The Nora Project: Impacting the Next Generation of Apachi Campers
Promoting chesed, or kindness, is one of our core values at Apachi Day Camp. We’re seeing it first-hand through our new partnership with The Nora Project, a non-for-profit dedicated to promoting disability inclusion and empowering educators, students, and communities in concepts of empathy and inclusion. After a successful year in our Early Childhood centers, JCC Chicago’s Social Services team, Apachi Day Camp directors and The Nora Project team developed a brand-new curriculum to expand into our camp community and reach campers at all 11 Apachi Day Camps.
This summer, our specialists and camper care coordinators who trained in The Nora Project curriculum met weekly with campers to read stories and participate in games and activities that add to campers’ social emotional “toolbox,” which includes identifying emotions, being a good friend and understanding disability as another form of diversity. While campers can use their tools individually, the beauty of The Nora Project curriculum is that they culminate into an overarching message of promoting an inclusive, empathetic camp environment.
Leah Greenstein is the Teva, or Mindfulness, Specialist facilitating the Nora Project at Elaine Frank Apachi Day Camp in Lake Zurich. Leah attended Elaine Frank Apachi as a camper nearly 10 years ago and reflects on how special it is to be able to give back to today’s campers and provide them with this vital experience.
“As a quiet, shy kid, Elaine Frank Apachi Day Camp allowed my inner confidence and strength to shine by providing me with a space and community that embraced me for who I was. Now as a specialist, I love being able to impact the next generation of Apachi campers with the same mission that allowed me to thrive at Apachi years ago.
Camp already provides the perfect backdrop to promote a strong sense of community and I see my role as an opportunity to hone specific social-emotional skills that campers will use throughout their time at camp to empower themselves and each other. The Nora Project’s curriculum being activity-based means that it brings the same camp energy into our sessions. If you were to walk into one of my groups, you would see campers playing ‘feelings charades,’ ‘drawing back-to-back,’ answering questions about a book, or discussing their role models in pairs. These activities encourage campers to step up and become leaders focused on that day’s lesson. It also allows me to mentor and guide them along the way.
Plus, I love seeing it in action! I’ve heard everything from campers opening up to share a time they felt disappointed, to another camper’s ultimate dream of inventing a chicken nugget tree. These moments have left me amazed and in awe of how campers take the reins and shift the gears of that day’s lesson into something even more meaningful than I had planned, and I have genuinely learned so much from them. My greatest joy and pleasure as a Nora Project facilitator are that I get to give back to such a special place. Plus, I have a front-row seat to watch my campers grow into their best selves and foster a community where everyone truly belongs.”