What Difference Does It Make?
What difference can one week make in the life of a kid? Is all this work and planning really worth it? You get to know the kids for a few days, grow to love and understand them a little, and then you say good-bye.
A few years ago, I signed up to be a mentor in Royal Family Kids’ Clubs. That’s where you agree to spend about four hours a month with one of our campers during the school year, and take them to the monthly Royal Family Kids’ Club meetings. Names filled a waiting list; volunteers were needed.
My mentee was named Dustin, age 6. According to his foster mom, this was his second foster home. His birth mom had a drug problem and dad was in and out of prison. Occasionally, Dustin and his little brother would go stay with their grandmother for a weekend visit.
“Woo hoo – grandma’s house!” You’d think that would be an awesome weekend break, but no. Dustin and his little brother would return to the foster home dirty and hungry, angry and snarling, even biting and scratching like little animals. Troubling information.
Ever the optimist, I drove up to the house excited to meet Dustin. I had prayed. I trusted God to help me make a good connection right off the bat. Dustin was a very small six-year-old, with wispy blonde hair and an angelic face. He had a rather somber look; when you looked into his eyes, he seemed older than six.
Once in the car, he sighed a big sigh while I excitedly told him we were going to have a great day together, and go to McDonald’s and the park after our club meeting. I tried to find something he was interested in talking about.
School? No – that was a dead-end topic
Sports? No – “I don’t know how to play any sports.”
Inside I thought to myself, “Lord, I thought you told me that we would have an instant connection! He seems so sad. This makes me feel sad, too.”
“Well, did you have fun at camp this summer?” I queried. I assumed he knew that I was a Royal Family camp person, taking him to a camp-related activity.
“CAMP!!!!!!! DID YOU GO TO CAMP?????” he turned and looked at me with big, astonished eyes.
“Well, yes, I was a counselor at camp this summer. It was awesome! Did you have fun?”
I had found a topic for conversation at last. He bubbled over with information about things he liked about camp – swimming, making a bird-house, painting a rock (his foster mom wouldn’t let him keep it), the birthday party…on and on.
“Would you like to go back next summer to camp?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m going back for sure. And I told my brother Camden that when he is six, he can go to camp with me. I can show him all around.”
The ice was broken. We had our camp experience in common, and from that we built a new friendship. Royal Family Kids’ Club reinforced the Godly principles taught at camp, and strengthened the bonds of family.
That first day, when I took him back home, he took my hand and led me into his bedroom, where five other little boys had their bunks. Kneeling down beside his small bed, he pulled out a shoe-box that contained his worldly possessions. Underneath a few Star Wars Legos was his picture book from camp. He wanted to show me each page, and at the back…
“…and THIS is my counselor.”
I choked back tears when I read the little note his counselor had written to him.
Dustin did get to attend camp the next summer, and renew his acquaintance with his counselor. He was more confident and communicative. He helped other new kids. It was his family.
ONE WEEK DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Onward & Upward is our weekend-long retreats for 13-15 year olds. The retreats use a curriculum focusing on character traits of godly men and women. We began this semi-annual program in 2004 with 39 teenagers and 46 volunteers.
SUMMIT is our weekend-long retreats for 16-18 year olds. The curriculum focuses on skills that will help them function better as adults. Examples include managing bank accounts, completing job applications, & mock interviews. We began this semi-annual program in 2007 with 12 teens and 16 volunteers.
RISE is a weekend-long retreat offered in April for teen boys and November for teen girls, ages 12-18. OFC will continue to use a 2:1 teen to counselor ratio at RISE, and the curriculum and activities are designed to help teens build self-esteem and navigate gender-specific issues.
Our Father's Children exists to provide HOPE to children of abuse and neglect in Texas, ages 6-18, in camp settings and weekend retreats. We recruit volunteers from a variety of cities, churches and organizations who have a heart for offering these kids hope in Jesus Christ. Whether as a volunteer or donor (or both), we would love to have you join us in providing hope to these kids!