Violence in Indianapolis contributes to environmental trauma. Youth who are exposed disproportionately to violent crimes might be at risk for a shorter life span. About 24.5% of Indianapolis children live in poverty, which limits access to enriching out-of-school activities that are associated with many positive outcomes.
Among the national guidelines to lessen the harmful effects of exposure to violent crimes and unstable home environments (including drug misuse and limited access to safe outdoor play) is to enhance protective factors like parental resilience, social connectedness, and developing the social and emotional competence of children.
With COVID-19 removing the safe haven of school for many vulnerable children, we are seeking to create a safe “third space” using a national model—Camp Mariposa, founded by Eluna. Camp Mariposa is an addiction-prevention and mentoring program for youth affected by a family member’s substance use disorder. Camp Mariposa has served over 1,300 campers in 13 locations. In Indianapolis, it will be called Aaron’s Place.
By collaborating with local organizations that include Overdose Lifeline, IUPUI and behavioral health providers like Reach for Youth, we will provide trauma-sensitive therapeutic camp experiences for children and their families. Six weekend sessions will be offered throughout the year (following all state and local guidelines for COVID-19 while that’s appropriate), providing traditional camp activities paired with educational and trauma-sensitive elements designed to educate youth on positive coping and self-care strategies.
In addition, campers will be paired with a year-long mentor using a collaborative model, which fosters connectedness among campers and with mentors. Campers and their families will also participate in six family-centered days, learning to rebuild household dysfunction. All activities will be provided at no cost, ensuring the highest form of equity.
In essence, our big idea will change the culture of health in Indianapolis from the inside out by empowering families to help build healing communities together.•