Sunday, May 31

Unicamp provides opportunities for campers and counselors alike

UCLA Unicamp is the official student charity on campus that serves as a link between the university and the community through volunteer outreach programs designed to help underprivileged kids from low-income backgrounds.

The first Unicamp Awareness and Fundraising Benefit Concert was held Monday night in Ackerman Grand Ballroom to help raise money for their annual residential outdoor summer camp.

Every year, Unicamp sponsors the summer camp, inviting about 1,000 children from disadvantaged families, along with about 350 student volunteers.

“Unicamp takes kids from underserved backgrounds away from their normal, everyday lives,” said fourth-year anthropology student Lidia Luong, who is the head specialist of Unicamp this year. “Some of these kids see the wilderness for the first time.”

The annual camp is made possible by the UCLA student volunteers who undergo hours of training in the spring to prepare for camp in the summer.

“Our volunteers fundraise throughout the year to offset the costs of the camp,” Luong said. “Instead of $400, the kids are asked to pay only $75 to attend.”

“The Unicamp leadership helps support kids who come from families who cannot afford to pay the full amount,” said Luong.

Unicamp provides an opportunity to work and interact with underprivileged children.

“I wanted to find an organization that helped kids,” said fourth-year sociology and global studies student Dao Phung. “If we weren’t helped when we were kids, then we wouldn’t be here at UCLA today.”

Unicamp addresses an important problem facing children from troubled inner-city neighborhoods.

“There is an epidemic of kids not graduating from high school who come from low-income families,” said fourth-year history student Cord Greene. “They don’t have people providing for them.”

Unicamp encourages the campers to form friendships with their counselors.

“About 10 of us took eight kids to Dodger Stadium a few weeks after camp ended this past summer as a reunion,” said Greene. “The friendships I have made are phenomenal. It has completely changed my life.”

Counselors agree the entire camp experience has broadened their worldview and helped shape their lives.

“I overheard a young girl who had been raped by her parents,” Phung said solemnly. “It opened my eyes to a whole other world that existed beyond UCLA.”

Members of Unicamp encourage interested UCLA students to apply to the program during winter when applications become available.

“An ideal candidate (for the program) would be someone who is outgoing, not afraid to have fun or do embarrassing things, and willing to take a chance,” said Luong. “You have to be yourself.”

Although participation in Unicamp involves a significant time commitment, participation can be rewarding.

“It is an amazing program if you want to put yourself out there to take action, to make a difference,” Luong said.

“People in Unicamp have a sense of helping out,” said Phung. “A heart to help out with whatever you can do.”

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