Student Leaders: Camden, New Jersey
Christmas Break Service Trip
Considered one of America’s most dangerous cities, Camden, New Jersey is not without hope...
Students have the opportunity to spend winter break in Camden, New Jersey, volunteering, serving and learning with Urban Promise, a K-12 Christian school and community development program. Like many of our Urban Involvement partners in Seattle, Urban Promise gives our students a chance to look at challenging issues with a new perspective and in a new context.
Trip dates: December 6-21, 2012, 2012
Host: Urban Promise
Project Description: Team members will explore urban service, education and community development through work projects with Urban Promise, volunteering in classrooms, and learning about the history of Camden and Urban Promise.
Read more about students' experience in Camden in SPU's Response.
For more information contact Owen Sallee, Coordinator for Global and Urban Involvement: firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 281-2932
December 20, 2012
These last few days in Camden have been crazy. Our main project, besides being in the classroom for 8 hours, is helping to set up the “Christmas Store.” The store provided an opportunity for parents of children in the community to come to Urban Promise and have the chance to pick out presents for their children. The format had changed this year; before they were dropping presents off at their houses. Urban Promise wanted to have to parents come and pick out the presents as a more meaningful way to have the parents feel more empowered and like they are in control.
Another one of our big projects was helping out with the general development of the organization. We wrote thank you letters, licked envelopes and made hours and hours of donation calls. While this is not a glamorous part of the organization, we understand that it is something that has to be done and are will to help out where ever needed.
While we were sad to leave the classrooms this morning, we have felt honored and blessed to have been able to take part in this community and see how the city of Camden is being reformed by Urban Promise. We hope that you will continue to keep Urban Promise in your prayers.
Sarah: It is unreal to believe that it is already time to leave Camden, New Jersey. I came into this trip with ideas on what I thought I would learn and what I thought the trip would be like. However, at the end of the trip as I am reflected I am finding that this trip was even better than I had anticipated. I enjoyed the experience so much and can’t wait to see where God leads me in my life. One thing I have learned that has impacted me a lot is how I use to look at people and judge them based on the outward emotion they showed instead of getting to know them and their internal struggles. Before coming here I use to find it so easy to say a person must have a good life if they are always happy out in public. However, I met a boy here who really touched my life. Every day he was the first person to welcome me with a smile and give me a hug. My thoughts were he may not have money but if he can smile his home life must not be that bad. Come to find out from a worker here at UrbanPromise that his life isn’t as good as it seems. I was told to pray for him and his family since he has a “rough situation” at home. This shocked me since he seemed to be one of the happiest kids in the classroom. Upon coming down from this shock I started to reflect on how I am quick to judge someone based on how they appear to others instead of getting to know how they feel deep down. I have learned from this experience that someone can be feeling so much pain but outwardly they can seem like the most joyous person in the world. Now my hope is to remember this lesson I have learned and others and to carry them into my future. I can’t wait to get back and be able to share the rest of my experiences with all of you guys!
Lauren: So this is it. We are pretty much done with our time here and most of me just wants to sit in silence. I feel as if I have so many words I want to proclaim to the world but paradoxically I also just need to take this all in and think inwardly for a while. I’ve been to countries halfway across the globe and I’ve learned some incredible things in my time at SPU. But I would venture to say that these last two weeks in Camden have rivaled it all. This team is filled with some incredible girls and I have loved learning alongside them. The people at Urban Promise are nothing short of wonderful in every regard. My world has been both shaken and steadied all at the same time. The things I have seen, heard, and experienced here have struck a deep, deep chord in me. I would venture to say they have struck all of the chords in me; I feel as if the experiences and the life I have seen and been a part of these last couple weeks has reverberated through my entire being and subsequently affected the lens from which I view the world. There is no way I can be the same. I have been so beyond blessed by the life I have had thus far. I cannot go home and continue on without being wholly and completely affected by what I have seen in Camden and the call of God to be a seeker of justice and freedom for his people. The things I have learned are not concepts learned in class or in foreign cultures of remote islanders and tribes. The people that Urban Promise reaches out to are Americans, just like you and I, who supposedly enjoy the same rights and privileges as every citizen of this country does. What I have seen is a world radically different than the one I grew up in. One in which poverty is the norm and only an outcome of a dozen different incredibly heavy factors. These kids and families face so much every second of every day. In the midst of this lies Urban Promise, a community of hope and love and joy in the purest of forms. They are lights in the darkness and brokenness of a city filled with people yearning for life. Camden, on paper, looks pretty grim. The children here might look similarly on paper as well. If I have learned anything, it is that this city and these children are anything but what statistics say they should be. There is hope to be found even in dark and pretty terrible circumstances. I have been changed by the people here who are dedicating all of themselves to loving as Christ does. It all comes down to this simple fact for me: the people here live in and see brokenness every day; there is no better way to see our dire need for the strength of a God who actively loves us and compels us to actively love others. Urban Promise has given me a glimpse of what this pursuit looks like. I am forever grateful and continually in awe of how incredible God and the people he has created are.
