Connecting young people with the natural world

CORNWALL. Hudson Highlands Nature Museum hosts Dulce Esperanza summer campers thanks to Swantz Family Foundation grant.

09 Aug 2019 | 03:05

After chance encounters at community events last year, it seemed kismet that the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum (HHNM) would work with the Warwick Area Migrant Committee (WAMC).

Now, thanks to a grant from the Swantz Family Foundation, an institution that supports innovative programs to reconnect young people with the natural world, it has come to pass.

The two institutions, both celebrating their 60th anniversaries in 2019, have arranged for WAMC’s Dulce Esperanza (Sweet Hope) Summer Camp to attend six Nature Museum science and ecology programs this summer.

Twice as many programs, serving 120 children

Last year, the Nature Museum provided Dulce Esperanza with three free programs for their summer campers. This year, as part of an organization wide effort to make nature education and play more accessible to children in underserved communities, HHNM sought – and received – funding to support expanded programming for Dulce Esperanza.

The program is designed to serve three separate age groups, totaling approximately 120 children ages 6-16.

Each group will make one visit to the Outdoor Discovery Center and one visit to the Wildlife Education Center where they’ll learn in fun and hands on ways about our region’s flora and fauna, meet live animals, go on guided hikes, enjoy nature play in Grasshopper Grove and more.

The campers and counselors will be bussed over, thanks to West Point Tours which is providing discounted transportation costs.

Farm worker families

Every summer, as most children and families in the Hudson Valley look forward to vacations and time off from school and work, area farm workers work even longer hours. This poses a great challenge for child care.

Until 2016, the Mustard Seed Migrant Ministry provided this important care to 80 children. Farm worker families came to rely on this program, secure in the knowledge that their children were in a safe and supervised environment.

However, when the nuns who ran the program retired, it left a gaping hole in the services supporting farm worker families.

A new coalition

The hole was filled by a coalition of the WAMC, Alamo Community Center, Hudson River HealthCare, parents and volunteers.

The program, since known as Dulce Esperanza, is based at the Pine Island School in Warwick where similar services have been offered since the 1960’s.

The Dulce Esperanza program provides full day summer camp for over 120 children every summer. It offers enrichment including art, writing workshops, reading, music, horticulture, sports, computers, pottery, yoga, mindfulness and more.

With a limited budget, and with the families of the summer campers lacking significant financial resources, Dulce Esperanza looks to provide educational and experiential services without asking that the summer camp families pay more than the summer camp tuition.

Essentials

For more information about the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum or the Warwick Area Migrant Community, visit hhnm.org or wafarmworkers.org.

“Many (Pine Island) farmers employ seasonal farm workers, and having the Dulce Esperanza available for the children of farm workers allows both an enriching experience for the children themselves and peace of mind for their parents. The program is a wonderful thread in our community’s fabric.”
Leonard DeBuck, president of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce
“The Swantz Family Foundation is thrilled to be supporting Dulce Esperanza visits to the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. Research has shown that time in nature increases our physical and emotional health, and creates healthy communities. Providing opportunities for all children to have equitable access to nature play is one of our foremost goals.”
Jennifer Swantz Stokum, chair of the Swantz Family Foundation.