The economic recession in the United States has worsened the situation of disadvantaged residents within inner cities. According to Create Now, a nonprofit arts program for disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles, Calif., nearly 1 million children are abused, neglected or abandoned each year in the U.S., resulting in 2,000 deaths annually. Another 1.7 million runaway or kicked-out youth live homeless on the streets. Without help, many of these children will face lives without hope.
To support these youth, the American Bible Society (ABS) is partnering with The Salvation Army (TSA) to provide opportunities for children and youth to encounter God at Camp Tecumseh, a Salvation Army camp in New Jersey, where campers engage in spiritual, educational, social and recreational activities.
Many inner-city youth are alienated from the gospel, leaving them spiritually destitute. Without proper parental guidance, they often turn to gangs and drugs for fulfillment. Youth membership in gangs around the country is estimated at 760,000, and over 203,000 are arrested every year on drug charges. Moreover, statistics show that youth who witness violence at home are five times more likely than youth in non-violent home situations to commit or suffer violence in adulthood. With constant negative pressures and financial hardships, these disadvantaged youth need the hope and guidance offered by God's Word.
"[At age 12], I was asked to attend Camp [Tecumseh] and I loved it," said Brittany Parks, a past beneficiary and present counselor at Camp Tecumseh. "About three summers ago, I had a camper named Jonathan. He always was in fights. I sat down with Jonathan and taught him how to pray. I told him that when he gets angry, like he does, to ask God to help him, to take the anger away. From that moment on I saw a change in him."
From May through October, TSA will host 2,000 children at Camp Tecumseh in New Jersey. Although the camp fee is $275 per camper, TSA will identify 200 at-risk children who will receive a $100 scholarship from ABS and a $125 scholarship from TSA and its partners, reducing the fee to $50. Campers are encouraged to make good decisions, contribute to their environment and practice good health and hygiene habits. Each camper receives a Children's Bible to be used during daily chapel services, personal quiet time, small group studies, large all-camp gatherings and "Jesus and Me" sessions, where campers learn more about prayer, reading the Bible and building a relationship with Christ.
TSA has decades of experience organizing camps for at-risk children. In 2007, it served 168,751 children in overnight and day camps throughout the United States. Last year, 40 percent of children who attended Camp Tecumseh told their cabin counselors that they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, and 20 percent of campers rededicated themselves to God. TSA has partnered with ABS to provide Scripture to camp children since 2005.
"The Salvation Army has a strong reputation not only in the community but throughout the country," said C. Christopher Connelly, coordinator of Catholic Charities' Natural Parent Support Program that has worked with Camp Tecumseh for the past three years. "The camp leaders demonstrated a caring and compassionate attitude towards our children. ... In the activities they plan for the children— and in their spirit and attitude in the way they interact with the children— Camp Tecumseh goes above and beyond to make sure the children have a memorable weekend."