Each month we support an organization that helps children who are in or from the country that we are exploring in our Little Doebahyou Cultural Activity Box. We have donated to organizations that help children in the United States, Rwanda, and Liberia. We normally select smaller or more nascent organizations that will be able to see some tangible impact through our donation.
So, imagine our excitement when we learned about Carrie and the amazing work that she and her team of volunteers are doing through Kamp Kurat while we were researching for our Ethiopia Cultural Activity Box.
Read our interview with the Founder Carrie Lafferty below to see how Kamp Kurat is celebrating the history and culture of Ethiopia and why we fell in love with the work that they are doing!
Located in Michigan, Kamp Kurat is a “weekend heritage camp for families with children from Ethiopia.” The camp started as a way “to celebrate Ethiopia and to build friendships.” And since starting in 2014, Kamp Kurat has been doing just that. The camp welcomed more than 150 people who have a love for Ethiopia at their summer 2016 camp. We were fortunate to speak to the founder, Carrie, about the impact the camp has had thus far.
“I can read about Ethiopia, but I can’t speak the language, I can’t cook the food, and the stories aren’t mine.”
Little Doebahyou: You started the camp as a way to keep your son connected to his Ethiopian culture. What impact have you seen the camp have on him in the last 4 year years.
Carrie Lafferty: I think in the short run, it helped him to be with other kids who look like him and were from Ethiopia. It made Ethiopia feel closer, more attainable or reachable instead of this place in his imagination. I think that also as the years go by more than anything it validates his heritage and his place in our family.
LD: Why is that important to you as a parent?
CL: It’s everything. It’s a huge part of who he is and he’s a part of our family so it’s part of all of us. My husband and I, our ancestors are from Ireland and Italy and places in Europe, but we all feel a little bit Ethiopian at this point. There are 6 of us in our family, and just like we all have unique personalities, my son has a unique heritage and when we embrace that we validate who he is.
“I want to live here.”
LD: How have you seen the camp change since you started it?
CL: This is something that we have been working on consciously. We started off as a camp that reached families who had adopted children from Ethiopia. But I could not have started this camp without the help of my Ethiopian friends. Over the last few years I’ve really been trying to reach out to Michigan’s Ethiopian community and some Ethiopian friends that I have in Ohio because I can’t do this without them. I can read about Ethiopia, but I can’t speak the language, I can’t cook the food, and the stories aren’t mine. So as the camp grows I’m happy to say each year we have more Ethiopian families.
A new family came to the camp in 2016 and the mom was telling me that she’s Ethiopian and her parents are from Ethiopia, but her son is American and it’s hard for her to maintain that culture because her parents are gone now and so even though he’s growing up in an Ethiopian household, the camp helps support her. An unexpected cool benefit of the camp is that these kids who are adopted can feel like they are just as much a part of an Ethiopian family as the kids from Ethiopian families.
LD: What is the thing about the camp that you are proudest of going into year 4?
CL: Personally, I’m just proud that the kids want to keep coming back. They are having so much fun. At the end of the first weekend that we did, this little Ethiopian girl, she was dressed like a princess, ran up to me and hugged me around the legs and said, “I want to live here.” As they get older, some of them, my son included, he was 6 when we started, thought that Kamp Kurat was Ethiopia. When I realized that he thought that I was like, “Oh no, wait a minute.”
There’s something about the camp that allows the kids to feel inconspicuous, it doesn’t matter that a lot of them have white parents because everyone there does. They can relax and they can just celebrate Ethiopia. They just want to keep coming back, and that’s what I’m proud of.
“I don’t know if the kids will go back to Ethiopia one day, but maybe they’ll be in a better place to feel like they can. Like they have a right to see themselves as Ethiopian.”
LD: Why do you think there is a need of an organization such as your camp?
CL: In my own house, it’s necessary because my son cares about where he’s from. He was 2 1⁄2 when we adopted him, so he has some memories and it just mattered. On a larger scale. I work with Dr. Ingida Asfaw who is the founder of Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA). He is in contact with people like the minister of health in Ethiopia, and once adoption started there, not everyone thought it was a good idea. Over the years as more and more kids were being sent all around the world, people like the minister of health were saying, “What’s happening to our children?”
With a camp like this and the relationship that we have with ENAHPA, Dr. Asfaw is able to be at these meetings in Ethiopia and say, we’re reaching out to these families and we are doing what we can to keep the kids connected. I don’t know if the kids will go back to Ethiopia one day, but maybe they’ll be in a better place to feel like they can. Like they have a right to see themselves as Ethiopian.
LD: What’s an activity that the campers love to do every year?
CL: Hands down, they love the student group that comes from Ohio State. It’s a group of Ethiopian and Eritrean students, and they know all these traditional dances. These college kids are so great and they bring so much energy and they are good dancers. They teach the kids how to dance and they get people off their butts—including the parents—and they get us dancing to traditional music.
Learn more about Kamp Kurat HERE. If you would like to make a donation to Kamp Kurat, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.