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'Camp Noah' set for Houston

BY PJ HELLER | HOUSTON, TX | January 21, 2002

Tropical Storm Allison

hit many Houston children with a double whammy.

Not only were youngsters forced from their homes when

last June's torrential rains hit the region, they were

also displaced from schools heavily damaged by

floodwaters. For many of the children, it has been a lot

to handle.

While recovery efforts are still underway -- homes are

still being repaired and fund-raising efforts are

continuing -- children affected by the storm are not

being overlooked.

Camp Noah, a day camp for children impacted by disasters

coordinated through Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR),

plans to hold 10 camps in Houston over spring break for

some 550 youngsters.

While similar camps have been held in disaster areas

elsewhere, the Houston camp marks the first time Camp

Noah will be established in a major metropolitan area.

It is also the first time that 10 sites will run

concurrently, according to Nancy Fisher, a Lutheran

pastor who is serving as director of Camp Noah in


"We're hoping that what we do here in the metro area can

be an example and model of how to do Camp Noah in metro

areas in the future," Fisher said.

The week-long camp, designed for children in

kindergarten through sixth grade, is scheduled March 11-

15. The free camp is being sponsored here by Lutheran

Social Services of the South, Inc.

A "pilot camp" was held over the Christmas holidays.

Twenty-one children attended that camp, held Dec. 27-31.

Fisher explained that the camp has three main goals: to

allow youngsters to process the disaster and to talk

about what happened to them; to provide them with a

faith perspective, and to allow them to simply have fun

and relieve the stress caused by the flooding and its


The Houston camp will serve two meals a day plus two


"For some of these children, it will be the only food

they receive during the day," Fisher said.

Camp Noah is designed "to help children process their

feelings and fears following a disaster and to allow

children an emotional break from recovery through play

and recreation," according to LDR.

"Disaster processing is incorporated into Bible studies

to let children know that God's loving care surrounds

them through the disaster and recovery. The curriculum

follows Noah and the flood story and helps the kids

relate their disaster with Noah's disaster."

Fisher said officials are looking at revamping the

curriculum to address other religions, particularly the

Jewish and Islam faiths.

The program in Houston will be from a strictly Christian

perspective, she said.

Camp Noah was started in Minnesota in 1997 following the

floods of the Red River.

"The idea grew out of a need to respond to children who

had not only lost their homes but their playgrounds and

schools," LDR said.

"Children had also lost their summers of fun and play --

the majority of city recreational programs were

cancelled. For families with younger children, many lost

their child-care provider.

"Camp Noah is the only program of its kind that seeks to

address the long-term needs of a child," it said. "After

these disasters, fun for children is forgotten. Camp

Noah offers safe and recreational outlets and a chance

to remember and reflect on what has happened and how

they deal with it."

Fisher said 350 volunteers were needed in Houston, with

35 assigned to each site. Training sessions will be held

the two weekends prior to the camp (Feb. 22-24 and March

1-3). Supplies are also being sought; a needs list can

be found on the Internet at www.campnoah-houston.org.

The organization can also be reached by telephone at 713-


Fisher said that establishing so many camps at one time

in a metro area was a daunting task.

"But it's also a blessing because we have so many

resources in the metropolitan area," she said. "We have

large corporations, restaurants, art supply houses . . .

That's the good part. The bad is how do we coordinate it

all and reach the children who need it the most."

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