When children go to Creative Camp, they come for the arts and stay for the mentoring.
The arts camp at Zakat Foundation of America Community Center Chicago (ZFCCC) started in mid-June and has eight campers ranging in age from nine to 12. They have experimented with a wide range of arts including cooking, painting, writing and even martial arts so far this summer.
Amina Demir, a ZF staffer, takes the children on field trips every Thursday, like a trip to Devon Street on Chicago’s North Side, where they ate Indian food and played with traditional Indian toys.
“Providing these children with a small but meaningful glimpse into the world around them is a blessing,” Ms. Demir said of her exuberant charges. “Even coming from the most destitute regions of the South Side of Chicago, these children have more heart and passion than most adults I have met.”
Beyond the art instruction and field trips, ZFCCC Director Laila Muhammad recognizes what an important age the children have reached.
“They are at that age where their decisions could make or break them, so we’re working with them,” Ms. Muhammad said. “Every day we hear about shootings and killings, and we talk about it together.”
The security guard on duty at ZFCCC also strikes up conversations with the children, Ms. Muhammad said, and a CeaseFire volunteer has come to discuss the neighborhood violence with them as well.
Ms. Muhammad said one of the boys who is bright and verbally gifted is also “a child who could slip through the cracks. He is African-American and living in the inner city. He is smart, but [at nine] still practically a baby. He could easily be lead in the wrong direction.”
On a recent Saturday the energetic nine-year-old went to the park. He later told Ms. Muhammad, “I was thinking ‘I can’t wait to go to camp tomorrow,’ but then somebody said it was time for church the next day. I said, ‘I wish I could go to camp all the time.'”
Camp will end in late August, but Ms. Muhammad said that considering the express wishes of at least one young boy, she hopes to hold more Creative Camp events on weekends after school starts in September.