Coast Guard families deployed to Hawaii can face unique challenges: there’s a high cost of living, many live a fair distance from extended family support systems, and quality child care and enrichment programs can be expensive, placing a heavy burden on the family’s budget and priorities.
The Coast Guard Foundation launched a pilot program last year to address Coast Guard families’ needs in this area. The youth enrichment program offered $500 grants to families enrolling their children in summer camps, fall break programs, and other activities that engaged Coast Guard kids in outdoor recreation, academic enrichment, fine arts, STEM, and camping activities.
In 2019, 39 Coast Guard children across Hawaii benefitted from this opportunity. The majority of the funding supported enlisted Coast Guard members and families, with some commissioned officer families enrolling their children in enrichment activities as well.
“This camp significantly affected my child’s development and exposure to social and outdoor activities. It has increased her confidence and personal growth through many group activities and experiences,” noted a Coast Guard member and grant beneficiary.
For some families, the camp programs offered more than enrichment opportunities. In particular, therapeutic horse riding camps provided several young participants with important respite from the anxiety and stress of frequent moves and military deployments.
“Our daughter was diagnosed with anxiety shortly after we moved to Hawaii,” shared a grateful Coast Guard member. “The unknown life of a military child has greatly affected her ability to deal with anxiety. The time spent with horses gives her a sense of confidence and self-esteem that she is missing in other parts of her life. It was the happiest and most at-ease we have ever seen our little girl. Thank you very much for awarding our family this grant.”
This segment of the pilot program was made possible through the generous support of Norwegian Cruise Line.
Pilot Program Expands in 2020, COVID-19 Limits Camp Activities
We developed a greater understanding of the need by the end of 2019 and set to expand the program in 2020 to reach even more Coast Guard families stationed in Hawaii. Norwegian Cruise Line continued its support, and First Hawaiian Bank added to the program’s expansion.
As we prepared to launch the program this spring, COVID-19 hit and closed many summer camps and in-person enrichment activities. We pivoted the program to include at-home learning opportunities and technology investments like laptops, tablets, and online subscriptions that could benefit both distance learning and after-school and summer programs. One-third of the grant recipients enrolled in summer camps that safely followed public health guidelines and provided outdoor activities. The balance of the program participants acquired computers and other hardware for at-home learning.
Families were creative with their requests and included things like memberships to local zoos and museums that provided the opportunity for experiential learning and safe social distancing. The need for outside activities remained, and our grant program created a space for families to program their own experiences based on their individual needs and special circumstances.
The benefit to Coast Guard families is apparent in the notes we received from appreciative Coast Guard members.
“This is a tremendous help to keep my child engaged in learning throughout this summer and the future. He will use his iPad to access learning games and programs, as well as using it to do virtual museums and zoos.”
“With the challenges of COVID and a move, we were otherwise unable to schedule normal activities. This grant allowed our children to complete some enrichment throughout the summer.”
“Childcare and other education programs for children are very expensive in Oahu. Many programs fill up quickly or have long waiting lists. This summer camp grant is greatly appreciated...thank you very much!”
In total, 52 Coast Guard children benefitted from the program in 2020. All told, 91 Coast Guard youth participated in online learning, in-person camps, and acquired the technology tools needed for distance-learning and enrichment activities over the pilot program's two years.
“I am grateful to our funding partners, Norwegian Cruise Line and First Hawaiian Bank, and all of our supporters here in Hawaii, who help us make important programs like this one a reality for families living and serving in the 14th Coast Guard District,” said Susan Ludwig, president, Coast Guard Foundation. “We hope that these children will continue to thrive and grow in this uniquely beautiful place and gain valuable life skills and experiences through this program offering.”