Becca: As I come to the end of my time in Camden, I’ll summarize my many emotions in one word: grateful. First, I am grateful for the group of girls who have been my teammates, encouragers, entertainers, and caretakers on this adventure. Though we didn’t know more than one another’s favorite cereal when we boarded the plane two weeks ago, serving every day with one another in our unpredictable and often challenging schedules had a way of exposing one another’s hearts. These girls are all so thoughtful, passionate, and have a deep care for other people, and I feel blessed to have met, lived, and served with them on this trip. I am also grateful for the people that I have met through Urban Promise. “Incredible” is too mundane a word to describe the individuals who have shared their stories, passion, and commitment to genuinely pursue God’s calling in their life. The vibrant personalities in my third grade classroom and the after-school programs have brought so much brightness and joy to my days here. These kids are filled with so much joy and have shown me more love than I ever anticipated from one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country. They have touched me with their tender spirits and I feel truly blessed and changed after taking part in a small portion of their lives. Finally, I am so grateful for the God that has led me to be a part of this experience and who presides over the relationships, change, and love that I have witnessed at Urban Promise. He has taught me so much during this experience and has spoken into the way I see my life, my service, and my future.
Bethany: I can’t even put into words all I have experienced and how much I have grown while in Camden. My life will seriously never be the same. When preparing to come to Camden I was expecting to experience a different way of life and culture due to the presence of extreme poverty, violence, drugs, and much more. What I came to though, was a community who welcomed me in and treated me as their own. Very few times before have I felt such love and acceptance by a community; and this time it came from the hearts of people whose lives are often filled with heartache and pain. There is so much more here than the violence, poverty, and pain that others see from the outside. I have seen some of the biggest smiles, warmest hearts, and most caring people that have probably ever existed. I don’t know all that Camden will do for me in the future, but I know I am immensely and forever changed.
Annie: I have enjoyed my time here at Urban Promise and I have learned and grown so much as a person. I have been having a difficult time putting in to words the way I think about Camden and the things I have experienced. The best way I could describe it is just a feeling uncomfortable. Angry about what is happening to the people here, frustrated that there is no one particular thing that can help, stumped and almost disheartened by the overwhelming odds these children face, but still also joyful at seeing the accomplishments and the spirits of the children and the community here in Camden. I know that I alone cannot change Camden, and no one alone can, but I have seen progress just in the time that we have been here. We have not created jobs, or given people a better place to live, but I feel like I have seen the organization and the community change. In the time that we have been here 3 murders have taken place, making the total for the year 67. I think about the children and what this could possibly mean to them, and how they can cope with these statistics, the murder rate is 7 times the national average. But yet, I still am amazed and inspired by the people who pour in to the community and the changes that are being made one person at a time. I think in a place like this, one has to focus on the smallest accomplishments: today, the leader of the 8th grade girl clique hugged me before I left. Camden has taught me so much about loving people and how to see the light in everyone and the way that God is moving. I am not sure that I could have learned it anywhere else, and I am excited to see the continued impact that this trip will have on my life. I feel as if Camden has blessed me 1000 times more than I could have ever given here.
