Letters to the Editor

The good work of Camp Siberia continues | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

In a recent conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I had been doing some volunteer work with Camp Siberia, a Bainbridge Island nonprofit that since 2001 has sent almost 200 Bainbridge High School students to Russia to provide a two-week summer camp experience for Russian orphans.

My friend’s immediate response was “Oh, I thought Camp Siberia was done?” — a sentiment that I’ve heard from a variety of people whenever Camp Siberia’s name comes up.

Bainbridge is a small island and the buzz regarding Camp Siberia is understandable.

For the first time in 11 summers, Camp Siberia is not taking a group of BHS students to Novosibirsk to work as camp counselors at the camp facility built and owned by Camp Siberia’s founder Janie Ekberg.

The decision to no longer run the Camp Siberia summer camp was a difficult and emotional one — especially knowing that countless BHS students look forward to the opportunity to volunteer in Russia and work with kids that have such little opportunity for joy and a normal life. However, based on a number of converging circumstances — the biggest of which was the increasing difficulty in coordinating with our Russian counterparts — Camp Siberia decided it was time to bring that phase of its mission to a close.

However, the board of Camp Siberia wants you to know the organization is still very active, financially healthy and fiercely committed to upholding Camp Siberia’s continued mission of enriching the lives of Bainbridge Island youth and Russian orphans through cultural exchanges and financial assistance for designated Russian orphans.

Camp Siberia’s ties with the orphans in Novosibirsk remain close. We are currently supporting five Russian orphans with scholarship stipends — enabling them to earn a university education or a trade, and thus ensure their future outside the orphanage.

Since Camp Siberia’s inception, 15 Russian orphans have gone on to get degrees in education, agricultural management, nursing, costume and boot-making for the Russian ballet and theatre, as well as cosmetology degrees. Two now work as teachers in the orphanages in which they were raised.

Therefore, be assured that even as the Camp Siberia board evaluates our next steps on whether to continue providing cultural exchanges for BHS students, we remain committed to the support of Russian orphans.

In the meantime, stay tuned, Camp Siberia is alive and well, with exciting and rewarding prospects on the horizon. We will continue to keep the community informed and feel free to check out our website at www.campsiberia.org.

DANA THOMPSON

For the Camp Siberia Board of Directors

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