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How to Run a Summer Camp During COVID-19

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How to Run a Summer Camp During COVID-19

by Avishay Nachon, CEO and owner, Camp Kimama Israel

Over the last few weeks, the question has come up of whether and how it’s even possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19. Every day we hear about more restrictions and new prohibitions – and if you listen to the news, sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to do anything at all beyond just staying home. 

But we think differently. We believe it’s possible to run summer camps and what’s more, we believe that summer overnight camps are the only way to guarantee children’s health over the summer vacation. Therefore, we’re calling on the government to make private summer camps the most appropriate substitute for the educational and occupational framework for every child and teen in Israel.

Summer schools have already proven their inefficiency, with many instances of infection, anger at the system, and failure in every way. Summer camps run by professionals, on the other hand, could adapt themselves quickly to the dynamic changes necessitated by the new procedures.

So is it actually possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19? Absolutely! 

Overnight camp could be the safest option for spending summer 2020. A summer camp which lasts two weeks, held in a supervised setting with a doctor, clinic, isolation room, activities conducted in “capsule” form, and a variety of educational and interactive activities – this is the only possible substitute which gives children a secure occupational framework. Instead of spending two weeks shut up in isolation at home in front of a screen, summer camps let children spend two weeks in youth villages, out in the open air, with activities centered around the sea, pool, grassy areas, sports fields, a spacious dining room and supervision by professional staff to look after their every need.

Our task, as camp operators, is to ensure that camp takes place in the safest possible way, with extra attention to strict procedures, without diminishing campers’ enjoyment. At Kimama, we’ve formulated a number of principles based on outlines provided by the Ministry of Health and based on our professional experience as the largest and leading private summer camp organization in Israel. These principles include strictly requiring a health declaration form; taking temperatures twice a day, and in the event that a camper is running a fever, sending them home immediately; a spacious dining room which will run in shifts; a doctor on site to advise on all activities; isolation rooms; masks as mandatory equipment for campers and staff (along with a hat, water bottle, and sunscreen); not permitting Parents’ and Family Day visitation (to ensure two weeks’ removal from the external environment); “capsule” groups of up to only 25 campers; a strictly enforced cleaning regimen, the most diligent level of sanitation, and more.

So where’s the fun?

Just like every year – and even more so this year – an overwhelming majority of the activities will take place in open areas where a mask is not needed.  We will increase activities held in outside areas: the pool and the sea, sports fields, nature activities, sessions held in grassy areas and other activities held in open areas. Instead of choosing a themed track like water sports, dog training, cooking, or drama – all the children will experience a range of different activities, thus enjoying a selection of varied, unique attractions.

There’s no doubt that summer 2020 presents a major challenge for children, for parents, and especially for us as summer camp operators. Children’s wellbeing – keeping them safe and healthy – is always our top priority.  Creating clear procedures and ensuring they are followed will help make summer 2020 an unforgettable experience – perhaps even more than ever!!

Coronavirus in the Midst of Life

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Coronavirus in the Midst of Life

by Avishay Nachon

In case you don’t know me, nice to meet you, my name is Avishay Nachon. Seventeen years ago, I joined Deddy Paz and Ronen Hoffman, along with other talented individuals, to establish our life’s work – Kimama. And I’ve been here ever since. When I think about it today, I realize we did it out of a combination of naivete and youthful trust. Seventeen years later, we’ve managed to create a formula for a summer camp program for kids and teens that has become increasingly relevant over the years, and we’ve been blessed with a team of counselors and coordinators that we could only dream of for our own children.

For the last two years, I’ve lived in New York, where I’ve worked on setting up and developing Kimama’s activities in North America. Over a relatively short period, I’ve learned to love Manhattan and everything this city has to offer. I’ve met with lots of organizations and leaders of the Israeli and Jewish community in the U.S. and see the community’s need for an informal program to strengthen the connection to Israel and our children’s affinity for Jewish culture.