-Camden Team, 2012.
December 16, 2012
This weekend has been one for the records. It began by spending all of Friday in New York City sight- seeing to our hearts desires. As a group we were able to see Times Square, Macy’s Christmas display, many large candy stores, Central Park, FAO Schwarz (a very popular toy store), and Rockefeller Center along with the ice skating rink and enormous Christmas tree. We also were able to enjoy some delicious pizza at Angelou’s, a great restaurant which was recommended to us by a New Yorker themselves.
Yesterday was our beautiful day of rest, and boy did we enjoy it. This was our first day to sleep in, have nothing scheduled all day, and get to take a break from the busy days we have been experiencing. Getting the chance to rest yesterday prepared us well for today. This morning we attended church in the same building in which the Camden Forward School we have been working in is located. This church is different from the churches we attend at home. Service began late with very few people there, we spent over an hour singing, forty minutes on the sermon, and our group still left before everything was completely over. The service was very gospel oriented and spirit filled with dancing and clapping greatly encouraged. Everyone instantly knew we were visitors because we were the only white people in site and many people came to welcome us as soon as we walked in. We were also blessed by the Pastor as we began to walk out, which was an experience in itself. While this service was not what we see each week at our home churches, we all greatly enjoyed it and actually had a lot of fun. After service we went to Marcus’ house to eat lunch and spend time with him and his family. Throughout the four hours we spent at his house, we had his four young girls crazily screaming and jumping on us the entire time and a few of us got only a short break to quickly eat dinner and begin playing with them again. The time at Marcus’ house was a nice time away from Urban Promise’s campus and it was fun to be in a good family atmosphere after all of the pain and destruction we have seen since arriving. Throughout all of these experiences we have learned and grown a lot.
Bethany: Even though I have not been in Camden for very long, my life is forever changed because of it. When first arriving here, I knew I would be seeing a part of the world where people lived differently than I, but I did not know how much of an impact it would have on me. On one of our first days here we got a tour of Camden, and the whole time I was close to tears. So many of the children who attend Camden Forward School live in broken down, dirty, and even abandoned parts of down that are infested with crime, murder, and drugs. I have heard many times before about people living in these conditions, but it became so real to me once I was physically here. The crime and destruction we hear about is a reality to many kids and families here, and most of them do not have a way of getting out of it. Yet, they are all filled with so much joy and thankfulness for what they do have. Seeing all of this is shaping how I view my own life and the many things I have been blessed with that they may never get to experience. Becoming a part of this pain has also shown me once more that I am going in the right direction of becoming a teacher to help ensure that these same kids get a quality education no matter where they come from. While I am still trying to figure out whether this means elementary or secondary education, I know that my being a teacher will cause me to fight against the injustice that is happening here rather than sitting back and letting it happen. At this point I don’t want to leave Camden because there is so much love and acceptance here even though many people are struggling to get through each day alive.
Lauren: The short time I have spent in Camden has changed my perspective and outlook on so many things. Being placed in the art classroom has been unique in that I get to interact with all grade levels of kids. Not only do I get to meet and talk with so many kids, art provides an outlet for the kids and has acted as a sort of window into their lives and what they go through and are challenged by. Talking to the students and listening on conversations with their peers during classroom hours has given me a much greater understanding of the community these kids live and grow up in and the very big struggles they face. I have found, as the days have gone on here, that these kids are incredibly talented and deep thinkers and remarkably resilient to hardship and struggle. They are brilliant and they live under a system and society that tells them otherwise all the time. Being able to be a part of UrbanPromise has sparked a bit of a flame in me; UP believes so much in these youth and growing leaders out of them. In a world where these kids are often shortchanged, facing so many more obstacles than I ever did growing up, the mission of UrbanPromise seems so vital. I cannot go back to Seattle unchanged by the work they are doing and the joy that comes from the people they serve. I am so thankful and forever changed.
