtime snack is something they have never experienced,” she says. One little boy came to camp with a lunch bag “filled with clothes he would need for the week.” Another came with only winter clothing because summer clothing was not affordable. “We will provide basic clothing for the week” when necessary, Lowell says.
Often the children have never had a birthday party and have few photos of themselves, Lowell says. “So we have a birthday party with a big cake with each child’s name on it, and we have a photographer who takes photos all week and presents each child with a photo album of some 60 photos at week’s end. The sense of scarcity is replaced with a sense of great worth.”
Lowell says the staff is all-volunteer, and they seek to present an opportunity to see life differently. “Instead seeing life as violent, chaotic and hard, we provide an opportunity for the children to see life another way,” she says. “Our mission is to provide positive memories for hurting children. We do that by letting the love shine that God has given to us. We come together as a family of God, treating everyone with respect, compassion and the love of God. We speak of camp as a God thing, and God is at work in powerful ways.”
She tells the story of a suspicious child who could not believe at first that anyone would volunteer to be with him for a whole week. “At the end of the week the child was all smiles, laughing and totally engaged with camp,” Lowell says. “He had come to understand that he mattered to others and that people actually wanted to be with him.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit: www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/