Kimama’s head office continues to be run from Israel and as part of my move to New York two years ago, we started conducting most of our meetings by video conferencing. Over time, I’ve started enjoying the advantages: meetings are focused, there’s no time wasted before and after meetings, and everything is a lot more efficient. But as someone who grew up with Kimama and is connected to everything happening within the organization, I make sure I visit Israel every two months, mainly to meet with the wonderful team working with me there and to see up close that what I see through the screen corresponds is actually happening on the ground.

My most recent visit to Israel was in February, and I was happy to get to the office and see how hard everyone was working to get ready for the coming summer. The phone was ringing off the hook, there were lots of new campers signing up from all over the world, and in every work-related conversation it was clear that we were riding the wave. Just a moment before I returned to New York, there was talk about some kind of a flu spreading through Europe and we decided it was better to cancel Camp Skimama in Italy over Pesach, just to be on the safe side. There were already 50 campers signed up and we assumed there would be more. Everything had been ordered ahead of time, but we didn’t think it was right to take the chance that Europe might be closed off. Relatively speaking, the decision to cancel Camp Skimama was easy to make. And then I flew back to New York. Even there, there was plenty of work to do getting ready for the summer.

Within a very short time, we discovered that this coronavirus wasn’t just a little thing we could ignore, and before we knew what was happening, we were forced to close the office and go on unpaid leave. In the 17 years that I’ve been with Kimama, this was the first time I needed to stop. It’s just not something I’m used to. I’m used to stepping on the gas and going.  No stopping along the way.  What’s the point of taking a vacation now?  But planning is one thing, reality very much another.

In every crisis, there is also an opportunity

So everyone was at home, glued to the news, we held a few meetings to prepare for the situation, and very quickly discovered that unpaid leave is a nice way of putting it, but it had nothing to do with us. Between March 15 and May 15, we were at home, but we were all working from morning until night on all kinds of things. Among others, the question came up for managers: how can we hold Kimama camps during the coronavirus period? Hint: anyone who suggests that we do it online is out of the game. That’s not what we’re about. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s simply not what we love to do, and we also couldn’t find a single manager within Kimama who thought that was the right way to do it.

Within 24 hours, we came up with 6 great ideas. We voted and chose the idea that we loved most. And it seems like we hit the bullseye.  It came up that we’d need isolation, that if we were going to have activities, it would be best in a “bubble,” and also, during those challenging days, there could be up to 10 participants. I’ll remind you that this was during the period of not going more than 100 meters from home, no more than 10 people, soon all the restrictions will be eased…

So how do we do Kimama in a bubble?  Here’s the secret: 7 campers ,5 days, 2 staff members, 1 van, and a program right out of Hollywood: Kimama Van!  Imagine all the best parts of Kimama… then make it even better, and then kick it up one more notch, and here’s what you’ll get: https://www.kimamavan.org/

Our team’s mission was – within 2 weeks – to get the site up and running with registration forms, recruit staff members, build a program and tracks, finalize deals with the van suppliers, sleeping arrangements, activities, etc. And thus was born the program for Kimama Van. Registration is open, and very soon all the spaces will be gone…

But that’s just one example of something “Kimami” that we evolved during the coronavirus period.

Our second idea arose from our need, as Israelis living abroad, to come to Israel during this challenging period.  New York is closed, there are no schools or kindergartens, most summer camps aren’t opening, and a return to normalcy doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon.  From getting to know Kimama families abroad, we’ve seen that lots and lots of Israelis come to Israel every summer with their kids. And then they need a structured framework for their children – but there are no schools or kindergartens, and it’s not always easy, or possible, to find a structure like this for just one week. With this idea, we decided to put together our new summer day camp.

In cooperation with Bereisheet in New Jersey (partners for our day camp in New Jersey), we created a day camp at Beit Yannai which will run throughout the summer. This camp is specifically adapted to and aimed at Israelis coming from abroad for the summer who will be delighted to join Israelis from Israel.

