Project: Camp wraps up its time in Quincy for Dixie Fire evacuees

     Project: Camp wrapped up the last day of free childcare on Saturday for a group of 31 children whose families were displaced by the Dixie Fire.

     The four-day pop-up camp provided services to children ages 4 to 13 in response to the evacuation orders that have impacted the region.

     “Our goal was to parachute in and provide a safe space for kids to find some semblance of normalcy in a situation that is anything but that,” Michael Latner, Project:Camp’s Co-founder and Executive Director said. “We know that in these situations parents and those helping coordinate the emergency response can be overwhelmed and we’re here to establish a safe environment where kids can be kids.”

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     The camp was held at the Quincy Elementary School Pioneer campus and featured visits from therapy dogs, games and instructional drills with the Feather River Community College women’s volleyball team and men’s and women’s soccer clubs. Members of Quircus also performed as a grand finale for the camp session. A trauma therapist who also lost her family’s home in Greenville, provided parents and children therapy sessions on Saturday.

     “For my daughter, the best part of [Project:Camp] was seeing someone familiar and being able to see one of her best friends from school who, like the rest of us, has been flung about like puzzle pieces,” said Sierra Washington, whose family was displaced from their home in Greenville. “There’s a lot of uncertainty for adults and kids alike so being able to experience something positive in the middle of all this — I vicariously gained hope through it.”

     Project:Camp enlisted more than a dozen volunteers from the community to help run the camp and used trauma-informed care practices to give kids tools to process their experience, and to ensure that the disaster response doesn’t cause additional harm.

     “We spent four days with the kids and we’re able to help them process this experience in a way that will hopefully disrupt any future adverse effects that might arise from a traumatic event like this,” Latner said.

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     Last month, Project:Camp also set up a pop-up day camp at the Lassen County Fairgrounds in response to the Beckwourth Complex Fire in which Project:Camp hosted 13 children at the evacuation center, while parents were able to navigate support systems and take care of other needs.

     Project: Camp’s goal is for communities throughout California to prepare and build community collaboratives to provide pop-up day camps for when wildfires or natural disasters strike.

     “We’re ultimately here to empower others based on a community-centered model, ” Latner said. “Camp counselors, teachers, and youth workers have skills that are ready to be put to use, and with climate change making disasters inevitable, our disaster response systems need to be designed with children’s mental health in mind.”

     Project:Camp is a California registered non-profit organization dedicated to providing safety and joy to every child affected by disaster.

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Children displaced by fire spend time in Project: Camp with a therapy dog at the pop-up camp at Pioneer Elementary School. Photo submitted