Somali summer camp aims to keep kids away from crime

A new summer camp for Somali children, called Horumar, is hoping to keep children from getting involved in criminal activity later in life by fostering connections within the community.

Horumar, which means “advance” in Somali, was a free, four-week Camp that served students heading into Grades 1 to 9 during the month of July.

“It was a very successful camp,” aid Sahra Hashi, Executive Director of the Somali Canadian Women & Children Association. “We were full, with about 75 kids. We had to turn many children away.”

The camp accessed space at Kirkness School through the Joint Use Summer Access program, which is coordinated by REACH Edmonton.

“Overall it’s a kind of crime prevention program. The reason we started this program was to keep children safe,” said Hashi. “In the past, we lost a lot of kids to crime. So we asked: how can we stop this? How can we save these young kids?”

The camp featured academics and sports while also creating connections with local Somali Elders.

“We brought the children together with elders in the community who told traditional Somali stories and talked about what life was like for them in Somalia,” she said. “They talked to them about their future and the many chances they have here in Canada, so they don’t take it for granted and appreciate what they have here.”

Hashi said they hope to encourage children to seek help from their elders when they are struggling, so that when they are older they know they have a supportive community that wants to help them make good choices.

“Connection with the elder people is important. When they see grandma and granddad they think of them just sitting at home not doing much, but when they hear them share their stories they realize they were young once too and they can come to them for advice,” said Hashi. “They feel at home and they feel safe. We want them to know that the elders are always there for them.”

The inaugural camp was so successful that organizers are extending programming into the fall, organizing sports programs and a homework club that will run throughout the school year.

Hashi says the organization is already planning to hold the camp again next year.

“We want to help these young kids,” said Hashi. “If you support them when they are very young it can help them when they are older.”