After participating in different summer camps in Vieques since 2013, last year JUNTOS created their own camp. The JUNTOS Cool Cats Summer Camp returned this year with a total of 28 campers mostly from the Lucila Franco Community. Campers where provided T’shirts, reusable water bottles and towels, plus daily nutritious and compassionate snacks and lunches courtesy of JUNTOS’ members Andrea Kaufman and Cristobal Velazquez.
JUNTOS has been teaming up with REDES (Department of Families) during the past years, offering humane education workshops and activities to special communities in Vieques. We recognize that certain communities are in need of humane education due to the animal neglect, violence and abuse these areas are most exposed to. Also, considering how animal cruelty is linked to interpersonal violence, we have no doubt these collaborations will encourage living in and creating a more peaceful world.
This camp is unique in many ways. It is the only camp in Puerto Rico focused on humane education, coordinated and created by the only certified humane educator in Puerto Rico, Adora Negron. A variety of activities, games, workshops, talks and field trips are all related to and promote respect, empathy, compassion and responsibility towards all living beings. Also, it is carefully adapted considering the background of the campers and the specific situations they face daily.
Campers are encouraged to speak politely and respect other campers as well as the camp leaders. For some this requires getting used to the “thank you”, “please” and “excuse me” but by the end of the week, the reminders are not needed.
Friendships are made between some who considered themselves enemies. And for many children, the JUNTOS camps is the only one they’ve ever participated in.
This year the camp base was the beautiful Sunbay beach. But the children also enjoyed two field trips. The Fish and Wildlife Refuge gave the campers a fun and educational experience. Thanks to Sandra Ortiz and Erick Bermudez, they learned so much, no doubt they will be an important part in protecting and conserving the environment and the wildlife we share this planet with.
The second fieltrip was to Galleria Galleon and Playa Negra. Sandra Reyes welcomed the campers to her art camp to combine humane education and art. Making dog biscuits, learning about pet overpopulation and creative expression through art were part of the activities both camp enjoyed. Later JUNTOS campers visited Playa Negra, most of them for the first time.
Thanks to Abe’s Snorkeling and Biobay Tours, the campers enjoyed a fun filled day of kayaking and snorkeling to get them in touch with nature.
Other speakers included, veterinarian Andrea Kaufman and renouned dog behaviorist and trainer Yoaciel Cristobal from Pawmily. Mayra Rivera from REDES also provided some fun activities for the campers, and also coordinated the recruitment and transportation for the campers. Daily meditation and yoga was lead by Nancy Gilbert.
JUNTOS appreciates the support of Johny Colon who has always been available and motivated to teach children about proper horse care.
Caring for 28 lively children is not an easy task. This would not have been possible without the support of our volunteers; Viviana, Margo, Jose, Jorge, Nancy, Linda, and Melina, whether they stayed for five days or one, their help was important and always appreciated.
Please continue to support JUNTOS. Education is key to better, more humane way of life. What these children are experiencing and learning through humane education we benefit us all.