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Breath of Freedom: Rural and Migrant Ministry’s Summer Overnight Leadership Camp

Grayson Morley

Published in the issue.

People often ask why Rural & Migrant Ministry, Inc. (RMM) runs a summer camp. A lot of folks know us as the “farmworker people,” so learning that we’ve run a camp for rural children across New York State for more than 30 years can come as a surprise. What could a week of outdoor activities, the arts, and campfire singalongs have to do with justice?

The answer is that rural dignity starts at the root. Since its inception, our Overnight Summer Leadership Camp has sought to address systemic inequities faced by the children of rural and migrant workers. Rural children of color, especially those from poor and farmworking households, often lack the transportation to attend a summer camp, which, alongside their lived experiences with xenophobia, racism, and classism, leads to an increased sense of isolation from their more advantaged peers. This year, the pandemic has only worsened these effects, disproportionately affecting communities of color. In a normal year, the children who attend our camps are too often left behind. This year, there simply is no alternative: our children must gather again in order to regain their belief in themselves, their future, and their own wellbeing—which is why the theme of this year’s Overnight Summer Leadership Camp is “Breathe.” When we asked the Youth Leaders in our Youth Empowerment Programs what they saw as the number one issue affecting them this past year, the answer was clear: mental health. Their sense of isolation was keen, with many of them living in areas without access to broadband internet, making remote learning either ineffective or outright nonfunctional. RMM’s summer programs have always been about offering a sense of empowerment, belonging and togetherness, and this year, no matter what, we have committed ourselves to gathering children from across the state once again, with a renewed appreciation for what it means to be in community.

We encourage you to take a moment to watch the video above to see for yourself what our Summer Overnight Leadership Camps are all about. It’s not just any old summer camp. It’s the birthplace of the future leaders of New York State. It’s the gathering ground for children who will never again feel alone in what they’re going through. It’s the foundation for a life of creative and diligent work for a more just rural New York State. It’s a place where children can be children—a radical concept in a world where they are increasingly made to bear the burdens of hatred and degradation.

And this year, more than anything else, it’s a chance to see what life after COVID-19 can be: better, beautiful, and bountiful.

But we can’t do it without you. Our summer programs are entirely funded by private donations, so we ask that you visit https://bit.ly/rmmsummercampabout to learn more about how you can support our Summer Overnight Leadership Camp. Rural dignity cannot wait for adulthood. Systemic change starts from the ground up. Please join us in giving youth throughout the state of New York a chance to “Breathe” once again.