Come get to know our new camp: https://kimamabereisheet.org/israel/

So what now?

Summer 2020 is going to be different, but no less “Kimami” than previous summers.

We’ve delayed the start of our overnight camps by two weeks to start on July 21st and run until the end of August. Our day camp is opening very soon now.

We understand that lots of campers from abroad won’t be coming to Israel this summer, but we are already saving their spot for next summer. Our management team is currently busy obtaining all the required authorizations from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, and we’re creating entire protocols detailing our operational preparedness to deal with COVID-19 conditions. All so we can create a safe summer. It’s challenging, but definitely possible, and we’re doing everything we have to according to all relevant guidelines.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you and show my appreciation for all the families who have shared their concerns, and to our wonderful Kimama team who are working day and night to create an unforgettable summer.

We recognize and appreciate the friendship we’ve created over the years and invite you to join us.

Avishay and the entire Kimama Team

An experience without screens – is it possible?

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An experience without screens – is it possible?

by Shai Resnick, Director of Camp Kimama Galim, 30, TV Addict.

My whole life has been full of memories of TV.

One of my haziest memories of childhood, based on my parents’ stories, was when I was in kindergarten. Every morning, I’d open up a bottle of chocolate milk in front of a TV show that perhaps some of you remember (and which our campers won’t recognize at all): Bouli the Snowman.

By the time I reached school age, I remember spending a ton of time watching Disney movies (all of them!!) with my big sister.

In high school, obviously I was the number one fan of all the TV romances – Love Life, Game of Life, Our Song, and so many more.

And even in the army, I remember that after two weeks on base, I’d come back  home on Friday, have a fast shower, and hurry to spend hours on the sofa, watching Grey’s Anatomy and unplugging from the world – not hearing or seeing anyone else other than the characters on the screen.

And then, I really tried to live without TV.  I remember my first year in university, making the brave decision not to bring a TV into my new apartment. Truthfully, it was a nightmare.  Lucky for me, the second year came along, bringing with it a new TV, with cable, of course!

But – and there’s a big but – by that point, something had happened. TV shows had ceased to interest me quite so much.  I was busy with sports, school, friends, dates, and of course, lots of treks outside along streams and nature, alone or with friends.

What I didn’t mention before was that Bouli the Snowman was the only program I watched, because most of the time, I was busy with board games, tag, and hide-and-seek.  After the Disney movies we’d watch only on weekends, the rest of my time was spent riding bikes and scooters with friends from the area, and of course, extracurricular activities, and hiking groups that got us out into nature, for trips already starting in fifth grade. In high school, while I watched lots of TV, most of my week – outside of school – was spent busy within boys and girls, sports, and lots of youth movement activities.

True, we’re not the same generation.  Today, there’s a lot more available to kids, and they use more of different kinds of screens, and their ability to learn and develop through this kind of access is a positive thing.

But we have the chance to bring them back, a little bit, to that time. To the period when we learned and developed from watching ants carrying crumbs or just from sitting around on the grass looking around, when we learned about hard work from those ants, when we created our own scooter club because at 4:00 p.m. we were bored and started riding around the streets of the community creating missions for ourselves. We went out at age 17 to hike the “Sea to Sea” route alone because we weren’t scared of being out in nature and we knew we had each other, truly, not just through a screen.

What an opportunity we have at Kimama!  To unplug from all the screens and distractions – to focus on ourselves, to look other kids the same age in the eye, to laugh, to be offended, to fall down, to get up, and to talk about stuff. We have the chance to hang out together and just be in a situation, really in it; feel it, grow from it, and not just document it.

I started out by saying I was addicted to TV, and I really am, but I believe that, thanks to the screen-free settings I participate in, I’ve attained the tools for knowing how to moderate my screen time, to understand how to enjoy a moment without needing to escape to a screen.

