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Ethiopian Camp 2017
August 3-6

We are committed to keeping kids connected to their heritage so that they are well rounded individuals with a positive self image and a greater sense of community with their peers. In addition, we are committed to creating support groups in bringing together parents of Ethiopian children to share their great common goal of raising self-assured and well-adjusted Ethiopian-Americans. To that end, we organize and sponsor various cultural events, heritage camps, homeland visits.

AbshiroKids - Connecting Our Kids
Ethiopian Kids Educational Resources
Alphabets, Music, Stories, Animation and much more!


"What We Live For"

"Place of Vision", March 2016
Ethiopian Heritage & Culture Camp in Virginia Marks 7th Anniversary", Tadias, July 2015
Ethiopian Camp Helps Kids Find Identity" Featured on ABC Channel 3 News, July 2014
"Oh! Was I Wrong!", By Bilen Yoseph, March 2013
"Ethiopian-American Kids and Their Families Enjoy 4 days of Camp" - Virginia, August 2011
"Washington Post - Front Page of Metro Section - printed version- July 2011"
"Washington Post - Ethio�pian heritage camp in Va. offers tradition, togetherness to adopted African kids and their families - Online version 0 - July 2011"
"A four-day event for familes with Ethiopian Heritage - April 2011"
"Families From All Parts Of The United States Gather In Virginia" - Zethiopia, Oct 2010
"Coming Home" - Front Page Of The Daily News-Record, July 26, 2010
"Ethiopian Culture Thrives ..." - Abc Channel 3 News, July 22, 2010
"Getting In Touch With His Identity" - The Daily News-Record, July 21, 2010
"Ethiopian Heritage & Culture Camp - Gateway To Culture" - Tsehainy, June 12, 2010
"For All Families Touched By Ethiopian Heritage" - Zethiopia, May 2010
"Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony" - Adoption, July 27, 2009
"Learning Their Heritage" - Abc Channel 3 News, July 24, 2009
"Summer Camp That Teaches Children Ethiopian Heritage And Culture" - Tadias, July 2, 2009
"Ethiopian Heritage & Culture: A Three-Day Camp Will Be Held" - Zethiopia, May 2009
The Value of Heritage and Culture Camp by Julie Caran.

How can we appraise the value of Heritage and Culture Camp in our lives? Everyday moments with our son remind my husband and I why we return to the camp each summer. Last spring, when we heard distinctly Ethiopian dance tunes blasting from the car beside us, our son's ears perked up and he shouted, "That sounds like Ethiopia!" When school began this year and his kindergarten teachers asked all of the international children in his class to bring in flags from their (or their parents') country of origin, he proudly took an Ethiopian flag from his room to display alongside the others. Last week during a casual conversation with new acquaintances, my husband and I mentioned the cities where we grew up when our son stage-whispered, "Mommy! Daddy! Tell them where I'm from!" "Where are you from?" our new friend nudged. "I'm from Ethiopia!" he replied, beaming. This is why my family attends culture camp. Ethiopia is not just in his roots, buried underground; Ethiopia is a critical part of who he is every day. The sounds, smells, language, and tastes of his home country are more than just a faint memory; they are alive in his spirit because coming to culture camp renews his Ethiopian identity every summer.

Each summer, families come to camp because they want their Ethiopian-born children to remain connected to their heritage and culture. Ethiopian American volunteers come to camp because they wish they had had something like this when they were our children's age. We all want these children to know who they are, and what it means to be Ethiopian. Yes, we get to attend excellent workshops to learn about everything from history to hair and art to Amharic, but something more important occurs at camp: We gain perspective. We interact intergenerationally and converse with children, teens, young adults, middle-aged adults, and grandparents.

We want our children to grow into confident, successful adults, and to see that there is a community of people who understand who they are and where they come from. Each year, workshops and panels remind us once again of the value of this camp, this community, and this culture in our children's lives.

Here are a few highlights from 2014.

