Summer camp to empower Caribbean youth of their heritage

MIAMI GARDENS – Children of Caribbean heritage are currently participating in a four week summer camp – Caribbean Heritage Summer Institute – at the Holy Family Episcopal Church in Miami Gardens.

The project which began Monday, June 8, is the brainchild of Sydney Roberts of Jamaica Awareness, Inc., a South Florida non-profit organization aimed at presenting the cultures of the Caribbean and African Diaspora to young people in South Florida.

Some ten children ranging from age eight to 18 are all first and second generation of Caribbean descent and are students of South Florida schools. Throughout the day, the students are actively engaged in projects to ensure that they leave with a heightened appreciation for culture and a strong sense of their Caribbean roots, according to Mr. Roberts, himself a Jamaican national.

Under the leadership of program director and high school educator, Dr. Marva McLean, the youngsters are enjoying a tightly packed schedule of Caribbean heritage. This is built into five core areas covering dance and music, games, art of the Caribbean, and celebrations such as carnivals and dominant festivals. Such activities will give the students a strong sense of the role they can play in strengthening the development of their community by making meaningful contribution through the knowledge acquired at the Summer Institute, Mr. Roberts added.

In an interview with JIS News, Dr. McLean said that she has selected a group of educators, all volunteers, from local school districts, some of whom she has worked with in the past. Others are professionals in the visual and performing arts who also provide hands-on training throughout the duration of the summer program.

Their daily routine begins with a proverb which ties in to the day’s teachings. “The intent is to increase awareness of the Caribbean culture and the way it has shaped our culture and in our children’s lives as well,” Dr. McLean noted.

They also learn traditional music and dance and create costumes representative of individual ethnic groups in the Caribbean. This interactive experience through a hands-on approach exemplifies the varied cultures of the region, she added.

A display of reading and visual aid provides basic background material of the Caribbean islands, creating for the student, an understanding of the heritage and culture of the Caribbean region, an experience that will help to shape their identity, according to Ms. Rosie Constantine, one of the volunteer educators in the summer program.

She explains that the participants are descendants from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Barbados, Trinidad, Haiti and Antigua, and expressed that they are enjoying the interaction with each other as they learn of different cultures through dance movements, music and folklore, language and dialect, food and Creole cuisines, and ethnic dress.

The Caribbean Heritage Summer Institute ended Thursday (July 2) with a Caribbean Tapestry Show, when the students will showcase the knowledge acquired in the summer program, which they can use as a springboard for their future development, according to Mr. Roberts.

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