"I always thought homeless people wouldn't get a job or were on the street because of something that was their fault. By talking to them, I got to know that bad things happen to good people."
"All I gotta say is, try the duck feet!"
These are reactions from participants of "Calumet in the City," a weeklong program sponsored by Camp Calumet, a Lutheran camp in West Ossipee, N.H., and University Lutheran Church, Cambridge, Mass. The camp gives suburban and rural youth a chance to experience an urban environment.
University has hosted the camp for three years, making use of a basement area that houses a homeless shelter during the winter.
Abiding Saviour (suburban Milwaukee) and Trinity (Lancaster, Pa.) Lutheran churches participated last summer. The youth:
* Enjoyed the sights of Boston and Cambridge.
* Tested their taste buds with Indian food in Central Square, dim sum in Chinatown, cannoli in the North End and Mexican in Jamaica Plain.
* Served supper at a shelter for homeless veterans.
* Talked about problems in the fishing economy on a trip to Gloucester, Mass.
* Visited local pastors serving inner-city churches.
The program is a life-changing experience. "We see kids evolve from being largely unaware of to keenly aware of the beautiful diversity of the city and the social problems so blatant in our country's urban centers," said Calumet counselor Heather Johnson.
"Their minds open up to new foods, music, people, places and experiences. We see their concerns about injustice become more developed and their understanding of social problems become more sophisticated as they witness these complex issues firsthand."
Alexis Twito, 16, of suburban Milwaukee, agrees: "Boston was an excellent place for all of us to challenge our beliefs and stereotypes, not only about city life but also about ourselves, each other and our faith."
To make "Calumet in the City" part of your summer activities, contact Camp Calumet at (603) 539-4773.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers