July 24, 2012
For three weeks during the summer, the YWCA staff greeted three very excited groups of teenagers who, with sleeping bags and suitcases in tow, made the YW their home for one week. This summer, 96 local youth participated in YouthServe's annual Urban Service Camp.
YouthServe is a youth service organization in Birmingham that brings adolescents, ages 13-18, together to participate in community service and social change through monthly Saturday workdays, summer camps and service learning curricula that are implemented in local schools. The Urban Service Camps are a vital part of YouthServe's mission to empower youth leadership through community service. These weeklong camps are designed to build friendships and break down barriers among a diverse group of youth while performing community service throughout Birmingham. The YW has hosted the program for the past eight years.
"YouthServe's Urban Service Camps are important because of the cross section of young people that come together to serve the Birmingham area," said Lauren Banks, YouthServe Executive Director. "We have youth from over-the-mountain, inner city Birmingham, as well as county and private schools," she added.
Each session began with teambuilding and games at Railroad Park and an exciting scavenger hunt around Birmingham to introduce them to various areas of the city. Throughout the week, campers attended workshops on prejudice reduction, empowerment, education and privilege. They also heard from speakers on youth activism and expression.
During the day, campers participated in "urban hikes" where they took public transportation or walked to volunteer sites. This summer, campers worked with the Aletheia House Kids Who Care Camp (Eastlake and Woodlawn locations), Greater Birmingham Ministries, Hooper City Community Gardens, The YW's My Sister's Closet, YouthServe and The Exceptional Foundation. Their tasks included assisting with camp activities for young children, working in organic gardens, planting and maintaining crops, organizing donations, participating in sports and art activities with clients. In addition to volunteer work, the campers have also expanded their knowledge of Birmingham's history with visits to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Birmingham Public Library, Lynn Park, McWane Science Center, Peanut Depot and other historic landmarks.
"We are extremely grateful for community partners like the YWCA. Allowing our youth to stay here over the years has been a tremendous help in our planning process. We are glad that our campers were able to give back and volunteer at the YW this summer," Banks said.
The YWCA is pleased to continue its partnership with YouthServe to provide life-changing experiences for area youth. For more information about YouthServe, call 205-521-6651 or visit www.youthservebham.org.
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