Becca: Though I knew coming to Camden would be a growing experience, I didn’t know what exactly God would teach me here. Already, He has been revealing so much. It is most amazing to see the genuine relationships that the Urban Promise team has formed with one another and the kids in the community. They are truly living life with one another, inspiring me to not only see the needs of those around me, but to actually see the people behind the circumstance. Often, the people are incredible. Though I am on a “service” team, I feel far more “served” than anything else, especially by the joy-filled kids who are eager to share their love, stories, and even occasional raps with me. This trip has already challenged me to think about the way I will serve, work, and interact in my community. I am also blessed to have a wonderful community here in our little Camden home with my wonderful team! I am excited to see the ways my heart will continue to grow during our final week in Camden!
Annie: Being in Camden has been a meaningful experience. The thing that has affected me the most is seeing how the children can experience such hardship but still triumph. It has become more real the last few days that people live in Camden, real people with real faces. One of the things, as small as it might be, that made me see this was when we couldn’t walk to 7-Eleven at 7:30pm, even though it is only a block away because we were told it was not safe. Being in Camden has given me a greater sense of purpose for my own life. Seeing people in need gives me a greater desire to serve those in need, whether it be in my day to day interactions or in my future nursing career. I feel very blessed to be able to have taken part in this community with amazing people and my lovely team!
Sarah: Before coming to Camden I had ideas about what I was going to learn and how I thought it would impact me. Since being here I have had several things that have impacted me, but one that has affected me the most is my outlook on life’s challenges. I have had time to reflect on how my life hardships seem so little compared to the hardships the children face in Camden and how I have dealt with them. Even though the children in Camden have had to deal with harder issues then I have ever had to face they still can come to school or aftercare with a smile on their face. The children look at the positive instead of always at the negative. This has made me really reflect on how I let life’s issues affect me. Through this experience I want to be able to go home and start focusing more on the positive things in my life and less on the negative.
December 13, 2012
Greetings Family and Friends!
Today was another amazing day for all of us here in Camden. We began our morning working in our assigned classrooms in the Camden Forward School. In the afternoon we were treated to a tour of H.B. Wilson Elementary School (pre-k to 8).
We all felt that H.B. Wilson was another impactful point of our trip. It was of particular interest because it is the public school in Camden. The Camden school district is frequently threatened with takeover by the state of New Jersey. We really loved seeing the Principal, Mr. Bell, and Vice Principal, Mrs. Johnson together in action. As we saw them interact throughout the school with students we were awed by the way all the students respected them and how they interacted with them. We had several opportunities along the way to ask questions, meet teachers and talk with them, and sit in and observe many classrooms. This opportunity to visit a public school in Camden, NJ impacted each of us in a different way. Seeing the hope that still came through this school was incredible. Being in such a place, that was supposedly “failed” by the eyes of the government or local administration, thrive was really inspiring to us. Mr. Bell has set a high standard for these kids but at the same time is very understanding of their home situation and has a full understanding of the community in which they grow up in.
Many of us are considering working in an urban setting. Lauren after the tour debated still wanting to apply for Teach of America or becoming a crazy social justice nun. If you want to know more about this you should ask her what it is about.
After finishing at H.B. Wilson we went back to Urban Promise where we helped set up for the Camp Faith Christmas party which included fun Christmas themed stations. The dinner following, was a monthly event put on by a church in the neighboring town. They want to get to know the organization they are supporting and have a chance to interact with the children. It was a Christmas feast! Then enjoyed free time with the remaining students left after dinner. After a long day we are all exhausted but loving all the different events that meshed together to make this an inspiring day for us and has us yet again rethinking what we want to do with our lives.
On a side note, we were able to hang out and get to know more of the permanent interns here at UrbanPromise. They invited us over for dinner! It was a good opportunity to talk about the experiences they were having and what lead them to Camden, NJ. The food was amazing. Many of the interns are international students, so we were treated to food from Uganda and Malawi. It concluded in a pudding food fight which we only watched because we are ladies…and wimps/have no clean clothes/ no washer/ confused.
Please continue to pray for us as we are learning more about the community and seeking further to learn how to have a servant heart.