  • Many of us were checking Google Earth the afternoon of Rhonda Roorda's speech. During her wonderfully candid talk about her experience growing up in Maryland as a transracial adoptee, Rhonda shared that she was not only known to her classmates as the black girl with white parents, but as the girl who lived in the geodesic dome! Many of the Maryland attendees knew exactly where she had grown up, and the rest of us were curious to see the famous house.
  • Dan Getachew brought humor to his speech as he told us about the joys and challenges of starting up an organic apple farm in Ashton, MD, known as Haile Orchard. While Getachew is better known for his impressive work as an engineer, we all enjoyed hearing about his latest venture.
  • It was no surprise that Emmy award winner Bofta Yimam brought a level of polished professionalism to her presentation. In her multimedia presentation, Yimam shared the story of how she worked her way up the career ladder to become an investigative reporter at Pittsburgh Action News. Her perseverance and determination shined in the news clips she shared.
  • As always, the young adult panelists helped us to better understand our children's journey as Ethiopian Americans.
  • Author Jane Kurtz stimulated our imaginations and took our children on a trip to Ethiopia through her stories and folk tales. At the same time, she partnered with camp attendees to bring books to Ethiopia through her literacy organization, Ethiopia Reads.
  • Adults and children journeyed into the world of Stephanie Schlatter's paintings, wherein Ethiopian pastoral scenes came to life. A prolific painter, Schlatter brought many original paintings with her to the gebeya.
  • Many of our favorite staff and volunteers returned in 2014 to help us along with basic Amharic, Ethiopian musical scales, and cooking tibs. We shared in many coffee ceremonies and danced the night away, too! Thank you, Dereje, Gezachew, Mahalet, and Almaz.
  • Genet Astatke-Faison, though not new to the camp, took on the role of educational specialist, and helped us to deliver active and interesting age-appropriate programming to the children.
  • Temesgen joined us at camp to lead our music education efforts. He brought along his traditional Ethiopian instruments including the Krar and Masinko in order to teach children and adults alike about pentatonic scales of Ethiopian traditional music.
  • The Dance Workshop is held annually during Camp. Children ages 9 years old and up train for 3 days and learn traditional Ethiopian dancing. Last year 13 children participated in the workshop after which they had the opportunity to perform in front of their parents, siblings, the other children, volunteers, and guests wearing their custom made cultural outfits.
  • Last year, some of the children had the opportunity to don traditional cultural outfits as a showcase of the various beautiful designs and fabric that are found in Ethiopia. In addition to showing off the clothing, the children also performed activities such as weaving, grinding, holding coffee ceremonies to demonstrate some of the daily activities in a typical Ethiopian village.
  • The 2014 camp stood out for its particularly impressive slate of presenters. Each speaker in the adult program was thoughtful, professional, and engaging. What a wonderful group of role models.
We look forward to connecting with you again August 6-9, 2015, at our 7th annual Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp. Camp will be held at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which can be reached via a picturesque 2-hour drive from Washington, DC.
Remembering Heritage & Culture Camp 2013 - 5th Anniversary! by Julie Caran

Author Jane Kurtz stood before a room of wiggling preschoolers and addressed them. "I'm here," she said, "because when I was a child, I was born in the United States, but when I was about your age, I moved to Ethiopia before Kurtz could finish her introduction, a burst of energy exploded from the little bodies. A tangled chorus of proud voices exclaimed, "I'm from Ethiopia!"

How exciting for a three or four year old, who usually only hears about this Ethiopia place from her parents, to suddenly hear one adult, and then another, and yet one more, mention that very place! Words can't quite capture the astonishment of the younger children as they realize over the course of the four-day camp that almost every child here is, indeed, from Ethiopia.

At Heritage and Culture Camp, Ethiopia is not a faraway place only heard of in stories. Ethiopia is real and present in an unassuming conference center in Harrisonburg, Virginia where children and teens connect with each other, with staff and volunteers, and with families who share a common interest in instilling in their children a pride in their heritage.

On the first day of last summer's camp, with the weather in full cooperation, the crowds flooded into Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center until it reached capacity. Staff members and volunteers greeted many guests by name as they checked in each family and then led the kids in games they used to play when they were children growing up in Ethiopia. Guests and staff shared in a coffee ceremony, enjoying the company - not to mention authentically brewed Ethiopian coffee and freshly popped corn. Children partook in the ritual, offering Defo Dabo and popcorn to young and old from traditional woven baskets. Even before the first full meal, the mission of the camp was already being realized as one family after another connected and reconnected while experiencing Ethiopian culture first-hand.

