2012 Camp Tour: A lesson in the power of learning together


What happens when you go on a road trip with a group of funders?

In July, JFN and FJC led a 3 day road trip for funders to visit summer camps for children with disabilities. The group included funders experienced in funding Jewish camps and funders experienced in funding programs for people with disabilities, most of whom are members of the JFN disabilities peer network. From the moment are bus started moving the learning commenced. The learning wasn’t from office ‘presenters’ but was peer-to-peer. Funders with varied expertise and experience in camping and disabilities learned from each other. Discussions started with the practicalities related to the using camps year-round and funders are concerned about that (more respite opportunities for families).

While there were many times where opinions diverged, the respect, listening, and openness was consistently present. This was a surrounding making our community more supportive and inclusive.

Each camp we visited was an intense learning experience. Directors, counselors, campers, psychologists, teachers, and/or parents shared about their camp and personal experiences. Our group asked direct and inquisitive questions, and camp professionals opened up to the group with unbelievable candor. Not only did funders learn from the camps, but the camps learned from the funders. Funders offered ideas and suggestions to the camps, and brought ideas from one camp to another. Because of the trip, we were able to connect one newer program with two other camps to help improve staff training. Through new relationships forged over the trip, funders are already working together on new projects and discussing collaborative funding opportunities.

What we all experienced on this trip was the power of learning together to build and strengthen networks. The trip was like a mini-beit midrash, a house of learning, everyone involved was a teacher and a learner. We created a strong bond between the funders and across funding priorities. The participation of the camp funders was critical for ensuring that disabilities is an issue the transcends all community funding. After this trip, the camping funders are much more knowledge and aware of the disability-related issues, and can now ensure that the conversations and work in their networks of funders is inclusive and supportive of people with different abilities and needs.