Champ Camp After-School Educational Enrichment Program for Homeless Children

Champ Camp After-School Educational Enrichment Program for Homeless Children

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Bakersfield Homeless Center founded Champ Camp After-School Educational Enrichment Program in 2004 to meet the educational and psychosocial development needs of children in grades K-8 residing at the 205-bed family shelter. Champ Camp provides homeless children the tutoring, social enrichment and supplemental nutrition their parents can’t.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Homelessness disrupts children’s educational and psycho-social development and can affect their sense of self-worth. Parents dealing with the stressors linked to homelessness (drugs/alcohol, domestic violence, poverty, unemployment, prison priors, illiteracy, mental health issues, etc.) often lack the wherewithal to provide a stable environment where their children can thrive. Homeless children are forced to grow up fast, often cheated out of their childhood by having to become caregivers for their parents, younger siblings, and themselves. Poor health and hunger, which often accompany homelessness, can adversely impact children’s educational development and school performance. Homeless parents unable to nurture, mentor and serve as role models to their children can hinder their psycho-social development and self-esteem. Champ Camp’s teachers and volunteers address the nutritional, educational, social, and self-esteem needs of homeless children in a safe, age-appropriate environment, giving them tools they can take with them when their families are placed back in permanent housing.
About You
Bakersfield Homeless Center
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Bakersfield Homeless Center

Organization Phone


Organization Address

1600 E. Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, CA 93305

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

Knowing that many homeless parents are emotionally or academically unable to nurture their children’s development, Champ Camp bridges this gap while the family is residing at Bakersfield Homeless Center. The after-school program is convenient because it is on site: Once the school bus drops off the children at the BHC gate, parents can simply walk them over to the Champ Camp classroom, where kids first receive a nutritionally-balanced snack, then become immersed in stimulating educational and physical activities until dinnertime. From receiving tutoring help to learning about hygiene to taking an obstacle course challenge to creating their own Halloween costumes and decorations, the children are given opportunities they may never have had at home—at no cost and in a safe environment. Homeless children are at risk for developmental delay, trauma, stigma, behavioral challenges, and serious illness resulting from poor hygiene and nutrition. Champ Camp reduces these risks and turns the period of homelessness—which, based on experience, lasts about 4-5 months for most Champ Camp kids—into an opportunity to lay a foundation for stability and a positive future. About 30 children ages 5 to 13 years (grades K-8) are accommodated at any one time in a classroom that can be divided into two age-appropriate learning spaces (grades K-4 and 5-8) using an accordion-type partition. One half-time program coordinator, two half-time activity leaders, and half a dozen volunteers from the Bakersfield City School District, local colleges and the community at large provide plenty of hands-on individualized support.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

In the 2008-2009 school year, 170 to 180 Champ Camp children completed about 8,100 pages of homework with the help of volunteers who provided about 2,200 hours of tutoring assistance. Despite these successes, the Champ Camp Program Coordinator knows these children will only be in her charge for a few months—a small window of opportunity to make a lasting difference in their lives. Therefore, besides homework help and academic tutoring, the Champ Camp curriculum incorporates classes in a) Health, Nutrition & Wellness (including “Kids in the Kitchen,” where children learn to make easy-to-prepare healthy snacks), b) Hygiene and Disease Prevention, and c) Physical Activities. These classes provide long-term life tools the kids can go on using even after they and their families have been successfully placed in housing. As their parents will often still be at work when they get home from school, these children will have to look after themselves and learn to rely on microwave or toaster ovens for cooking. By giving them the tools to prepare healthy, easy-to-fix snacks and meals, we encourage them to continue eating right once they leave the shelter. Hygiene lessons teach them about cleanliness in the kitchen and food safety—refrigeration, proper heating, etc. Forced to be “little independent adults,” Champ Camp kids leave BHC prepared to influence the eating and hygiene habits of their entire family. Physical activities encourage them to exercise their bodies and stay fit, rather than only look to the television or computer for entertainment.


