As more and more young people infected with – or affected by – HIV/AIDS approach adulthood, new programs are needed to offer support, mentorship, career options, and professional opportunities for success.
That is why we created Camp Hollywood HEART in Malibu, California. Since 2008, this week-long interactive arts experience has given youth impacted by HIV/AIDS the opportunity to explore one of seven arts disciplines: Acting, Creative Writing, Culinary Arts, Documentary Filmmaking, Fashion, Music, and Visual Arts.
Led by experienced artists and mentors, 80 participants ages 15-20 enjoy comprehensive instruction and training in their chosen art, steering them in the right direction for pursuing their creative passions. The teens are given the opportunity to interact positively with arts professionals and one another as they explore their creativity and receive both personal and career-centered insight. The camp culminates with a live gala performance, empowering our young artists to showcase their creativity and artistic vision before the entire camp community. The opportunity to celebrate each other’s talents is an experience that brings smiles, pride, and confidence to the participants for years to come.
The campers also get to choose exciting elective programming such as comic book artistry, fashion design, culinary arts, stunt choreography, and photography, providing campers with a well-rounded experience beyond their initial focus. In addition to electives and focused workshops, camp provides a variety of fun, enlightening experiences ranging from performances by well-known entertainers to beach time, sports, and games. We also invite college counselors and working professionals to a Career/Info Fair so campers can receive guidance, direction, and resource packets on how to attend college and further professional development. The camp session allows participants to understand the responsibilities of adulthood and build self-esteem in a trusted, caring, and fun environment.
We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our youth illustrating the value of this program. Roy, a Music camper, wrote a song and learned how to copyright it. Another camper found the courage through our Creative Writing program, to express her story as an abuse survivor through her poetry. Laithan and Carolyne learned how to speak openly about their HIV status through interacting with other HIV-infected campers in our stigma-free environment and they now provide AIDS education in schools. There is no doubt that for the past 18 years, this exceptional combination of recreation and learning has transformed our campers’ lives.
Hope to see you at Camp Hollywood HEART!