Team Camden 2012.
December 12, 2012
Yesterday we started our first full day in the classrooms with a little less nerves and a little more familiarity. Though the novelty and occasional craziness of Monday’s experiences kept us on our toes, we all feel more comfortable settling into our routine, connecting with our teachers, and gaining more insight into our vibrant students. Our days are long and busy. Our primary role in the classrooms is acting as an extra set of hands for these busy teachers, who impressively manage the learning, relationships, and often enormous attitudes of their students. However, most of us have plenty of time to connect with the kids, who both impress us and bless us with their ability to talk, dance, and laugh in a never-ending capacity.
Yesterday, we got to help out in a different after-school program called Camp Faith. Camp Faith is run at one of Urban Promise’s buildings each afternoon, offering tutoring, games, and Bible trivia for elementary students throughout the community of Camden. Kids from Camden First (our school) are mixed with kids from at least three different public schools, which gave us the chance to meet more of the community’s children and hear more of their stories.
In both the school and the after school programs, we are continually struck by the simultaneous joy and challenges of the students, especially those from the public schools, who sandwich stories of imprisonments and memorials the between commentaries on toys, homework, and other aspects of what we would generally consider everyday life. Several of our students have stunned us with their ability to articulate and openly share their experiences with remarkable maturity and insight. As difficult as it can be to hear, it is hard to not find hope in the strength and spunk of these young leaders-in-training and the remarkable care and love that the Urban Promise staff pours into them every day.
Bethany is still working with the junior high students, dealing with the not-always-so-charming spunk and sass of the massive personalities of the eighth grade class. Though she spends most of her time grading papers, she has enjoyed gettingthe chance to interact more with the eighth graders and kidsfrom other grades in the after-school program. She has especially enjoyed getting to connect with the eighth grade teacher, who has openly shared the challenges and passions that have accompanied her four years teaching some of the most difficult, but promising, kids in Camden.
Becca has loved working with the third grade class. This class is overflowing with joy, receptivity, and an incredible love for learning. She loves watching the third grade teacher whocontinually demands respect in a way that shows her high expectations and care for the students. The students are constantly excited to have a special helper in the classroom and are generous with their hugs, questions, and musical performances whenever they have the opportunity to share them.
Lauren has enjoyed working with a mix of age groups in the art room. She has plenty of time to interact with the students while they work on their art projects, which often provide awindow into their thoughts and stories. Today, she spent most of her day with the sixth graders, and, to her surprise, loved it. She feels like she has found her niche with the sixth-grade group.
Sarah has been in the fourth grade classroom. Her class is full of personalities, and she has gotten the chance to work with some of the more challenging ones one-on-one. She has loved getting to know the kids, especially the fourth grade boys who shared their stories and humor with her at their lunch table today.
Like Bethany, Annie has also received the load of papers and attitudes of the junior high science classroom, but has also gotten to connect with the class’ awesome and passionate teacher. This morning, she joined Nurse Becky for sex education with the high school students with far less trepidation and far more excitement than most of us would think logical. Annie loved participating in the class, which Nurse Becky handled with skill, humor, and honesty, and got to see firsthand the incredible ministry that Nurse Becky contributes to the school. Annie loved working with Nurse Becky and hopes to “grow up” to be like her in the future.
We are excited to continue working in the schools and taking on new projects later this week! We still feel incredibly blessed to build relationships with the incredible students and staff and see their work and God’s work through them in action. Thank you again for your continued prayers, and please continue to pray for our open hearts to what God is teaching us and challenging us with every day!
Love from Camden,
December 10, 2012
Hi friends and loved ones!
So we kind of slagged on the update for yesterday but not to worry, you’ll get twice the update today! Yesterday, Sunday, we went to church with Marcus, wearer of lots of hats at Urban Promise, and the interns to Glougester County Community Church. After that, the five of us hopped on a train to Philadelphia and did a little bit of the touristy thing. After walking back and forth on the same street three or four times, we eventually made it to the Reading Terminal Market which was pretty reminiscent of Pike Place. There we all got our philly cheese steaks (don’t call them that unless you want to get laughed at)…except for Sarah, who got her own larger than she thought pizza. We walked through the city, found the liberty bell, moseyed around Independence hall where we caught a tour and walked around the grounds a bit after that. We caught a train back into Camden and ended our night back at the house.
