In 2012, approximately 3.2% of DC’s population was living with HIV/AIDS – an infection rate comparable to that of countries including Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.
For children aged 7 to 14, LSS/NCA offers Youth Haven – a camp designed to let kids affected by HIV simply be kids. Throughout the week, the campers can explore nature, do arts and crafts, and participate in age-appropriate discussions on health and growing up. This year, Youth Haven was excited to have student nurses from Montgomery College volunteer at camp. One of the nurses asked us to share her experience…
“I want to be a lawyer”. This was the first thing I heard Anna say. This outgoing young girl had ambition that could take her to the moon and back. Anna shared with her fellow campers and me about the time she convinced all of her classmates that Spiderman was better than Batman, although the students had initially favored Batman.
After we had become acquainted with one another, I decided to lead a discussion on puberty and the emotional and physical changes that accompany the process. As an ice breaker, I asked that each of the girls share one thing they liked about themselves and one thing that they wished they could change.
When it was Anna’s turn, she decided to share the thing she wanted to change about herself first. She said “The thing I don’t like about myself is my face. When people first see me, they make judgments about me. They usually don’t take the time to get to know me. They dismiss me, just because of the way I look.” This revelation captured the attention of everyone in the room. Some staff members held back tears while the other girls paused in silence.
But the very same thing that she wished she could change was also the same thing that she liked most about herself. She said “When people do take the time to get to know me, they really get to know me and they are true to me – not because of how I look but because of who I am.”
These children debated which superhero was the best but these children are the superheroes. At Youth Haven, these children can be who they are without judgment or fear. It is at camp where they can remove their masks and expose their thoughts and feelings. Their journey through life has been altered because of HIV/AIDS but it has not shaken their confidence, their intelligence, or their kindness.”
If you would like to provide a donation to send more children like Anna to camp, please visit our Donation Page.