August 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of Heritage and Culture Camp. Many families have made the trip to Massanetta Springs a family tradition. Those who have attended Heritage and Culture Camp since its first gathering in 2009 were delighted to see their kids instantly rekindle the friendships and bring new children into the fold. With each year of camp, the level of comfort with one another and pride in a shared Ethiopian heritage continues to grow. Each year, we have witnessed the children's growth from toddlers to rambunctious soccer players and careful weavers, from quiet children to confident dancers, from strangers to friends.

In commemoration of the camp's 5th year, the volunteers planned a number of "best of" workshops and panels to capture some of the camp's highlights. As always, the panel of young adult Ethiopian Americans was a highlight for many attendees. Each year, we gain perspective and wisdom from the men and women who are willing to share their experiences of growing up Ethiopian in America. Attendees can always trust the twenty-somethings to provide frank and thought-provoking anecdotes and opinions about race, ethnicity, and cultural identity.

While the adults enjoyed informative and educational workshops and panels, the children participated in their own group activities, including trivia-based scavenger hunts, soccer games, language and music classes, cooking, storytelling and writing workshops, arts and crafts projects, the intensive dance workshop, and listening to Ethiopian role models. Each children's activity is infused with education. While making chechebsa, weaving baskets, and learning to greet each other politely in Amharic, the children learned a bit about daily life in Ethiopia. When racing from one end of the conference center to another in the scavenger hunt, the children learned facts about Ethiopian geography. "We witnessed deep conversations even with the younger children as they were doing their crafts. They are connecting and learning from each other...it's working!!" said Deedie Stuart, a parent and member of the family leadership team.

All things have to come to an end, and so each year we say our good byes on Sunday after lunch. The finale is the performance of the dance group that has been practicing in semi-seclusion for many hours during the last four days. The unbridled enthusiasm of the performers and their dedication brings the house down and tears of joy are plentiful.

Soon after Camp is over, many wonderful and positively uplifting messages are received from parents. These messages, many of which relate how this Camp experience has enriched their child's life, always brings a smile and often tears of joy. This provides the ultimate incentive and encouragement for all involved to continue their sacrifice to keep making Heritage and Culture Camp an annual tradition.

2012 Heritage and Culture Camp Highlights

Families came from all over the United States, with 22 plus states represented!!! These families have one noteworthy interest in common: a commitment to raising Ethiopian-American children with an appreciation for their ancestral land. They found each other through the annual Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp held in Harrisonburg, Virginia. For families who live in areas where there is no Ethiopian community, and do not have access to the language and culture, the camp provides their children's only access to their heritage. Adoptive parents value this chance for the children to be immersed in a community of native speakers. Ethiopian parents value the opportunity to give a taste of their homeland to their kids for four days. For most of these families, who may not have a chance to participate in family oriented Ethiopian activities throughout the year, camp is an opportunity for a purposeful family vacation.

The Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp convened for its fourth year at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center in August 2012. In addition to coming from all over the United States, the attendees ranged from infants to grandparents, and included both Ethiopian parents and adoptive parents who are raising their Ethiopian children outside Ethiopia. The camp's staff of volunteers includes a group of parents, as you might expect, but at its core a number of Ethiopian young adults who feel strongly about sharing their culture and language with a new generation.

Fittingly Camp 2012 started with its own Olympics! That was an icebreaker for all, where all age groups participated in its first ever Olympics with an award ceremony at the dinner the same night. The camp's dance workshop, one of the camp's most popular programs among tweens and teens introduced and taught the kids different dances from various regions of Ethiopia. The children performed these dances for their eager parents and siblings on the last day of camp. There was also the "Traditional Fashion Display", where the kids get to learn more about the different regions of Ethiopia not only by wearing the regional outfit but by also taking the roll of the representative of that region and explaining to their parents about their "region". This program was very popular – One parent, who was amazed by what the kids were able to do and learn as part of this activity said, "You must bring back the Traditional Fashion Display next year!" In addition, the camp provided the children with workshops covering arts and crafts such as "Build Your Own Buna Set," games and sports (from soccer to "Pepsi"), lessons on Ethiopian musical instruments, Ingocha cooking, and the fundamentals of conversational Amharic.