BHC puts a high priority on the after-school program and works on the following areas to ensure its ongoing success.
- Funding: Bakersfield Homeless Center’s full-time Grant Writer performs grant searches, and prepares and submits funding proposals to public and private grantors on behalf of the Champ Camp After-School Program. BHC’s Management Staff actively pursue collaborative community partnerships with other local non-profits, as well as private and corporate funding support for the program. BHC’s newsletter is mailed out to 10,000 potential donors in the community each month. In-kind donations of school and art supplies, computer equipment, costumes, games, etc. are solicited on an ongoing basis from in-kind donors in the community.
- Community Support: Continued community partnerships (Bakersfield City School District, Cal State University Bakersfield, Bakersfield College, University of Phoenix, and volunteers from the community) provide no-cost help with one-on-one tutoring, reading buddies and extra curricular activities.


We believe that, through these actions, the Bakersfield Homeless Center will be able to continue to raise the needed funds, recruit quality staff and volunteers, and receive enough in-kind donations to meet Champ Camp’s $50,000 yearly operating budget. The program will thus be able to continue providing 2.5 to 3 hours of after-school activities for homeless children K-8 from Monday through Friday during the school year. Attendance will continue to be about 30 children per day, and yearly (per school year) enrollment in the program should remain at 170-180 children whose lives will be significantly touched by Champ Camp.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Strong development and fundraising, community partnerships, volunteer recruitment and in-kind gift-seeking efforts have sustained Champ Camp since it was inaugurated in 2004. Thanks to highly publicized and anticipated Back-to-School backpack and school supply donation drives that take place annually, the Bakersfield community has, over the years, become familiar with the fact that children, too, are victims of homelessness. Bakersfield Homeless Center, as the only family homeless shelter in Kern County’s 8,200 square miles, is at the vanguard of homeless safety-net services for children—which must include balanced nutrition, education and psycho-social development efforts. As we continue to promote the strengths of Champ Camp, a respected BHC flagship program for children endorsed by Cal State University Bakersfield, the community will step in and help BHC help homeless children achieve a foundation of educational and life-skills success.

2010-2011 School Year
Secure $50,000-$60,000 in monetary and in-kind funding to cover personnel costs for one half-time (20 hours) Program Coordinator, two half-time Activity Leaders, overhead, supplies and materials. Ensure the program has 5-6 community volunteers present to assist with each class. These are usually: CSU Bakersfield/University of Phoenix psychology/education majors, Bakersfield College human services majors, and members of the community at large who are passionate about child literacy and math competency programs.

Secure $50,000-$60,000 in monetary and in-kind funding to cover personnel costs for one half-time (20 hours) Program Coordinator, two half-time Activity Leaders, overhead, supplies and materials. Ensure the program has 5-6 community volunteers present to assist with each class—same volunteer criteria as above.

Secure $50,000-$60,000 in monetary and in-kind funding to cover personnel costs for one half-time (20 hours) Program Coordinator, two half-time Activity Leaders, overhead, supplies and materials. Ensure the program has 5-6 community volunteers present to assist with each class—same volunteer criteria as above.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Since a stable funding stream and continued support from the community are needed for Champ Camp to remain a viable part of the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s wide range of services, a loss of funding and participation from community members would negatively affect the program’s progress. However, we do not foresee either of these factors for three very important reasons:

a)Our fundraising and grant writing efforts are ongoing and target numerous funding sources, thereby ensuring a steady income stream for the program.

b)The greater Bakersfield community is a very giving and caring community. Especially during the year-end holidays, Easter and back-to-school time, people are sensitive to the plight of the homeless and provide monetary and in-kind support for our efforts—including Champ Camp.

c)Champ Camp has established fruitful partnerships in the community. The Bakersfield City School District pays for one teacher to tutor children at Champ Camp for two hours each day Monday-Thursday. Cal State University Bakersfield, whose Foundation provided the seed money to start the program five years ago, continues to send students majoring in education and psychology to serve at Champ Camp so they can fulfill volunteer hours. Also, there is never a lack of community members who want to help by reading to a child, helping with math problems, arts and crafts, etc. And nutrition and wellness classes are provided to the children through a partnership between BHC’s Medical/Dental Program and the Kern County Department of Public Health.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Bakersfield Homeless Center