This morning was our first day working at the school and engaged with the kids for a substantial amount of time. We started off the day with a tour of Camden by Jim Cummings, the head of the Urban Trekkers program, which works a lot with experiential learning and taking kids out camping and out of doors. He also heads up Urban Boatworks, a program where kids work together after school during the year and build these boats-sail, paddle, canoe, kayaks. During our tour we saw the shop and a little of what they do. All of us were moved, a few nearly to tears, seeing first hand the experiences and things these kids get to do through Urban Promise. Perhaps this was so moving because we also had the opportunity to see the incredibly poor conditions these kids are coming from. The team saw Camden up close and personal today, hearing a bit about the history that made the city what it has become and about the issues that have kept it stuck in a lot of what we see today. We learned that there are no easy answers and no easy solutions to the poverty that Camden experiences. There are a lot of very hard things to wrestle with in understanding the city and we are aware that we will never fully understand them but we feel honored and humbled by the opportunity to see and begin to understand this up close. What better way to see the life and truth of the community but through the kids.
We were all assigned to teachers and grades for the day and all convened together at the end of the school day for some of Urban Promise’s after school programs. Annie was assigned to middle school science, Bethany to middle school math, Sarah to fourth graders, and Becca to third. Lauren is working with the eccentric Mr. Robert in art classes for elementary, middle, and high school. After school was relatively mellow (in comparison and only in comparison), helping kids with their homework and sharing conversation with them. When we all got back to the house later tonight we sat and talked around the table for hours, sharing stories of our day and wrestling with education, social, and theological issues that have arisen for us since being here. We all agree that what we are seeing, encountering, and experiencing is perspective changing in virtually all aspects of life. We ask for your prayers as we continue to wrestle in the midst of these circumstances. We are learning a new way of humility, understanding, and compassion through what we are seeing at Urban Promise, in the city of Camden, and in the people we meet. These kids have incredible stories and the people working with them are inspiring, to say the least. This is only our first day in the classes and already we have seen and experienced so much.
December 8, 2012
As we are continuing this journey in Camden, we have gotten the chance to finally meet a lot of the kids. Our day began at 8am as we stepped onto a bus full of kids who seemed as if they had already been up for a couple hours. While we had just woken up and didn't know how to handle so much noise early in the morning. But, we settled in and got to observe and get to know the kids for the first time. These kids are some of the most amazing people we have ever met. They are filled with such joy and excitement for life at all times, and make everything funny. The four hours we spent with them were filled with tons of smiles and laughter.
Today they were extra excited because this morning we went to the store to help them buy Christmas presents for their family. Every year Camden Forward School (which is the school we will be working at the next two weeks) takes children who are not as well off financially, and pay for each of them to buy ten presents at the local Dollar Tree. While this may seem odd to some people, this event is a huge deal to these children. The simple inexpensive gifts that we may not see as acceptable to give to someone else meant the world to these kids. Picking out presents for their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and even dogs; going back to school and getting to wrap them; and getting to see Santa at the end of the day each brought a form of excitement to their lives. Even though the gifts were simple and bought for them, each child was happy just to be able to have gifts for family members on Christmas day.
Seeing how excited they were reminded us of how we should be approaching Christmas. It's not about buying the most expensive gift or getting a ton of gifts, but about giving and being thankful for what you have. The kids here understand this because they are living in areas that have been devastated with poverty and crime for many years, and have been taught to be grateful for everything they have been blessed with. These children are such a great example of living for God and showing His love to others no matter what is going on.
Now that we have gotten to meet and get to know some of the kids, we are becoming more excited about working in the school starting Monday and getting to learn more from these amazing gifts from God. To prepare for Monday, we get to rest for the rest of today and the go to church for the first time since arriving.
