By the staff of St. Francis Community Services
“What can we do to get along?” This question was asked to 76 children and teens at the beginning of last year’s summer camp at St. Francis Community Services – Midtown Center. Their answers often reflected the impact of growing up amid violence and conflict in city neighborhoods.
There were a number of thoughtful responses. One of the children suggested we consider “forgiveness.” Staff asked if this meant we should give someone a chance to apologize before responding to a bump in line. Or if someone hits us or calls us names, should we find an adult to help? Children had very interesting responses on how to handle potential conflict.
More so than at any other point in the decades that Midtown has served youth, the staff noticed the majority of children answered, “We have to hit them back.” No matter the circumstance suggested, the children said a bump required a hit, a hit an even harder hit. When asked how this related to the idea of forgiveness, the children said only that they could not allow someone to take advantage of them.
When children come to Midtown, their parents are asking us to provide alternatives to negative influences at school or on the street. One of these alternatives is to work with children to find options other than fighting while learning how to build peaceful and positive connections with others. Midtown Center’s summer camp teaches children about a better alternative to violence.
This year’s camp will begin on June 22nd and will last six weeks. It is part of Midtown’s year-round youth programs that serve 175-200 children and teens each year. The camp centers its fun activities around meaningful themes each week that help to advance the positive development of our youth:
Weeks 1-2: Personal identity, self-concepts, positive self-esteem, feelings, and making new friends
Week 3: Our similarities as human beings, valuing others, making peaceful choices, and resolving conflict
Week 4: The concept of community, social justice, and our role in building peace
Week 5: The environment we live in, ecology, conservation, justice, and the sanctity of all life
Week 6: What we have learned about ourselves and others; how we can carry this into our communities
St. Louis, like many other cities, is experiencing a plague of violence. People ask, “How can we stop this?” One answer is to help our children find ways to deal with conflict that do not include an escalation of violence. Violence begets violence and, as we know, only love changes things! By teaching the next generation about forgiveness of one’s neighbor, we are building a stronger and more peaceful tomorrow for St. Louis.
Your generous support through Give STL Day helps to make many different programs at many different organizations possible—programs like our summer camp that teaches peacebuilding, justice, and positive choices to at-risk youth in our community. St. Francis Community Services is just one of the many outstanding Catholic organizations serving the St. Louis region. We hope that you will join in the biggest day of giving in St. Louis history, by supporting our summer camp for youth or by making a gift to a number of other worthy causes where you find passion and joy!
According to the Give STL Day website, Give STL Day is a 24-hour giving event with a distinctly local impact because you donate to the nonprofits working on the causes you care about in your community. More than 900 nonprofit organizations, including over 90 Catholic-affiliated organizations, have signed up to participate and will be raising much needed dollars with your help.
As part of the ministry of the St. Louis Review, many of these affiliated Catholic organizations and schools have been profiled in the newspaper. A listing of some of the stories over the last several years that profile some of the Catholic participants in Give STL Day can be found at stlouisreview.com/give-stl-day.