Monday, June 13, 2011
The outreach coordinator at The Fresh Air Fund recently emailed me asking if I might be interested in writing about their program on my blog to help them find volunteers. I'm going to be perfectly honest and say that I had never heard of it. Have you?
I liked the sound of it, so I clicked through the website, and I have to say--it sounds absolutely wonderful.
Here's a basic description from the host information site:
"Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends."
Essentially, the fund sends inner-city children, most of whom have never spent time outside of the city, to stay with volunteer host families who can offer them the chance to really experience a summer vacation in nature, time to play in the wide open air, camp, collect fireflies, and all those things that many of us consider essential components of childhood.
Living in the city with children is an ongoing challenge for me. I appreciate what city life has to offer, but I miss, always, what it lacks--wide open space, forests, lakes, farms, and all the other things I took for granted growing up. Yes, we go to parks. We go to the community garden. We plant our own garden. I go to great lengths to make sure we experience the natural world to the best of our abilities in the city.
But a city park is a city park. Even the massive park in the middle of our city doesn't offer that in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel. You can see and hear the city around you. Luckily for my kids, even with our limited means, they make yearly trips to Michigan and upstate New York, and the occasional rural Quebec excursion.
It truly breaks my heart to think of an eight year old who has never once been out of the city. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea, to be perfectly honest. If I lived in a rural, suburban, or small town area, I'd volunteer for this in a heartbeat. If you live in the Northeastern US (or southern Ontario), please consider volunteering with The Fresh Air Fund.
The organization has been around since the late 19th century (wow!). When I mentioned it to my friend who spends her summers in upstate New York, she told me that her family has taken part in the program for ages, bringing the same kids back for many years. She had only positive things to say about the experience.
If you'd like more information, click here or on any of the links in this post. And if you found out about the program here and end up volunteering, I'd be thrilled to hear about it!