Written by: Julee Jiang & Crystal Fan, FCSN Voices Youth Reporters
Graphics by: Roshni Gundavelli, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist
As the rise of COVID-19 brought an era of lockdown and restrictions upon the world, organizations like FCSN were forced to shut down all gatherings. Since then, enough progress has been made that in-person events have slowly begun to trickle back into daily life — an example of which is FCSN’s recent relaunch of in-person summer camps, a transition which was significant for both parents and children.
During quarantine, families found it challenging to take care of their children while also going to work, especially balancing professional life with child care in the same setting. Children with special needs also struggled to adapt to online learning and house quarantine. The virtual camps they had were limited in their subjects because many camps, including the well-known theater, music, and sports camps, were unable to be held online.
At the height of the pandemic, Penny Sapkunmongkon, Enrichment Program Manager at FCSN, made an effort to bring back some programs that would give kids greater educational opportunities; however, she remembered how frustrated she felt as her “efforts [were] swiftly refused due to the dangers of COVID.”
Despite the challenges brought on by in-person summer programs, there were some positive outcomes. Mostly notably, virtual classes gave families the ease of not having to travel. Families were more inclined to attend virtual sessions because they did not have to commute. As children adjusted and instructors came up with new techniques to make the sessions more interesting, online classrooms likewise developed into their own creative learning environments. Volunteers were also keen to propose their own ideas for new summer programs, providing children with more chances to pursue their passions.
After two years, in-person summer camps have finally returned, made possible by strict COVID protocols. Kelly Ko, the East Bay’s Director of Outreach and Enrichment Programs, recalled how staff enforced safety protocols by making masks a necessity and ensuring that everyone was vaccinated. Gathering everyone’s vaccination records, including volunteers, students, and faculty was difficult because it took time and planning, but Kelly said it was worth the effort to “see everyone back, in good spirits, and enjoying all the activities.”
This summer, a large selection of twelve in-person programs and four virtual camps were offered, including the badminton, math, and beginning music courses. During the 8-day Badminton camp, tournaments were held for students who were grouped according to age, ability, and level. The 5-day math camp covered key pre-algebra concepts, and during the beginning music camp, children were able to broaden their musical horizons through singing, dancing, and percussion. On the final day of the camp, they performed for FCSN members and friends at Hope Community Church, completing the program with a bang.
Penny also recalled the delight she felt while listening to the music camp’s touching performance. Both the music and drama camps were huge successes, with the performances even being uploaded on the FCSN Youtube channel to be available for the public to watch.
Ultimately, in-person summer camps helped families by relieving virtual difficulties while also enabling children to see their friends face-to-face again and form deep bonds. The FCSN summer activities served as a breath of fresh air amidst the pandemic, and in the future, both Kelly and Penny hope that children will continue to forge deep connections and find support in FCSN’s fall and spring camps.