Every year since the camp's inception, attendees have heard a refrain from the young adults who participate in a Question and Answer panel on the camp's final day: "Language is key! If you want your children to connect with their culture, connect them to the language." That has been the consistent message from these young adults to parents every single year.

Special highlights at 2012 camp included visits from two popular authors with Ethiopia in their hearts. Melissa Faye Green and Jane Kurtz. Green shared stories of her experiences as a parent of 9 biological and adoptive children. Two of Green's teenaged children joined her at the camp, and shared their own experiences in a panel on Ethiopian-American identity on Sunday morning.

Jane Kurtz, an author of children's books, grew up in Ethiopia and manages to infuse many aspects of her experience in Ethiopia into her stories. Both parents and their kids adored Kurtz! She gave parents the insight of passing along to their kids what they think is important including the languages and culture they love through story telling or writing. She showed kids how they can feel powerful by writing or telling who they are and what they care about.

Mr. Andrew Laurence, an Ethiopian-American historian and cultural ambassador gave an inspiring talk about Ethiopian and African-American historical relations. Mr. Laurence, who is bi-racial, with an Ethiopian father and an American mother, provided an excellent multimedia program highlighting long standing historical relationship between Ethiopia and the African-American community going back two hundred years.

Dr. Wudneh Admassu, an Ethiopian professor of engineering at the University of Idaho was featured as one of the guest speakers. Dr. Admassu, who is the inventor and patent holder of the one and only automated Injera making machine, gave a captivating presentation on the technology, economics, and the social imperatives that compelled him to create the Injera making machine. The camp was pleased to receive a wonderful letter of support and appreciation from Dr. Admassu. Hear are some of the key comments from his letter.

"I can tell you that these kids might not know the magnitude and importance of this camp in their lives now, but when they grow up they will thank you immensely! The impression I got from the kids and parents, for the time I spent, was that they were having fun learning about Ethiopia. I am humbled and grateful to be part of this hugely successful camp!"

2011 Heritage and Culture Camp Highlights :

As the grey skies of winter fill many of our landscapes, we hope this newsletter will transport you back to the Shenandoah Valley, where we gathered in the long, hot days of summer for our third annual Heritage and Culture Camp. Each year, word has continued to spread among members of the Ethiopian community, parents of Ethiopian children, and others who have at some point lived in Ethiopia. Each participant comes to reconnect to the rich culture and warm community, and many of us come so that our children can grow up knowing that they are an important part of that community. This year, camp was at capacity.

Heritage and Culture Camp 2011 provided an exciting new opportunity for 13 boys and girls, ages 9-14, who participated in an Intensive Dance Workshop. They mastered traditional Ethiopian dances from 4 different regions of Ethiopia. Their hard work culminated in a performance for the entire camp on Sunday morning! Tears of joy were the reaction of the audience. What confidence these kids had in their culture and themselves to perform in front of hundreds of people!

As always, all kids were quite busy! This year the children constructed krars during art class, played against each other in soccer tournaments, learned all about Ethiopian geography during a camp-wide scavenger hunt, went riding on a traditionally decorated pony, and, of course, learned songs and phrases in Amharic!

Each year, the children build on the friendships they have established in previous years, and we realize once again that this camp is really for them. Just as they would at any camp, the children make connections based on shared hobbies, interests, or passions. At culture camp, though, they find others who understand their story, their background, and their situation. The older children and teens act as role models for the younger kids, and the adults feel pride and joy as we see these positive interactions that help to build confidence among attendees of all ages.

Though most of us attend camp for the kids, each year we gain as much as our children from the experience. We, too, make new connections and build on friendships developed in past years, and with the knowledge gained in workshops and in between, we leave camp feeling more confident about our role as parents of children who straddle two worlds.

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