Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect: The Story of Royal Family Kids Camp

I will never complain about my childhood again. This week I have been a relief counselor for a couple of hours each evening at Royal Family Kids Camp. RFKC is specially designed for children that have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. We had 66 children ranging in age from 8-11. My partner and I relieved the 4 counselors assigned to 8 boys in a cabin. I learned a lot this week.

The first night one of the boys told me he did not know anything about his biological family. A couple adopted him and then they proceeded to divorce. Following the divorce his adoptive father dropped him off at a children’s home to live. He will likely be at the home until he graduates from high school. He is a great kid, and I hope to see him again.


The second night as I waited for the boys to get their showers a camper from another cabin initiated a conversation with me that I would consider odd for a 9 year old boy. Based on what he said I quickly surmised that he had been the victim of sexual abuse in his young life. That is not my area of expertise, but I tried to direct the conversation in a positive manner. Unfortunately many of the campers have had that experience.


And then the third night rolled around. Two of my boys got in a fist fight. There is nothing unusual about that at all. But after I separated them, one the perpetrators broke down. He told me about his mother’s struggle with drugs. And he relayed to me that his mom and dad recently divorced. I asked him how he was doing with all of that and the floodgate opened. He really shared his heart. I just listened. I had to have a pretty straight talk with the other young man involved in the fight, and ten minutes later he was referring to me as his “dad.”


Tonight was the last night. We spent our time passing the football around, as the boys talked about the cute camp nurse. I told them girls had coo dies, but they were not the least bit interested in listening. One of the boys that had not given us any trouble all week became pretty uncooperative. I was really taken aback, but the dean of men explained to me that he did not want to go home tomorrow. Kids from normal homes are eager to see their families at the end of a camp week, but this little boy has nothing to look forward to. I guess that it was why we have Royal Family Kids Camp every year. It is a week of great memories for children that have had very difficult lives.  In some small way, we are breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect.

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