What is Chinese Family Camp? In the 1950s, a group of Chinese families from the Midwest United States began to get together for a week every summer at a rustic lakeside area. Their purpose was to expose the children to Chinese language, to Chinese culture, and to other Chinese children growing up in a very non-Chinese environment. Things grew, and it was hard work to keep things going, but eventually the fun and fellowship became the highlight of the summer for many families.
Now almost a half-century later, families are still getting together for a week vacation every summer. Some of the parents were the children of the early families; there are new families, single campers, non-Chinese spouses, and mixed kids, but everyone still has a great time at camp. The rooms are less rustic now, luxurious by the old standards, and the food is catered instead of laboriously cooked by parents and teens, but many of the old camp traditions remain and new ones have been added.
If you're an old camper and haven't been to camp in a while, you might be asking what is Family Camp now? Here are some photos. Much remains as it was in the early decades -- there was arts and crafts; American food; Chinese food; Mah Jong; swimming; boating; water skiing; a scavenger hunt; Festival; lectures on Chinese history; brush painting; looking at old photo albums; field day; the ever-popular teen ed, and banquet. We also had some new things like horseback riding and paintball and golf and Wawasee University and jet skiis! It's a fun vacation for the entire extended family!
If you are contemplating going to camp for the first time, there is a chance you know someone who has been to camp already. If not, our new host program matches experienced campers with new families. Our particular camp has stayed close to its roots in the original Midwest Chinese Students and Alumni Services organization, but it is a transitional time and as we renew our focus on cultural heritage we are reaching out to a wider audience. As parents today, our children face new challenges as immigrants, ABCs, mixed races, and adoptees. Family Camp gives our children a connection, however brief, to the cultural forces that brought them to where they are today.
We asked our preteens to write their impressions of camp and here is what they had to say.
Here are some facts and observations for the benefit of new campers:
- Although Oakwood Park is a Christian-owned facility, Chinese Family Camp has no particular religious affiliation.
- Since many of us followed our parents' wishes and became doctors and lawyers, we often have several medical doctors and attorneys attending, so we never worry about not having experts to treat the occasional injury or illness, or whom to call when the odd tree falls on our car.
- We don't do much with Chinese language, not by design but simply because the number of us who know how to speak Chinese of any dialect is too small. We do try to expose the children to Chinese history and art and food.
- On the last evening of camp, there is a traditional Festival consisting of skits, music, stories, and even performance art (usually by the teens). If you have a talent you would like to share, please bring any necessary accessories, such as musical instruments, to camp with you. We try to have an acoustic piano available to us for the week.
- Some of the long-time campers are adoptive families of children from China and this year we are reaching out to the FCC families in the Midwest as new attendees of Camp. We think there could be an excellent match between Camp and FCC families.
- Camp is not so large that you would get lost in a sea of people doing an activity. In this transitional time, you as a new Family Camper will have a lot of influence on the way camp goes now and in the future. We hope you will consider attending.