That’s what I want to provide to all our campers at Kimama – the tools to deal with a social setting, the opportunity to challenge themselves, to be with friends and to know how to enjoy the here and now, the experience of success – without a screen.

Kimama During Corona

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Preparations for Kimama Michmoret, Galim, and Hof for Summer 2020

Everything you wanted to ask about aspects of camp affected by coronavirus:

How is Kimama dealing with COVID-19?
Kimama has put a lot of effort into adapting its activities and standards to the policies which have been passed on to us by the Ministry of Health. The security of your children always remains our top priority and we’re taking care to follow all these policies to the utmost degree.  Additionally, Kimama has designated a “coronavirus advisor” who is constantly keeping up-to-date with Ministry of Health regulations and adapting Kimama’s activities, and who will be responsible at each camp for meeting the required standards.

What is the level of awareness of COVID-19 at camp?
At Kimama, we believe that we must provide campers with a level of security and personal and environmental responsibility. Kimama’s coronavirus advisor will ensure that the relevant regulations are applied. Additionally, we will ensure that we create awareness of these policies among both campers and staff.  We believe that this must be done in a responsible, calming way.  Of course, our team is there to take care of campers (with an emphasis on younger campers who sometimes need reminders).

Where will activities take place? Are there open spaces? Social distancing?
As with our regular routine at Camp Kimama, we aim to conduct most of our activities out of doors, in the open air.  This year, more than ever, we will hold as many activities as possible in shaded areas outdoors.

  • Dormitories – Up to 4 campers will sleep in the same room for the entire camp period. Each 2-3 organic rooms will be active groups with its own group counselor. Updates will be provided if these restrictions are eased at some point, in accordance with instructions from the Ministry of Health.
  • Dining room – Masks must be worn only in the food serving line and while clearing trays at the end of the meal.
  • Activities in closed spaces
    In class space – Up to 20 sq. m. (215 sq. ft.) – up to 5 participants sitting 2 m. (6 ft.) apart
    Larger spaces – A space up to 40 sq. m. (430 sq. ft.) can accommodate up to 10 campers + 2 counselors
    Whole-camp gatherings – No whole-camp gatherings will be held in a closed space
    Masks covering mouth and nose in a closed space – At a distance of 2 m. (6 ft.) or less, in the presence of one or more other people
    Shared space – Meaning passages and hallways in residences, central restrooms – places where there is movement of people – masks must be worn in these crowded locations

What is the camp’s level of preparedness when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness?
In consultation with the Youth villages, we are prepared to carrying out intensive cleaning missions as required by the determination of the Ministry of Health during the coronavirus period and preceding the opening of camp.

  • Cleaning of rooms – Camper rooms are undergoing deep-cleaning by a cleaning company operating in the field. Several weeks ago, the cleaning company transitioned to providing the services necessitated by coronavirus, and is currently operating according to these requirements. Sanitary areas are being cleaned with both bleach and detergent, which together work to sanitize the virus.
  • Sanitizing of shared equipment – Sanitization of equipment passed between people and/or which is used by more than one person will be done with a spray bottle containing 70% alcohol.

What about personal protective equipment for campers?
Each camper must bring personal protective equipment to camp in order to preserve personal hygiene.

  • Masks covering mouth and nose – Every camper is required to bring the appropriate number of masks designed to cover the mouth and nose for the number of days spent at camp – one per day. Surgical masks are recommended.  Camper’s name should be written on each of these personal masks before arriving at camp!  According to the Ministry of Health, children under age 7 are not required to wear masks covering mouth and nose.  Among the youngest campers (“Cocoon”), the youngest children are only 6 years old. This group does not require masks covering mouth and nose, though their counselors do. * Jersey / cotton / homemade masks are not recommended.
  • Hand sanitizer (alcogel) and cleaning supplies – The camp will provide cleaning and hygiene supplies for cleaning sanitary areas (by the cleaning company only). Hand sanitizer stations are available at camp.
    * Bringing cleaning or sanitizing materials of any kind to camp, including bleach and bleach wipes, is strictly forbidden. Campers may bring personal hand sanitizer (alcogel) only. In the event that campers wish to bring wipes, they may only bring sanitizing wipes that do not contain bleach (99.9%, for example).
  • Personal thermometer – Every camper must bring a digital thermometer clearly marked with his or her name (using a marker or sticker).

