2011-04-14 / Community

New summer program will call on campers to serve the community

Local women create Camp Helping Hands
By Anna Bitong


ECO-PARTNERS—Anne B. Marquart, left, and Meredith Madnick- Cornelius co-founded Camp Helping Hands, a three-week summer camp that teaches kids how to contribute to their community and help the environment. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers ECO-PARTNERS—Anne B. Marquart, left, and Meredith Madnick- Cornelius co-founded Camp Helping Hands, a three-week summer camp that teaches kids how to contribute to their community and help the environment. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Meredith Cornelius realized about a year ago that her daughter, then 5, was spoiled. She blamed herself.

“I recognized that it’s not her fault,” Cornelius said.

Motivated to make a change, Cornelius and her friend Anne Marquart formed Camp Helping Hands, a summer program that teaches children the importance of service to the community.

The Thousand Oaks resident said she decided to start the camp because she couldn’t find local volunteer opportunities for young children.

“There was nothing out there for children 6 to 10 years old,” Cornelius said.

In addition to traditional camp activities such as swimming and arts and crafts, the three-week program aims to foster a commitment to people, animals and the environment.

The camp’s first session will begin July 18 at California Lutheran University.

Each week will encompass a different theme: the environment, fighting hunger, and wildlife conservation and domestic animal rescue.

“We wanted to look at the community through a holistic perspective (and look at) the ways in which the community can benefit,” Cornelius said.

Service will be taught through informal classes, field trips and reflection.

The first week, participants will observe the resource conservation efforts of Waste Management and Conejo Recreation and Park District. Activities will include making a sculpture out of recycled material for permanent display at the Pollinator Garden in Simi Valley, clearing litter and harmful debris during hikes, and testing the water quality of local streams.

During week two, campers will visit Community Roots Garden and Join the Farm to learn about healthy eating, sustainable farming and combating hunger with community gardens. Campers will harvest crops, feed chickens and pickle vegetables.

As the program wraps up, campers will visit Agoura Animal Shelter and California Wildlife Center in Malibu to meet zoologists and veterinarians and to see wildlife. Lessons that week will include the dangers animals face in the wild and how people can help them survive.

“It’s easy to be fearful of what you don’t understand,” Cornelius said, so the hands-on instruction is meant to forge a tangible connection between campers and the subjects they’re learning about.

Kids will be encouraged “to reflect on what they saw and how they felt. We hope the camp (makes an impression),” Cornelius said.

Cornelius and Marquart are targeting children in affluent areas for the program.

“It’s easy to be disengaged. We all live in a bubble,” Cornelius said.

The camp will encourage kids to “step outside the bubble and connect with people they wouldn’t ordinarily connect with,” she added.

The women plan to rent classrooms at different universities for the camp every year, to keep things fresh. The pair says they will reach out to Pepperdine for next year’s summer adventure.

“ Our long- range business plan is to (create) something not only valuable for the community, but (to form) a project that can be replicated throughout . . . the United States and Canada,” Cornelius said.

“It’s been a really wonderful learning experience establishing relationships and seeing the potential (the camp has),” said Marquart, the mother of two children, ages 4 and 7.

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