49 children at Camp Hope summer retreat.
To provide hope and foster resilience in childhood victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and physical and sexual abuse, the Ventura County Family Justice Center (VCFJC) hosted 49 children at its annual Camp Hope summer retreat.
Since 2015, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and VCFJC have hosted an annual five-day-long summer camp in partnership with Camp Hope America, the first evidence-based camping and mentoring program in the nation for children exposed to trauma. Camp Hope’s goal is to give healing, hope and childhood experiences back to children and teens who have been impacted by violence.
For the last two years, Camp Hope has been held at Camp Daley, a Salvation Army property outside Calabasas. Camp Hope activities included hiking, ziplining, rock wall climbing, recreational pool time, art, mindfulness, yoga classes and a dunk tank. The campers are supported by college-age counselors at a ratio of 3:1 to ensure campers have the safety and guidance they need. Staff from the district attorney’s office, doctors and donors volunteer, as well.
The VCFJC launched Camp Hope after the Ventura County district attorney’s office noticed the generational impacts of violence as members of the same families were appearing as both defendants and victims year after year. Camp Hope was intended to be a proactive, rather than reactive, response to childhood trauma, as well as a crime prevention tool.
“Hope is a powerful tool in overcoming childhood trauma. One of the things we teach on a daily basis is that you should believe in your dreams, believe in others and believe in yourself,” said Mike Jump, chief deputy district attorney and executive director of the Ventura County Family Justice Center. “Your past does not define your future. You are in control. We talk about that around the campfire.”
This year’s camp was paid for with funds raised by the Ventura County Family Justice Center Foundation’s inaugural Hope Gala on July 28. The gala raised $140,000, which exceeded expectations for the event.
The VCFJC has identified 600 children who qualify for the camp, but enrollment is limited based on funds. Depending on the generosity of donors, the VCFJC hopes that next year’s camp will include a second session to accommodate an additional cohort of 50 campers.
The Ventura County Family Justice Center is continuing to expand its footprint in order to assist more children and their families after experiencing violence. The county is currently moving forward with plans to convert a 32,000-square-foot-building in Oxnard into a secondary VCFJC location. Christine Mitchell, the project manager for the much-anticipated East County family justice center, which is in the early planning stages, stepped into her new role the day of the Hope Gala.
To support the Foundation by sponsoring the Gala visit here: vcfjcfoundation.org.