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Community nonprofit organizations like the Junior League of Bakersfield and local chapters of Rotary International, and businesses like Borders Books, assist BHC’s Champ Camp on an ongoing basis with in-kind gifts of anything from backpacks to Halloween costumes to books—in fact, Champ Camp leverages in-kind donations to make the program a richer experience for participating children. Bakersfield Homeless Center’s 16-member Volunteer Board of Directors is involved in all decisions affecting BHC and Champ Camp. The average annual contribution to BHC from each board member is $2,500. Board members are also great community advocates for Champ Camp and BHC’s other programs, and help greatly with our fundraising efforts targeting businesses and individuals in the community.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Champ Camps’ Program Coordinator believes that growing the program qualitatively would afford enrolled children a richer learning experience. Some actions that could help toward this are:

1) Purchase or seek a donation of a van/minibus or other means of transport to enable Champ Camp children to go on more culturally enriching field trips—currently limited to just two per school year precisely for lack of such transport. There are plenty of local museums and other venues (the Kern County Museum, Bakersfield Museum of Art, West Kern Oil Museum, Buena Vista Museum of Natural History, Kern County Fairgrounds, Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center), as well as sites in Los Angeles or Fresno (the Fresno Zoo, Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance, Venice Beach, etc.) for children to enjoy, as time allows, on weekdays or weekends. In this way, Champ Camp kids’ horizons could be broadened in a hope-building way beyond their immediate surroundings in Bakersfield’s east side, a depressed and crime-ridden area.

2) Champ Camp currently has nine computers and no internet access. The machines are in-kind donations, as is the learning software installed in them that the children use to polish up their math and language skills. Three of these computers need to be replaced, as they are old, and the Program Coordinator would like to have three more computers to bring the total number of work stations to 12. Six new computers could accomplish that. Also, internet access, once a want, is becoming a real need for children in the program, who must often use the internet for homework research.

3) A long-term wish-list item is an indoor sports facility where the children could safely enjoy basketball, volleyball, table tennis, aerobics exercises, and other physical activities.
Funding opportunities and resources will be sought to try to meet these needs.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Prior to 2004, there was no after-school program for the children who live at the Bakersfield Homeless Center. When students walked home from the bus stop, the rest of their afternoon consisted of wandering the grounds, climbing trees and getting into trouble—including fistfights. Students had no suitable area to do their homework, and those who tried were often deterred by insecure or envious parents who felt they were being upstaged by their own kids. A special place was needed for kids to call their own and feel a sense of safety and stability at BHC—a 205-bed shelter that primarily caters to women and families with children. When grant funding became available through Cal State University Bakersfield Foundation to build a permanent, age-appropriate after-school classroom and activity center, BHC quickly took steps to have the work completed. Every homeless child that came through the Bakersfield Homeless Center gates was viewed as a potential winner in life—hence the name “Champ Camp.” At Champ Camp, homeless children are free to build their own community where they can socially interact with one another without having to constantly feel the stressors and stigma of homelessness. They can study, play games and create crafts without the teasing and scrutiny of outside children. Within this “community” are supportive adults who, by simply caring enough to sit down with a homeless child just to talk—or listen—instill a sense of empowerment and help nurture social growth and competency. The end result is hope for homeless children who can begin to have a more positive view of their and their family’s future.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Champ Camp is the brainchild of its Program Coordinator, Jerri Alvarado. The 51-year-old wife, stepmother of two and grandmother of four ran two local child development centers for about two decades before coming to work at BHC. Jerri first came on board to launch Discovery Depot, the only licensed child care center in California on the campus of a homeless shelter. Discovery Depot serves the needs of children 0 to 5 years. As she worked on Discovery Depot, which opened in 2003, Jerri was grieved by the lack of a learning/activities facility for BHC resident children older than 5 years. She hated to see children idling away the time in the afternoons after school, getting into mischief and fighting. Their fights often provoked fighting among their parents as well at the homeless center. Jerri thought it was a shame every time she saw homeless children falling behind because they were not able to keep up with their homework. The distractions were too many, and these were children who were already struggling with a lot of pressures most children don’t have to contend with: lack of psychologically nurturing parents, housing and transportation; poverty, hunger, the stigma of homelessness and the bruised sense of self-esteem that accompanies it; lack of privacy and stability; having to grow up too fast because of the need to care for themselves, their younger siblings, sometimes even their own parents. It was out of the desire to do something for these kids that Jerri worked with a grant writer at the Cal State Bakersfield Foundation to get the funding needed for Champ Camp. She’s been running the program since 2004. Jerri recently completed the half-year Kern County Network for Children’s Leadership Development Training Program, which ended in June 2009 and is recognized by the State of California.

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