When I was young I thought I could change the world. One of the things I have enjoyed doing the most was opening a non profit corporation with my friends while I lived in Chile, www.CDIChile.org. That is a whole different story but we sat day after day dreaming up this “thing” we were creating. Our brainstorming sessions were over a couple of beers at the local bar, and working was all consuming since it was fun and done in company of my good friends.
It turns out we did end up creating something, and though I have been away for over ten years CDI Chile still exists, and is still run by some of those same friends who have seen it through these years. It has helped thousands of people in that country and one of my proudest achievements is to have been a part of its start.
So when I met Bea and her group of friends who had just arrived from Spain I was immediately sympathetic. They are young, energetic, and came up with the idea of creating a summer camp on a friend’s property in Homestead, Florida. They spent countless hours in Spain dreaming how the schedule would work and what activities it would include. Most of what they use at the Agri Kids Adventure Camp, from the zip line to the climbing wall, was built by them from the ideas they had while in Europe.
I met them the day they arrived in Miami, and since then they have been working tirelessly to make things happen. They took a gamble, with no experience in the United States but with plenty where they came from.
The camp is at least one hour away from my house depending on traffic, and I live in a perfectly beautiful place with good enough camps next door on the ocean. But there was something about this group, and what they were trying to achieve that I wanted to support in the small ways I could. This included entrusting them with my boys (ages six and eight.)
I am glad I did, because the boys have had a wonderful time. It turned out the group is quite talented. One of the counselors was a preschool teacher, another a biologist and another a climber. All have worked with children in Spain and you can tell.
I don’t know if it is a cultural thing; but as soon as they see children, the counselors smile. I too was a preschool teacher, and I know how much a warm smile can make a child feel at home. I also know how you can’t fake it, and I know theirs is sincere. You can see they have dreamt and worked for this moment for so long, they are genuinely excited to welcome children into the camp they built.
There aren’t many children there yet. It’s their first year and probably hard to spread the word in the United States while in Spain. Mine is not a sponsored post and I am not receiving any compensation though I do get water when I get there sweating from a hot ride. Even with a small number of kids, all staff is on hands, and there are a lot of staff and volunteers so that the ratio is almost 1:1. You can tell their best effort is put forth. Things are done with “cariño” (tenderness). I even asked if they could speak Spanish to my boys which they do. Though the kids were at first resistant, I can tell they are practicing and getting more comfortable.
And it’s not like my kids are the easiest kids on earth, specially when they are together. They can ignite each other, and I’m afraid they have inherited my “frenziness:” sitting still for too long makes me itch. Fortunately, they are kept busy and active all day long from land and water sports to good ole fashioned camp games. There are also ponies, gardening, arts and crafts, and thus far I haven’t gotten complaints for waking up early, having breakfast in the car, and driving one hour to get there.
There’s also something in it for me too. The property has a huge fresh water lake where the kids get to go kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, swimming and zip lining. I get to do my open water swims. And since Ironman Arizona is on a lake, it’s good practice to swim without the extra buoyancy of the sea water. The camp is also located in farmland, and right on the path I usually ride my bike on weekends. These back roads have little to no traffic, and though it is a little freaky to ride them (I imagine serial killers or alligators) I do complete my bike workouts.
Therefore everyone wins, with the exception of my pocket. The camp leans on the expensive yet Agri Kids has created sponsorship packages. The first one is already in practice where a local non-profit working with immigrant farming families is sponsoring ten children to attend camp. This makes the group of kids there diverse, something that is very important to me. I want my boys to learn the world is not the island we live in (literally, we live on an island), and so I jump on the opportunity for them to meet children from completely different histories then ours.
We did that last summer, when we were fortunate to spend six weeks in Europe most of it in a small town in Portugal. The boys got to experience a different culture all together and got to know the local kids. It was an unparalleled vacation, and I am not sure circumstances will ever let us do that again. I am grateful we took the chance when it came. This summer, we are staying mostly local and with this camp, it’s not a bad thing.
So, if you are in South Florida and you want a flare of an old style camp, or if you want to support a young group of entrepeneurs who risked it all to build something here … check out Agri Kids Adventure. And if you are a triathlete in the area, definitely let me know so we can go for a ride while our children spend the day doing what they do best … having fun.