Sustainability and Community

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Tompkins Weekly 3-23-15
By Susan Rausch

Camp Earth Connection (CEC) is a Natural Campground, a Retreat Center and a Children’s Summer Camp.  CEC offers people a safe space for meaningful connections in a beautiful natural environment.   When CEC writes about community in its brochures, web page or programs, CEC is talking about an inclusive community.  One which includes for example, people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different family types, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered) folks and families with limited financial resources.   For a community to be truly sustainable, it must be inclusive and representative all of  the members of the community.  The minority must always have a voice and be heard in an equitable way and must also be part of the decision making.  If  the “Sustainability Movement”  does not have representation from all of it’s community, who is the community sustainable for and what is it sustaining?  CEC LogoAt CEC, sustainability is about the planet and all creatures great and small that live on it.  In order for the planet to be sustainable, there must be balance: balance in our eco-system, balance with humans’ relationship with the land and the many other creatures we share it with, and balance amongst each other.  Some might call this balance amongst each other social justice.  The basic needs of each of us can be met by our planet if we stay in balance.   Sadly, most of our “systems” do not operate on balance.  They operate on a fear of scarcity and success is defined as profit and acquisition instead of community and meeting the basics need for all.

I am the creator of Camp Earth Connection and many of its programs.   When I started my first children’s camp programs, I wanted to make sure that the program was designed so that all children and their families would feel safe (both physically and emotionally) and have wonderful inspirational outdoor experiences in nature.  In order to do that I needed to connect with the different communities in and around Tompkins County.  Over the last 30 years I have had the opportunity to do so in many ways.  While attending Cornell, I began volunteering at Greater Ithaca Activities Center(GIAC).  That relationship has lasted all these years and resulted in a program called Village Camp that was created 15 years ago.  Village Camp is an inclusive and diverse outdoor community camp which helps kids build relationships with nature and each other.  For 14 years Village Camp has received community support and grants to make sure there would be transportation and financial assistance so that families at GIAC and the surrounding areas could participate in the program.   Because the problems of poverty and disproportionate wealth continues, the need to seek funding continues in order to provide all families with opportunities such as Village Camp.

In addition to Village Camp  CEC is offering other specialty camp programs for children and their  families this summer.  In July CEC is teaming up with Hammerstone Carpentry School for Women to offer a Girls Carpentry and Healthy Living Camp.  Hammerstone is committed to empowering women to use their bodies and minds for creative and useful ends. Girls will also learn healthy living practices including organic gardening and vegetarian cooking along with yoga and meditation practices.  CEC will also offer a Mountain Biking and Healthy Living Camp for teen girls in July.

In August, CEC is collaborating with GIAC, the Multicultural Resource Center and other Ithaca Community Members to offer another village camp program for local youth called Project RISE (Resiliency in Spite of Everything.)  Project RISE is an empowering  program for children who have a parent incarcerated; it will be a free program for eligible youth.  Both Village Camp and Project RISE depend on public and private financial support to offer scholarships to families with limited incomes.   For more information about making a financial contribution to sustain these programs visit the Project RISE page at the website

This Spring, on June 1st, 2015 Camp Earth Connection will open a Natural Campground with Cabins, Rustic Cabins, Tent-sites and Lean-Tos.  The facility will provide hot showers, compost toilets and solar showers.  CEC is committed to making this campground a safe space for people from all backgrounds.  This facility is drug and alcohol free, and provides a diverse staff that can relate and support folks who might not have had prior pleasant experiences at campgrounds.  There will be fun and educational programs on Saturdays as well as local performers for all campers.

Camp Earth Connection is located adjacent to the Hammond Hill State Forest trail system in the town of Dryden.  CEC offers a Natural Campground, Specialty Children’s Camps and Retreats.  For more information, contact Susan Rausch at or call (607)844-3178.

Susan Rausch is the creator of Camp Earth Connection.

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