Camp Puts Inner-city Youths On Path To Responsibility

August 21, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

BERRETT — Thirteen-year-old Carlos had difficulty getting along with the otheryoungsters when he arrived at Camp Farthest Out.

After he was involved in several fights, counselors prepared to send him home. But Carlos convinced them to let him stay.

"I came here to get away from the troubles at home," Carlos said."There are fights and stuff there, too much trouble. Here I learned about being responsible for myself, and if something happens, to cometo a counselor and not try to solve it myself."

For the past 23 years, about 400 children each summer have been bused to this camp owned by the Rev. Marion Bascom and sponsored primarily by members of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore.

And every summer, Bascom feels he makes strides toward a better society.

Inspired by President Lyndon B. Johnson's vision of a "Great Society" where all would be equal, Bascom started Camp Farthest Out in 1968 for Baltimore's inner-city children.

"Lyndon Johnson came to Howard University, where I graduated from, and held hands with the professors and students singing 'We Shall Overcome,' " he said. "I am trying to respond tothat."

More than 100 campers, ages 7 to 14, attend each of the four sessions free of charge.

"This is a respite from city life, to see some of nature at its best," Bascom said. "This can give poor kids a chance to see life and breathe fresh air in a drug-free environment."

Counselors at this camp near Sykesville say Carlos is not theonly child they've seen change during a two-week stay.

"When somekids first get here, they're cursing each other and fighting with each other, but then they start to respect one another," said Derrick Miller, 21, the camp's assistant director. "We teach them responsibility and respect."

The kids also are changed by the love they feel at the 55-acre, church-sponsored facility, which was named for the rural nature of the area when the camp began operation in 1968.

In fact, many of the youngsters receive more positive attention here than they do at home, said camp director Lisa Queene, 33.

"The kids call the cook 'Mom' or 'Grandmom,' and they call counselor Michael Valentine, 'Uncle Mike,' " she said. "The kids wouldn't call people names like that if they didn't feel that people really cared about them."

Barbara Thompson, 11, said she felt close to the counselors.

"The counselors here are more fun than at other camps I've been to," shesaid. "They care about you, and if something happens they help you straighten it out.

"They tell you not to be embarrassed because there's nothing to be embarrassed about. We're all like brothers and sisters here."

Bascom said any young inner-city resident is welcome at the 55-acre facility.

"There are not as many white children as we'd like here," he said. "America is not going to become a melting pot, but it is multicultural. We have to learn to live with one another."

Lessons in responsibility come through the chores the children do each day, either cleaning the bathrooms, grounds or laundry room, said Queene. Each group is responsible for straightening its cabin before inspection.

"That teaches them a sense of responsibility, that we each have our responsibilities here," she said.

Activities atthe camp include sports, swimming lessons, arts and crafts, nature activities and sleeping under the stars, Queene said. Values are taught by example and explaining why certain actions are wrong, she said.

The camp does not stress religion.

"We are non-sectarian at camp," said Bascom, who's been the pastor at Douglas for 33 years. "We do not (convert) or expect the children to come to Sunday school as a result of having been at camp. We just think this is doing our part with the community."

Camp Farthest Out also is supported by friendsof the camp and a strong alumni association, Bascom said.

"We have lawyers, doctors and pharmacists who are all alumni of this place,"he said. "Even the mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, came here."

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