Dear Campers, Staff and Supporters,
My grandfather and his family fled Yugoslavia after the Nazis bombed the capital in 1941. They crossed borders illegally, bribed public officials, and eventually hired a human trafficker to lead them on an arduous hike through the Alps mountains into neutral Switzerland. Families do not flee their homes for adventure. They flee when they have no other option. America has always had people that welcomed immigrants. It has also experienced moments when fear has had residents turning their backs on those seeking a better life for themselves and their families. We choose to welcome those who are already here and who seek to come here.
My co-director Ben and I have decided to donate a portion of our proceeds from this summer’s camps to Juntos, a community-led, Latino immigrant organization in South Philadelphia.
Juntos organizes their community to advocate for human rights as workers, parents, youth, and immigrants. We reached out to Juntos and asked what they need most right now. They replied: money, volunteers and help raising awareness about their work.
The adage “Democracy is not a spectator sport” has been ringing truer and more urgently recently.
We’ve been upset and disturbed by the current administration’s rhetoric that seeks to ostracize our neighbors, friends and community members who are immigrants. We disagree with the administration’s immigration policies and proposed policies that seek to criminalize and scapegoat people who have sought refuge in this country. Ben and I have been calling our elected officials, attending demonstrations, and privately donating to organizations that are working to defend the constitution and organize those most affected by the administration’s words and actions.
We have decided, that during these critical times, we must use all of the resources available to us to stand up for values that we believe in: hospitality, strength in diversity, and human rights for all.
As the heads of a small organization, the resources we have are limited. However, we believe that if everyone contributes what they are able,our communities and democracy will be better off for it.
We’re supporting Juntos because it is a small, community-led organization where our donation will make an impact. In addition to organizing and empowering immigrants in South Philadelphia, Juntos works at the intersection of a myriad of issues and builds alliances with organizations from all over the world.
Camp Bonfire is a weekend of tremendous fun. It’s also a weekend where we get to practice being extra nice to people we don’t know, who are often different than us.
It’s not enough to write on our homepage “Adults of all genders, colors, ages, sexualities, personalities, backgrounds and experiences are welcome.” We hire a staff made up of people of different genders, colors, ages, sexualities, personalities, and backgrounds with experience creating a supportive and hospitable weekend-long community.
Kickball games, canoe rides, talent shows, arts and crafts activities and fire starting classes are just a start.
After our first summer, I remember one of our counselors, Alie, saying that she came back home with “camp eyes.” That she was projecting joy and assuming the best of everyone she walked past. That weekend at camp energized her optimism. This is our hope for Camp Bonfire: that as an organization we will be able to support causes we believe in, that as a retreat it will be incredibly fun and joyful and that throughout the year our campers can think back to camp when they need a moment of optimism and joy.
We hope you’ll join us in supporting Juntos. This is our attempt to make our little corner of the world a better place for everyone who lives here.
See you at camp,
Jacob and Ben
Photos By Paul Gargagliano for Hazel Photo.
Jacob (left) looks towards a better future. Ben (right) does his best Statue of Liberty impression.