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Richmond summer reading camp helps kids overcome trauma

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Posted at 12:33 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 16:47:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's recent surge in violence has left many children struggling with trauma, and a new six-week summer camp is offering skills to help.

"Stay Connected, Stay on Point" is helping students improve their reading skills, but it’s also giving them coping skills and keys to mindfulness they can take with them home each night.

Faith Community Baptist Church Pastor Patricia Gould-Champ transformed her church sanctuary into a virtual learning lab for the first time this winter to give kids a space away from home to do their school work.

“God gave the vision," Gould-Champ laughed.

Now, this summer, she's continuing to offer a safe space for two dozen Richmond elementary school students.

“We saw the reading issue, and we also saw the trauma of them being on that screen day in and day out," said Gould-Champ.

The camp aims to get kids reading back on track with their grade level before the start of the school year.

“I want them to see the learning space they will go into in September as an exciting space, as a safe safe for them," she noted.

But what’s more important to Gould-Champ and the numerous Richmond Public School teachers who've dedicated their summer to this camp, is ensuring these young learners have the skills to handle the stress and difficulties they may experience at home.

"They go through a lot things we could never even imagine, so trauma can cause stress day-to-day," explained Carlette Biley, who serves as the psychological coordinator for the camp.

Each day, yoga, meditation, music and art therapy will be mixed in with the reading curriculum, which was also developed by RPS teachers.

“I cannot tell you how fantastic these teachers are," said Gould-Champ.

Whitney Millici will show the kids skills how to release some of the built-up emotions from the trauma they’ve experienced.

"Today, they may be able to withstand it, but what happens down the road when it continues and continues?" asked Millici. "Getting those resources and techniques with them today is what’s going to take them on forever."

The hope is these kids will go home each day knowing they are worthy and that there’s a group of teachers who has their back.

”I want them to leave inspired and encouraged to know they are going to be okay," said Gould-Champ.

Gould-Champ has applied for funding to help compensate the teachers who are spending their summer volunteering at the camp.

Her goal is for other churches and community organizations to see the work they are doing here and to replicate it.

"If we can get 24 more kids helped over here, and 24 more over there, think of all of the children," she explained. "I think it’s going to go beyond the summer, but at least we do what we can do to the best we can do it."