* Do not, under any circumstances, bring a glass/mercury thermometer to camp.

Will there be care taken to ensure general hygiene and handwashing?
We will diligently ensure frequent handwashing with soap and water, at all times, as often as possible, during transitions between activities, when arriving at dormitories, when leaving the restroom. We will be placing an emphasis on sanitizing with alcohol after contact with contaminated items or surfaces.

  • Sanitizing with alcohol with hand sanitizer (alcogel) dispenser – Obligatory when entering the dining room, before handwashing
  • Awareness of keeping hands away from faces – Avoiding eating outdoors (snacks) without handwashing, avoiding hand contact with the face and nose during activities and before cleaning and sanitizing the hands.

Will you be checking campers’ temperature?
Yes, with twice-daily tracking. Every camper’s temperature will be taken twice a day, morning and night. It is the counselor’s responsibility to track their campers and record temperatures at wakeup and bedtime. Reports will be made to management and to the corona advisor of any camper with a temperature over 38°C (100.4°F).

What happens if a camper has a fever?
A routine checkup by the camp infirmary manager. This will be reported to Kimama’s camp doctor in order to make a determination if there is a concern of coronavirus.  If there is a concern – there will be a detailed policy in place which will be carried out by the camp director and doctor. This will be provided after updated instructions from authorizing authorities.

Is there a medical team at camp?
Every camp has a professional medic – in most cases, a military medic – who runs all aspects of the camp’s infirmary.  The medic keeps an ongoing journal of camper visits for routine checkups and regular and non-regular medication.  The medic provides situation reports to the camp director. The medic also provides first aid to campers and staff, provides alerts in case of problems, and recommends medical evacuation, working closely with the camp doctor and director.

During the coronavirus period – clinics will provide early isolation for anyone with symptoms.  Sick room: In accordance with Ministry of Health regulations, there will be orderly policies in place concerning isolation within camp as well as for a situation of camp evacuation.

Physician available 24/7 – Kimama’s private physician is available for every test, treatment, and consultation. This is the senior professional advisor in camp in any medical situation, with an emphasis on awareness of the health situation of the entire camp community.

How will campers be admitted to camp?

  • Health declaration – Every camper must produce medical authorization for participation in summer camp up to 24 hours before the start of camp or 48 hours before arrival at camp (in the event that camp begins on Sunday).
  • One supervising parent at arrival – Every camper must arrive accompanied by a single parent only on the morning of arrival. The purpose of this, as mentioned, is to reduce people crowding in communal areas, even though this will take place in an open area at all our camps.
  • Taking temperature before admission to camp – Temperatures will be taken for all occupants of vehicles entering the camp area on the morning of arrival. A designated staff person will take temperatures using a contactless thermometer.
  • Masks covering mouth and nose – All parents and campers are to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose when entering the camp admission area.

How will campers be released from camp?
A single parent may enter to pick up his or her child – every camper will leave camp accompanied by a single parent only on the last day. The purpose of this, as mentioned, is to eliminate crowding of people in the common space even though this will take place in an open area at all our camps.

  • Taking temperature on entrance to camp – Temperatures will be taken for all vehicle occupants entering the camp space on the last day. A designated staff person will take temperatures using a contactless thermometer.
  • Masks covering mouth and nose – All parents and campers are to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose when entering the camp pickup area.

Will family visiting day be held this year for two-week camps?
Unfortunately, no.  In order to maintain the maximum distance for every single one of our campers, there will be no family visiting day, as this causes gathering and crowding of people.

