The Elizabeth M. Pfriem Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport Story
The Elizabeth M. Pfriem Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport and its related Pathways to HOPE program began in 2016 as New England’s first evidence-based summer camp and year-long engagement & mentoring program for young people ages 7-17 whose lives have been adversely impacted by the trauma of domestic or sexual violence.
Since its inception, CFJ has been proud to bring this program to a growing number of children and teens and has offered more than 200 camperships. Program participants include young people ages 7-17 from the communities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.
Camp HOPE offers children and teens who have been the primary or secondary survivors of trauma the chance to reclaim part of the childhoods they lost through a fun and transformative program focused on helping them foster newfound hope and resiliency in their lives.
This life-changing opportunity is possible thanks to the generous support of a multitude of benefactors and partners, most notably the Elizabeth M. Pfriem Foundation, who have enabled CFJ’s young client, as well as the clients of our community partners, to participate in the program at no cost to them.
The Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport Experience
Camp HOPE campers engage in a week of summer camp on the grounds of Camp Hi-Rock, an accredited overnight camp operated by CFJ’s partner, the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA. Beginning in 2019, our campers also engage in a year-long Pathways to HOPE program which includes social activities, mentorship and opportunities to engage in community and special events.
During the summer program, campers engage in an evidence-based curriculum while enjoying a week of traditional overnight summer camp experiences such as swimming, camp fires, hiking, sailing and navigating high-ropes courses.
The Camp HOPE curriculum employs a sensitive, trauma-informed approach to building hope, resiliency and a sense of empowerment in the young campers. This engaging curriculum, which draws on peer-to-peer interaction, is intended to help campers overcome adversity while improving their outlook for the future. It also helps our campers feel less isolated in their trauma as they bond with other young survivors.
“One of the most important things that I learned at Camp HOPE is that my past does not define my future,” said Ethan, 17, high school senior and two-time Camp HOPE alumnus.
The Camp HOPE model works: A peer-reviewed clinical study published in the September 2016 addition of the journal Child and Adolescent Social Work found the Camp HOPE model provides a successful intervention for children exposed to trauma and domestic violence. The study focused on more than 200 children who had participated in Camp HOPE programs in Oregon and California. Researchers reported these campers left their programs with a greater sense of optimism, gratitude, , social intelligence and self-esteem. This is hope personified. Camp HOPE changed the way the children see themselves and their futures.
CFJ’s Camp HOPE program doesn’t end when the buses return. Our campers work with our team throughout the year to build on the bonds they have established with fellow campers and discuss ongoing issues in their lives. In addition, the program engages campers with CFJ and community mentors as they participate in community and educational events. The long-term goal of this ongoing interaction is to keep increasing hope in the lives of our campers, while expanding the skills they have learned to overcome adversity.
We also work with our campers and their families regularly to build on the self-esteem and sense of hope that came from their summer experiences.
How Your Gift to Camp HOPE America-Connecticut can help:
- $1,000 provides a fully-funded campership for a deserving child who has experienced trauma
- $500 will underwrite the costs of providing a camper with a fully-stocked camp trunk packed with essential gear, grooming products and transportation costs
- $200 will help pay for camp activities and supplies.
- Make a donation in support of Camp HOPE by specifying Camp HOPE Bridgeport as the honoree when making a donation.
Volunteering at Camp HOPE
CFJ seeks summer volunteers/interns of all gender identities between the ages of 20 and 24 who are willing to spend two weeks (2022 Dates TBD) working with our Camp HOPE professional staff and campers on the grounds of Camp Hi-Rock.
Please note: An additional ten hours of training is required before departing for Camp HOPE and our volunteers must be available for those sessions as well.
To learn more about opportunities to volunteer at Camp HOPE, please contact CFJ’s Community Relations Coordinator Beth Fitzpatrick at BFitzpatrick@CenterforFamilyJustice.org or CFJ’s Director of Education & Community Engagement Amanda Posila at APosila@CenterforFamilyJustice.org.