Monday, May 29, 2023
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Korean American Kids Find Community at Summer Camp

On Camp Naro’s 640-acre campus, each day began with a conversation about the Korean American experience. Campers then participated in activities such as taekwondo and cooking authentic Korean dishes. Korean-American snowboarder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kilo Kim also stopped by for a day.

“Our upbringings may be unique; however, there are a lot of cultural components that bind us together. I think when we’re able to foster a community that really understands that, it’s really allows us to feel more comfortable and safe,” said camp director Benjamin Oser. A Korean adoptee who grew up outside Princeton, NJ, he attended an immersion camp himself in the mid-1990s and estimates that Naru is now one of about 15 such camps in the United States.

This year’s camp will be held in East Stroudsburg, Penn., on the east side of the Poconos. Bringing campers together in these unique natural spaces away from their everyday homes, “it creates a sense of security, and, in a way, it’s like creating a bubble,” he explained. And within this safe harbor, campers are free to explore.

Three girls sit in front of rows of red velvet seats on the wood-paneled living room floor.  The girl on the left is wearing a white t-shirt, green sweatshirt and sunglasses and is holding a pen and a piece of paper.  The girls on the right wear white t-shirts and blue t-shirts and pink shorts and point to a piece of paper.

“I didn’t really know Korean that well. And I’d only been to the country once. I felt like my whole life had just been in America — that I wasn’t Korean, I guess.” RyanTo the right, said.

Five teenagers sit on a carpeted floor against a wood-paneled wall, beneath a projector screen with English and Korean lesson plans on it.  Three children are wearing red t-shirts with Camp Narrow written on them.  The fourth, who is older, wears a red camp narrow polo.  The fifth, finally, wears a white T-shirt with pink, green and yellow flowers on it.

Camp Naro, and the community that found him there, helped bring that suffering into focus and end it. “It helped me realize that I am who I am, and I don’t think I should have to choose,” she said.



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