The Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England is an 8-week program serving teens ages 13-21 with mild to moderate mental retardation, autism spectrum disorders and neurological impairments.
The Ramah New England program is divided into two components. Campers (ages 13-18) are in the Amitzim (brave ones) division and live in bunks with two specially-trained counselors and participate in the full camping program. A small group of former campers (ages 18-21) are selected to participate in Tochnit HaAvodah, the Vocational Education (Voc Ed) Program. The Voc Ed participants live in a group home environment with two advisors.
In the Summer of 2005, Camp Ramah in New England piloted an inclusion program for a carefully selected group of younger campers with special needs. Inclusion campers receive additional support and participate in the full range of activities in a typical camping division.
Some Amitzim campers work in various jobs throughout the camp. Campers and staff in other divisions praise the Tikvah Program for offering campers with special needs a quality, stimulating camping program. They also credit the Tikvah Program for teaching the rest of the camp such Jewish values as empathy, compassion, and perseverance. Members of the camp community are consistently impressed with the quality of the Tikvah play, and with the ability of some campers to publicly lead the Kabbalat Shabbat and maariv service, the hamotzi blessing, and the Birkat Hamazon in the dining room. Campers and staff throughout camp learn to view Tikvah campers as campers with a range of strengths and weaknesses, just like themselves. Members of the Israeli delegation return to Israel proud of their work with Tikvah campers and more sensitive to people with special needs.
Howard was interviewed for the Yale Developmental Disabilities Newsletter, please click the link to read the article.
Further information about Camp Ramah Tikvah programs may be found on the National Ramah web site.