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North Richmond families say YES to camping

on November 5, 2010

It’s early October and about 100 people from North Richmond have gathered in the forest south of Half Moon Bay. The group of parents, teens and young kids stepped off the bus and walked down the long gravel road leading into the woods. For many, it’s their first time camping.

A class on drumming is held in a yurt in the woods. (Photo by Emily Bender)

They’re taking part in the second family camp hosted this fall by a nonprofit, Youth Enrichment Strategies (YES). The program offers Richmond families the chance to trade their urban neighborhoods for cabins in the wilderness. Instead of running around in city parks, the kids will play in the winding creek, roll down grassy hillsides and stare up at giant redwoods. At night they’ll settle into bunks amid unfamiliar country sounds: chirping insects, hooting owls and scavenging raccoons. During the day, the families will try rock climbing, zip-lining and hiking.

Camp counselor Richy Sandoval, 19, grew up in Richmond. Eight years ago, his mom was dealing with depression, his dad wasn’t around much and his older brother had just left home to join the military. At that time, Richy started going to YES summer camps and shortly afterward began a YES leadership training course.

Jabrell Davis (left, wearing white t-shirt) says goodbye to his group of kids after spending three days with them at Camp Loma Mar.

He said he understands where many of the families are coming from. “I went from [being] a kid who lied a lot, to a person who kids look up to,” he said. Growing up in Richmond can be tough, he said; many of his classmates got involved in gangs and some of his close childhood friends were killed. At camp, he had time to just be a kid. “I’m still working on a lot, but have come a long way,” he said.  Sandoval is now in college and dreams of opening his own Italian/Mexican restaurant.

To hear more about how the camp can change lives, click on the audio at the top.

20101026_yescamp/20101026_yes.mp3|Voices from camp

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