By Habiba Alcindor
Think back to your teenage years. Perhaps some of your most vivid memories and life-defining experiences happened during this emotionally charged and sometimes confusing time.
We remember that, and that’s why we created Camp Rise Up, an immersive health-education intervention, to offer teens living with homelessness a safe space to learn about the facts of life and make discoveries about themselves.
Meghan Miller, The Floating Hospital’s director of health education, conceived the camp as a fun way to teach important topics such as reproductive health, relationship issues and substance abuse – oftentimes difficult discussions for parents and children. Meghan directed several camps during her Peace Corps service in Uganda and witnessed first hand how just one week made a huge impact on kids.
And, in her current stateside role, she saw how New York City teens in temporary housing face far more pressure to engage in risky behavior than their housed peers. So, she designed Camp Rise Up to blend recreation and physical activities with group classes and discussions on healthy lifestyles.
Held at the Camp Ramapo sleep-away camp in Rhinebeck, and away from their often-chaotic living conditions, last year, campers gathered in rustic “classrooms” and around a campfire to talk about peer pressure, self-esteem and stress with other kids in similar situations while exploring new environments together.
Even if they couldn’t sleep away, campers got into the great outdoors.
Camp Rise Up 2020 was true to its name, rising above challenges
Because of Covid-19 health protocols, this year’s camp took place in Long Island City, just a few blocks from our main clinic. Safety regulations were enforced to protect staff and campers’ health. Twenty-three teens participated in morning workshops at the Hilton Garden Inn. Each afternoon, they embarked on a different field trip.
Activities combined fun and leadership/team-building skills such as an Outdoor Olympics competition in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a ferry trip to Rockaway Beach for a ropes course and acrobatic lessons at the Trapeze School New York. Many of the exercises gave the campers the opportunity to overcome their fears and reveal untested skills.
This year’s camp included returning alums from previous summers and advanced course curricula, including a social justice segment. Meghan believes that it’s important to reinforce lessons taught the previous year while also allowing campers to build on what they learned. Next year she hopes to return to the upstate campus. There, campers not only benefit from a healthy change of scenery, but also a special environment for bonding.
In the spirit of “what’s old is new again,” Camp Rise Up reimagines The Floating Hospital’s original progressive concept of bringing marginalized New Yorkers aboard a boat for a holistic experience that included fresh air, recreation and education as well as medical care.
Camp Rise Up may be an update of the original mission, but its potential for transforming lives is timeless.
Campers build skills and confidence in a ropes and obstacle course.
Since 1866, The Floating Hospital is the largest provider of healthcare to homeless families. We provide free and secure transport to and from more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.
The Floating Hospital operates a main clinic in Long Island City. Additionally, we have satellite clinics at shelters, public housing, and assessment centers throughout the city.