We hope you all are doing well and are able to give thanks to God for the beautiful life you have been blessed with.
Becca, Bethany, Annie, Lauren and Sarah
December 7, 2012
We made it to Camden; we cannot believe that we are finally here! We have been looking forward to this for weeks and now it has come.
When we arrived at the airport, all we were told is that a man named Duane is picking us up in a red van, and he is excited to meet us. We found him and he found us and we were able to make the 45 minute drive (thanks traffic…) to Camden from Philadelphia. When we got in we were taken to the grocery store, picked up food, and ate frozen pizza for dinner. We had the opportunity to meet Pamela Foxx, the director of operations and volunteer coordination. Everyone seems so excited to see us and show us around the facility. This morning we helped Pamela set up for the staff Christmas party, decorating the tree and hanging decorations helped us get into the giving and Christmas spirit.
We are excited to meet the children later this week and start to see what the community of Camden has to offer. We have been told that even though Camden may be one of the most dangerous cities, it is also one of the warmest and most welcoming.
Becca: Is very excited to work in the school and meet the children.
All: we are all excited to meet the teachers; we think that the Christmas party is a good way to ease into it, knowing the foundation from which the school is built upon.
Sarah: excited to work with the elementary school children, and see how they grow.
Bethany: Excited to get to know the kids. We have seen them around, but have yet to meet them. She is very excited to close that disconnect between seeing the children walking through the halls and the interactions we will have
Lauren: Is a little nervous (but we know she will great!), but is excited to work with the teachers and learn from them. Expanding into education is something that she has always been interested in.
Annie: Is also very excited to see how education can impact a person’s overall well-being. I look forward to meeting the children and to see how the school reaches further than just the school building.
All: in case you were wondering, Lauren can arrange cookies like a champ, she will be excellent.
Overall, we would just like to emphasize how welcoming everyone is. Everywhere we go people talk about how they were looking forward to coming and the lasting impact that SPU has had Urban Promise.
Please keep praying for us to continue our excitement for this trip that we can fit in where we are needed, that we can look outside ourselves and search for the purpose God has for us in this trip.
Hello, friends of the Camden team!
Early this morning our team began their journey home. Their planes will land in Spokane, Seattle and Portland this afternoon. Victoria’s train brought her to family in Connecticut last night.
It’s been a full two weeks, with significant learning about urban ministry, poverty, education and teamwork. As both their Facebook profiles and personal conversations will attest, the team has very much enjoyed their opportunity to learn and serve with Urban Promise.
As the team returns home, I’d encourage you to set aside time to listen to stories and look at pictures as students reflect on their experiences and consider what Camden means to the rest of their lives. In January we’ll meet with the group to discuss ways to continue applying lessons learned in New Jersey.
If you missed the opportunity to give financially toward your student’s trip, there’s still time. Please contact him or her directly, or let me know if you have other questions.
Thank you very much for your support of this team. Please let me know if you have questions.
We are nearing the last stretch of our trip now. It is difficult to believe! As most mission trips tend to go, it feels as if we have just arrived and at the same time it feels like we have been here months.
Monday we began our week with a tour of Camden. It is such a small city, yet so many people are living within its borders. So many people ignored by the rest of the world are crammed into the city of Camden. The cycle of poverty is Camden’s history. Our hearts are broken for this city! Through the work of our God, we are using our hands to bring some degree of restoration.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we worked at the Camden Forward School (K-8) that is run by UrbanPromise. Each of us has been paired with one classroom. For the three of us (Ria, Hannah, and myself) who are working with the middle school, we have all of the middle school at some point in our day because they rotate to all of the teachers.
As we make connections with the students, it is hard to face the reality of where they live. We have been wrestling a lot with the fact that as we go back home soon, they will remain in Camden where they will have to persevere against the most difficult of circumstances to find stability and success. The kids of Camden know how the rest of the country views their city. I was shocked when kids were openly discussing that Camden is the second most violent city in the nation. Most people instinctively try to cover up shortcomings. They know there is no good part or safer areas of Camden.
