Camp Harbor View: An Island Of Opportunity for Underserved Kids
A gaggle of children, dressed in unassuming shirts and shorts, clambered onto a yellow bus in could have been their commute to school. Except, it was summer and they were headed to a different venue – one where they could learn not from textbooks, but from activities and interactions. They were to ride the bus and then catch a ferry to Camp Harbor View on Long Island in Boston.
For months prior to the annual gathering, Camp Harbor View tirelessly collaborates with partners to create a memorable summer for each of their campers. SWISSGEAR, a staunch supporter and donor of the mission, has gifted school backpacks to hundreds of kids enrolled in camp who will be going back to middle school after camp is over. The flurry of logistics does not calm until a ruck straps to the back of each camper. It might sound arduous, but for SWISSGEAR, it is also a cherished opportunity to help plant the seeds of a better future – 500 children, 500 backpacks and one summer at a time.
Focused on uplifting kids from underserved families, Camp Harbor View unfurls on what it calls the city’s “island of opportunity.” In many ways, it is a summer camp like any other – it elevates simple fun through getting dirty, wet and sweaty. But in several crucial facets, Camp Harbor View quite unique too. With a strong emphasis on empathy and acceptance, it encourages youths to discover their passion, build their confidence and embrace accountability.
“I didn’t think I had enough in me to actually do what I wanted to do,” said Ivan, a camp alum quoted on Camp Harbor View’s website. “I love camp and want to say it’s a huge percentage of why I am, who I am, and why I do what I do and [the way] I act. Every single part about me came from here.”
Ivan’s life journey traversed rough patches, where he lost loved ones to violence, that inadvertently guided him to Camp Harbor View, where he is now a staff member. Donning the signature blue shirt of the camp’s employees, he seeks to be the positive force in kids’ routines, which often revolve around tribulations and trials, personal and communal.
Ivan, as well as his peers, appear to have grasped a crucial verity – that from misadventures in underprivileged Boston could grow mettle for a bright future. It is the camp’s resolution to help foster it.
Some of it comes from common pastimes such as swimming, biking, basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball and arts and crafts. Another portion stems from the liberty to make choices at camp that promote leadership. At the end, it all fuses together to instill Camp Harbor View’s core values of fun, respect, responsibility, character, courage and community.
“This camp is a blessing,” said Mariana, another past camper who grew from an angry teen to a police officer. “People always say that it is life changing and that sounds clichéd. But I’m here to say that they’re right. Camp made everything possible. Without camp, I don’t know where I would be. It’s that simple.”
Camp Harbor View’s life-altering potential is not confined to a single summer. Instead of a mere option to keep busy in the hot months and then move on, for many participants, the camp is more like a family – once you get in, it never really abandons you. Sisters Ayjah and Brianna know this first hand. At camp, they nurtured both their dreams and years-long friendships. And later, when attending college turned financially arduous, they leaned back on Camp Harbor View.
“It’s hard to afford college, they said. “Camp gave us scholarships so that we were able to further our education, so we could grow— not only as individuals, but also as strong young women. We are able to make the best of what we have because of what camp has provided for us.”