Northeast Philly summer camp for Ukrainian refugee kids gives light in dark time

The KleinLife Community Center camp gives financial and therapeutic support to dozens of kids
Ukrainian children who have come to Philadelphia participate in a summer camp at KleinLife Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia.
Ukrainian children who have come to Philadelphia participate in a summer camp at KleinLife Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia. Photo credit Shara Dae Howard/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Northeast Philadelphia community center is hosting a summer camp for dozens of Ukrainian refugee children.

At one moment Thursday, those kids at KleinLife Community Center were singing and clapping to a song of peace. The song, and the camp, have brought a little light during what has been a dark time for their families and their country.

“Most of them came from eastern Ukraine, an area that has been heavily shelled by airplanes and bombs,” said KleinLife Community Center President and CEO Andre Krug.

The center raised $70,000 through a single email to host a summer camp for 45 Ukrainian refugee children, and plans to do more through a fundraising campaign to expand the camp to up to 75 kids, create after-school programs and offer medical and dental care.

The camp provides much-needed financial and emotional support for campers and their families as they cope with the devastation of war.

“My staff went through training, through trauma-informed care, and they know how to deal with people who’ve had trauma in their lives,” said Krug.

“They’re kind of displaced and there’s a huge humanitarian crisis, and we’re just trying to do our part.”

KleinLife offers the children therapy, but also a wide range of activities from swimming to basketball. Ukrainian Olympian Maria Ryman oversees the sports programs at the camp.

“These kids are from Ukraine. They’re from my home. That’s the goal, to give them some sports and activities and see them laughing and smiling,” said Ryman.

Ukrainian refugee children at a summer camp hosted by KleinLife Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia.
Ukrainian refugee children at a summer camp hosted by KleinLife Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia. Photo credit Shara Dae Howard/KYW Newsradio

Other activities include robotics, gardening and the arts.

“The kids can let go,” said Krug, “and kind of let the kids become kids again.”

The campers also participate in English classes which Sonia, 11, said are her favorite.

“My name is Sonia,” she shared, “and I am happy.”