Camp Viva, located at the Ramapo Anchorage for Children in Rhinebeck, NY, is a unique year-round program for children and families in Westchester County infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. (One member of the immediate family is infected with AIDS or HIV, then the entire family is eligible to apply and attend camp.)
Founded in 1995, Camp Viva’s mission is to serve HIV-affected children, families and care-partners in the Westchester County area who are living with or affected by HIV and/or AIDS. Through Viva’s week long sleep away camp experience and its year-round follow-up program, Camp Viva provides respite, medical supervision, support, recreation and education to prevent the further spread of HIV. Respite care significantly helps reduce stress and provides a strong emotional base for working through HIV-related issues. The summer retreat makes this possible for families who would not otherwise have a chance to escape the daily burdens of their illness; while the year-round follow up program helps families get the support and educational information they need to live more healthfully and to become strong community advocates for good preventive behavior.
Our campers tell us that one of the most lasting benefits of Camp Viva is the feeling they receive throughout the year of “belonging” to a family and community of people who care. As one of our young campers recently put it: “Living with HIV or AIDS gives you a feeling of not-belonging, of being separate and no longer part of the world. At Camp Viva, you belong to a family who accepts, supports and loves you for who you are.”
Camp Viva’s week-long sleep away camp is in a rural setting and includes arts and crafts, drama, music, movement, swimming, boating, educational seminars, on-site medical support, mental health counseling, nondenominational pastoral care services, resource materials and referrals, and more. In addition we offer coordination with case managers based on individuals service needs. Viva’s comprehensive follow-up program continues throughout the year, with regular quarterly reunions and informal gatherings as well as a quarterly newsletter.
Who is eligible?
Campers must be residents of Westchester and be infected with HIV or AIDS or, affected due to an infected family member. (If one family member is infected and attends camp, then the whole family may attend.) Children must be bathroom trained and must attend with a parent or guardian; the youngest attending children are 4 years old.
Each year volunteers from all walks of life join the Viva family and devote a week of their time and energy to provide campers with a safe, fun-filled, and supportive camp experience. Volunteer counselors work with either child, teen, or adult campers. In the role of counselors, volunteers facilitate camper participation in multiple daily activities and provide structure for their campers. Volunteers may also have a particular talent to share at camp and may thus serve as an Activity Specialist. As an Activity Specialist, volunteers facilitate activities such as arts and crafts, music, sports, theater, and movement. If you wish to join our amazing group of volunteers, please fill out an application.
Robert Cestone, Director
Mary Pat Draddy, Volunteer Coordinator
Aaron Page, On Site Director