This week the History/English teacher I have been working with taught about the civil war. One day she was talking about the period of reconstruction in the South. She asked the class what a city must look like after war. One of the students raised her hand and said “Destroyed. All shot up and nothin’ good left. No grocery stores or nothin’.” Then another girl shouted out “Like Camden!” That is a moment that will stay with me forever.
After school, we helped at UrbanPromise’s development office providing extra hands they so desperately needed as they wrap up the year. We wrote Christmas cards to donors and other miscellaneous tasks to make their jobs easier. On Friday, we spent the day getting everything ready for the staff Christmas party. We baked, and cooked, and decorated all day to celebrate all the ways the Urban Promise has sacrificed parts of themselves to serve these kids and this community. By that evening, we were utterly exhausted! Today (Saturday) has been a day to relax and enjoy each other. We ate, slept, and watched movies! Tomorrow we are going to church in the morning and the to NYC for the afternoon and early evening. It is wonderful that it is only a short drive away!
Our time in Camden has stretched us and taught us. We are searching and seeing why God has brought each of us here. We are really living in Camden. We are surround by the people of Camden and its violence, poverty, and problems. We are praying that the ways that we have been changed and the ways we have become attached to Camden will never leave us, but rather continue to transform us and mold our lives far into the future.
Porscha Smith and the Camden SPRINT team
Wonderful family and friends,
This week has been a whirlwind adventure. Monday started with a tour of the city of Camden. Jim Cummings, a man devoted to UrbanPromise and this city, showed us around. He talked to us about where the city has been and why it is stuck in the poverty that it is in. We also got to see one of the after school programs called Boatworks. This is a place where the students come after school and build beautiful boats over the course of the year. This is one of the many great programs that UrbanPromise organizes. After that we got to go and work in the Development Offices and help lighten their load.
Tuesday was our first day in the classrooms! We are in the K through 8. It has been really fun and a learning experience being with the kids. The teachers and staff work extremely hard to make it great for the kids. It has been a lot of fun working with the kids and being able to help the staff. We have also been back to the Development Offices doing a lot of work for them.
It has been a busy and fun few days. We have had some time to relax and hang out. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We have one week left and are looking forward to the rest of our time here. Prayers are appreciated for energy as we work with the kids, and unity as a team as we go throughout this week.
-Camden 2011 Team
Hey Friends and Family!
Thank you so much for your prayer and financial support for our trip to Camden, NJ. We have had an amazing time so far! We left SPU at 4am pst on Thursday and arrived in Camden about 4pm est. We got settled into our house we are staying at for the two weeks and were able to share the space with a group from Deleware Friday night.
On Friday we were lucky enough to travel to NYC with a group of 11th graders from the Urban Promise High School. We had a great time walking through time square, Rockerfeller Plaza, and went ice skating in Central Park. We heard some great stories from the kids and enjoyed our time spent with them.
Saturday was full of much needed resting. We slept in, finally went shopping for food, watched The Grinch, played some Apples to Apples and Catch Phrase, and spent some quality time building each other up as we get ready to face a busy week.
Sunday we head into Philly to experience true Philly Cheese Stakes, tour the Mutter Museum, and attend church. On Monday we will head into a week at the Urban Promise School. We are having a great time and are very excited to continue seeing what God has planned for us in Camden, NJ!
Camden Team 2011
Good morning, friends of the Camden, New Jersey service team!
Seven SPU students departed SeaTac Airport this morning, bound for Camden, New Jersey where they’ll spend the next 2 weeks learning and serving with Urban Promise, a K-12 Christian school and community development ministry in one of America’s most challenging cities.
The group will spend their time volunteering in Urban Promise classrooms, participating in a class fieldtrip to New York, assisting in afterschool programs and other projects. They’ll also spend time learning from Urban Promise staff about the city’s history, issues and opportunities. The group has spend the past 5 weeks preparing, getting to know each other and discussing training material presented by SPU’s John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training and Community Development.
Read reports from Winter, 2010, including a collection of videos produced by student Olivia Lenz.
Read more about students experience in Camden in SPU's Response.