New York – With the opening of summer camp just days away, a newly launched program geared at counselor education is hoping to become the gold standard in Orthodox Jewish camping.
Project SafeCamp is the brainchild of Mrs. Debbie Fox, LMSW, the founder and director of the Aleinu Family Resource Center and Child Advocacy, creator of the Safety Kid program and a well known advocate for childrens’ safety. A formal counselor training program that delivers a comprehensive safety curriculum as a four part video series, Project SafeCamp is a program of the Magen Yeladim: Child Safety Institute.
“This is a pilot program this year and our goal is for families, camps and counselors to know about us and let us become as a resource,” Mrs. Fox told VIN News.
Working in conjunction with program coordinator Mrs. Miriam Turk, LCSW, who has been serving as a residential mental health professional at Camp Sternberg for over 20 years, Mrs. Fox created the video series which addresses the topics of bullying, personal safety, dealing with difficult situations and general counseloring advice, including a respectful and appropriate discussion of sexual abuse prevention in camps. Separate video programs, featuring same gender speakers addressing the topics, have been created for boys and girls.
“We found that all of the issues that come up in a camp setting feed into these four areas,” said Mrs. Fox. “If you weave these topics together, you create a healthy, well-educated counselor who knows the red flags and what to be aware of and has the coping skills to deal with the things that can arise on a day to day basis in camp.”
The program, which is available to camp directors who want to educate their staff, as well as individuals who want to hone their own skills, is being offered both online and in live training sessions. Costs range from $5 per counselor when booked by the camp, $10 per counselor when booked by an individual counselor or $500 to have a trained therapist do on site training.
“I have been thinking about doing this for years,” explained Mrs. Fox. “I used to run a counselor training program in Los Angeles and the logistics and timing were extremely difficult. Then it hit me that it might be valuable if counselors could do this program online, at home. We would be able to have experts delivering the program and camps could require counselors to have a certificate of completion from Project SafeCamp, assuring them that their staff would be armed with valuable information.”
While Mrs. Fox admitted that the program got off a little late in the year, response from both sleepaway and day camps has been positive, with over a dozen well known camps signed on for the program. As the program continues to evolve, Mrs. Fox anticipates that Project SafeCamp’s website www.projectsafecamporg, will become an ongoing resource for parents, counselors and camps, featuring videos, tips and more.
“As the world gets more complex, the role played by counselors in the summer camp experience becomes more and more complicated,” said Rabbi Meir Frischman, long time director of Camp Agudah and one of several prominent individuals to endorse Project SafeCamp. “The more information we can provide our staff members on how to deal with children in today’s world, the better our camping experience will prove to be.”
Mrs. Fox hopes that feedback gained this year from participants will help the program grow and allow it to provide further resources for summer 2014 and beyond.
“We need to protect our children at home, in school and in camp,” said Mrs. Fox. “By educating our young adults for their responsibilities as counselors we are giving them an incredible amount of knowledge and skills, giving them the information they need and deserve so that they can be well prepared in their roles as counselors.”