Emily A. Truman | 3/14/2006 10:44:22 PM
Camp Lagniappe, an outdoor challenge and relationship development program for military youth, will kick off Operation Military Kids in Louisiana April 8-9.
Operation Military Kids is a national program serving children of National Guard and Reserve personnel called to active duty, according to Chad Higgins, an assistant professor with the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development Department.
"The purpose of the camp is to provide challenging outdoor activities geared toward developing team-building, communications and leadership skills," Higgins said.
The camp will be held at the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center near Pollock.
Louisiana has deployed more than 20,000 Reserve and National Guard personnel. This has left 10,000 to 11,000 children without one of their parents at home, Higgins said. Operation Military Kids brings these youths together to let them know there are others in their shoes.
Program planners said that although youth affected by deployment are expected to continue life as normal, they have legitimate concerns regarding family finances, employment, child care and constant media reminders of the conflict and its dangers.
"These youth are in families that are suddenly military," said Emily Truman, the Operation Military Kids coordinator for Louisiana located in the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development Department. "Family dynamics change, and people don’t realize what the kids go through."
Higgins said the Operation Military Kids program has several objectives, one of which is to increase awareness among schools, other agencies and organizations and the general public about the complications faced by kids with parents on active duty.
"Operation Military Kids is a great venue to bring suddenly military kids together and let them know they are not alone," said Misty Rivon, Army Reserve Child and Youth Services regional coordinator.
The program in Louisiana is funded by a grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Army Youth Development Project, National 4-H Headquarters and Army Child and Youth Services. Other partners in the endeavor include the Louisiana National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve, the Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the LSU College of Education, Boys & Girls Clubs, I CARE, Wholistic Wellness Network Inc., Louisiana Youth Prevention Services and the American Legion.
In addition to families being separated by deployment, many Reserve and National Guard members have been mobilized in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and their children also face family disruptions.
The Operation Military Kids partners provide training and curricular resources along with targeted educational experiences for these youths.
"It is my pleasure to partner with such a wonderful group," said Stephanie Price, I CARE specialist with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. "The Operation Military Kids program will allow us to reach kids in Louisiana and the Baton Rouge area whose parents have been deployed and also those who have become displaced due to hurricanes Rita and Katrina."
More information on Operation Military Kids in Louisiana is available from Emily Truman at (225) 578-5630.