What if for some reason I still have to pick up / bring something to my child during camp?
A parent’s visit during camp requires the director’s approval. If there is a need to meet with your child (in the event that this is required) or a need to pass or pick up items, the meeting or transfer of items will be done at the entrance gate to the camp. Entrance to the inner camp area will not be allowed, including camper dormitories.

Will there be campers from outside of Israel? What are Kimama’s policies on this? How can we be certain that they were in isolation?
Kimama trusts families’ declarations. In addition, those arriving from abroad must produce a document proving their entry into Israel on a date at least 14 days prior to the first day of camp.  In addition, each parent must sign a declaration that the camper and the accompanying parent stayed in the required isolation conditions, as determined by law. Making a false declaration is against the law.

Do campers from abroad have to be in isolation before camp?
At the moment, yes.  Until further notice, Kimama will continue to operate with you to follow all relevant regulations.

Will there be swimming in a pool?
Yes, with minimal crowding. At the moment, according to the current regulations, there must be 6 m. (20 ft.) per camper in the water.

In communal spaces outside of the pool – 2 m. (6 ft.) per camper.

Under whose authority is Kimama permitted to open the camp?
The manager of summer camps and youth, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, firefighters, and the Department of Business Licensing which gives final authorization after submission of all authorizations.

What activities are permitted and forbidden?
All planned activities are permitted, including swimming, sea, and hikes – all according to restrictions and behavior guidelines.

Will there be sanitization of the camp between camp periods?
Sanitization (according to coronavirus requirements) includes cleaning with bleach or 70% alcogel. Between camp periods the dormitories will be cleaned with bleach by the cleaning team (floor, toilets, showers, and taps).

Will the children’s experience be different because of social distancing?
The experience will be unique, just like our entire lives have been altered by recent events. The quality of the activities and the connection among campers won’t be harmed. On the contrary, the team will be on maximum alert to the campers’ wellbeing and health – which will strengthen the connection between them and the group cohesion. The main consequence will be reducing physical contact.

Do we need to wear masks all the time?
No.  Most of the time we will be doing open-air activities by the sea (ideally). We will not need to wear masks except around mealtimes and reduced-size activities in a closed room, according to the regulation.

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Meet Camp Kimama-Galim Director!

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We are proud to introduce our newly appointed Camp Director, Shai Resnick.

In her own words:

I am 30 years old. I grew up in Manof, a small community north of Haifa. I hold a B.A. in Social Work from the Academic and Technology College of Tel -Hai. I am a big believer in education and the love of humanity, and have always been involved in informal education. In recent years, I have been working with youth in Israel’s social geographical periphery. I joined Kimama in the Summer of 2013 and since then have worked in a variety of roles, from a counselor, to a lead coordinator to director of programming. Last summer I was the camp director of our first summer camp in NY. I strive to drive change through education. To experience new things every day that make learn and grow, and most importantly to enjoy the journey!

In this upcoming summer, I plan to work hard in order to create an unforgettable experience for our campers!

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Notes From My Visit To America // Deddy Paz

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March 2018.
Last month I turned 40. Though I had four whole decades to prepare, it caught me by somewhat of a surprise. That number made me think back and reflect on my life. A two-week trip to the US turned out to be just what I needed. Fifteen years after we founded Kimama, I was going on a work trip to meet my good friend Avishay, Kimama’s current CEO. Read More

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Keeping Our Kids Safe // Enon Landenberg

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Parents, do you really know what your children are up to? Do you know where they are or who they might be texting?
Maybe you think you do – but you do not.

As parents, we are constantly exposed to news about the dangers that threaten our children in the digital age. Shaming, verbal and physical violence, and shunning are just a few of the many phenomenons that can harm our children at school or in their free time. New research is published daily, warning us about the dangers of excessive mobile phone use and the ways in which it affects our children.
Read More