Camp aims to keep kids of incarcerated parents on right track

KAPAA — A fundraiser is slated Sunday for a Kauai camp that aims to keep kids from following in the footsteps of jailed parents.

Camp Agape is designed to bring a hopeful future to children of incarcerated parents. “Agape” is a Greek word meaning “unconditional love,” so camp leaders, trained volunteers and junior mentors strive to break the cycle of incarceration by demonstrating love and understanding to youth campers.

“It’s a focused attempt to try to stop these children from coming to prison themselves,” said Clayton Sui, chaplain at Kauai Community Correctional Center. “If both of their parents have been in jail, they have a 90 percent chance that they will end up incarcerated at some point in their life. These are national statistics we are fighting against. We don’t want to see any of these children end up in prison at any time in their lives. So anything we can do to put a stop to that is our goal.”

There are more than 800,000 incarcerated parents in the U.S. who have over 1.8 million children who are minors. In Hawaii, the child of an incarcerated parent is 80 percent more likely to be jailed in their lifetime, according to Hawaii’s Children of Incarcerated Parents Task Force Report.

The annual, four-day camp is filled with activities and events that communicate the gospel through love, trust, forgiveness and hope. It was held here for the first time last October.

“We were able to help 48 children and give them all of these things for free,” Sui said. “They get to take home supplies that we provide for them, a sleeping bag, backpack filled with toiletries, and three beautiful shirts from Camp Agape. They get to do all these activities 100 percent free.”

The camp includes ziplining, archery, surfing, sailing, horseback riding, games, crafts, skits and mentoring.

“All of these activities are meant to teach lessons of trust and hope and love and forgiveness,” Sui said, “so that one day they might be able to forgive their parents and develop healthy relationships with them. We want to protect these children, so they don’t fall in the footsteps of their parents.”

The nonprofit began on Oahu in 2005 when Pastor Roy Yamamoto was given a vision to start a camp and share God’s love with children whose parents are in prison.

“He was a former inmate himself and was miraculously released from prison terms,” Sui said. “He was facing two life sentences. He was released by some miracle and promised God he would go out and help these children and former inmates get their lives back in order.”

This year, the camp is scheduled Oct. 6-9 on the North Shore, during the public school fall break. About 60 to 70 campers are expected to attend and more than 150 volunteers make it possible, along with local support and donations.

“We have been given the opportunity and privilege to serve so many loving, talented, compassionate volunteers and to work with various organizations, businesses and churches,” said Camp Agape director Kerri Barros. “Many members with one goal to show God’s love to our kids, show them a new path to life and break the cycle of incarceration.”

An Camp Agape Kauai fundraiser is scheduled 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Wahooo’s Seafood Grill & Bar in Kapaa.

Twelve bands will be donating time and talent again to raise money and help children attend the 2017 Camp Agape. Tickets are $15.

“To share in the first annual End of Summer Jam was so rewarding,” said LaVerne Corpuz, vocalist for Vibrations, one of the bands performing at the fundraiser again. “The proceeds benefited children whose parents are incarcerated with an opportunity to attend camp to learn to think positive and deal with loneliness and hardships in life with assertiveness.”

Last year’s inaugural Camp Agape fundraiser brought in about $1,000.

“We really believe in community. We believe that all together we can do this,” Sui said. “We cannot do this on our own. We can’t do it as one group of people. We can only do it as an island.”

For tickets, call Linda Tani at 639-7507.

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