SPRINGFIELD — The Jewish Community Center of Springfield (JCC) and Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) have partnered to provide “J-Camp in a Box” this summer to over 400 children, ages 5-12, including 250 refugee and low-income youths.
The first box was distributed in July, and the second box begins going home to campers this week. With summer camps closed across the state due to COVID-19, these ‘campers’ are staying busy with two boxes full of activities to do at home. Each camper receives an activity calendar as well as materials for summer fun, play, and learning at home.
With a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to JFS, along with support from HIAS, the Philanthropic Initiative of Boston (TPI), the Jewish Endowment Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and PJ Library Western Massachusetts, as well as many other local partners, sponsors, and volunteers, JFS and the JCC combined resources to create the boxes.
JFS brought on a refugee youth expert, Susan Tuberville, to adapt camp box activities and materials developed by the JCC to be appropriate for refugee youth. The 40-page JCC guide to the first box for English speakers became a colorful, 80-page booklet to walk English-language learners through camp-box activities, with added English-language development activities. Activity guides were translated into Nepali and Swahili to increase access and encourage parents to do activities with their children who may have more English skills.
JFS is staying in touch virtually with these campers throughout the summer, including home visits, check-in calls, and messaging groups to keep excitement high. The JCC is managing a private Facebook page where campers can connect and adults can share footage of campers enjoying activities and completing projects.
The second box contains more than 20 new projects for families, from arts and crafts to STEM, and even a soccer ball and four cones for each household. The bevy of activities available will provide a respite to parents, while educating and entertaining children in the community during an uncertain time.