Building community and self-confidence, Camp SoulGrow puts kids into hands-on learning

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Dilla Brignac is preparing to cook black beans for the first time and there is garlic to chop, onions to chop and beans to wash. She’s a little scared, and it’s understandable considering she’s an 11-year-old standing in the kitchen of Horn’s restaurant in Marigny, where the room is hot floors and sharp knives. But for Dilla and her fellow campers at Camp SoulGrow, rolling up their sleeves and participating in a new project is what this workshop camp is all about.

“My mom does all the cooking,” Dilla said as she looked at all the items on the table. “This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this.”

In the end Camp SoulGrow Restaurant owner Kappa Horn spent the afternoon teaching the campers how to cook black beans, which included a talk on knife safety and lessons on how to handle hot pots. For these campers, the kitchen is a new frontier, and for Horne, an opportunity to give back to the community she loves.

“Cooking is an important life skill that everyone should know,” Horn said. “So, we’re going to have fun and cook a pot of black beans.

Kerrah Freeman and Avery Freeman will make the bouquet.

Now in its ninth year, the non-profit camp SoulGrow is the brainchild of Rozier, a self-proclaimed “head kid” from London. The idea is to enrich young people between the ages of 7 and 12 by immersing them in different areas of the community and connecting them with business owners who are happy to share their knowledge.

Camp SoulGrow sessions are held after school and typically last about 90 minutes. In addition to community-inspired learning, the camp includes fun activities like face painting and games. Young people between the ages of 13 and 17 can participate as assistants and help the staff on the day.

There is no charge, and children are encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible.

Kappa Horn adds cheese and salsa to Jayden Freeman’s black beans.

“The focus at camp is on doing activities and being exposed to new things in life so they can build self-esteem,” Rozier said. “Everything seems to be online these days, which makes it even more important to give them experiences that create real inner growth and fulfillment, so I started using the community as a classroom.”

Each camp session is planned by a business host. Past boot camp-style activities have included swinging giant ropes and giant tires while learning Mandarin at Zhang’s Bistro and cooking Chinese food.

“Even though it’s all focused on the kids, it goes both ways,” Rozier said. “The kids are learning and having new experiences, and the adults get the reward of sharing their interests and knowledge with these kids. It’s all about building community.”

London Rozier, right, works with children making flower bouquets as he visits Horn’s Restaurant at Camp Soul Grow.

Rosier, a New Orleans native who worked in New York’s fashion industry after Katrina destroyed her home in Bucktown, envisioned Camp SoulGrow as a way to help children and escape the relentless pace of work and life. in the city. She was on fire, and still living in New Orleans, her mother’s death caused her to step back and examine what was important in her life.

“There were days when I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I just wanted a change of pace,” Rozier said. Wanting to reset her life,

Five years later, her campaign was bigger than ever, but she felt a call to come home and returned to New Orleans in 2019, bringing Camp SoulGrow with her.

“We get every demographic of kids. We’re not a poor camp or a sad camp or a free camp. We’re Camp Solgrove,” said Rosier, who worked on a boat in Venice for a while when she first returned to Louisiana. “We’re a year-round camp, and educational. We don’t advertise through houses because we want this to be a completely different experience without any pressure that comes with school.”

Children make drawings when Camp SoulGrow visits Horn’s restaurant.

Jayden Freeman, 13, is an aide at Camp Solgrove and said his experience helping the classes is preparing him for a career as a teacher one day. Jayden said his duties include helping prepare for camp sessions and making sure the students get the support they need.

“I love helping people who are younger than me,” says Jayden, who loves being able to make new friends by volunteering for the camp. “I needed a lot of help when I was younger, and other people helped me, so this is my way of giving back.

Jayden’s mother, Keonsha Freeman, said she loves that her son is exposed to so many opportunities that will help him in the future.

“You never know until you try,” she said. “He has different responsibilities in this house than being a big brother. It is more legitimate because it exists in the real world.

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