(Photo courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund)


Deb Gordon’s guest was Fatima Shama, Executive Director of the Fresh Air Fund, the non-profit that helps New York children in a variety of ways including providing them with summer getaways as a respite from the hot city.

Spotlighted Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Town program whereby young New Yorkers are sent to live with a host family in a suburban area. Many of the kids develop strong bonds with their host families and return to visit them year after year.

“Children have an opportunity to experience and be exposed to communities outside of New York, meet people who have committed to going through a rigorous process of review and background checks and home inspections, “said Shama.

“Most of our children tell us how much it means to see a different part of New York or a different part of the East Coast.”

The Fresh Air Fund also runs 5 summer camps on 2000 acres in Fishkill, New York – a village in the Lower Hudson Valley.  The camps offer kids all the experiences one would expect from camping, but also provides an enriching curriculum to help enhance their development.

Camp Tommy named for designer Tommy Hilfiger is devoted to helping teen boys build self-esteem and camaraderie with others; and Camp Mariah named after singer Mariah Carey, a Fresh Air Fund board member, is a co-ed camp that focuses on career awareness.

“They participate in not only the fun and enhancement of what is a summer camp, like swimming in a lake, and smores, and overnight hikes, but they also experience a range of enrichments, that is in line with career exploration.” Shama said about Camp Mariah.

“The program is 3 years, so we also help kids get into high school, “ Sharma continued.

“Kids come to us during the school year for after school tutoring, job shadowing, and then there is one awesome career fair every year that we host, and then students are invited  to come back and stay with us through a college connections program.”

In addition, Fresh Air Fund has a model farm and learning garden which allows kids to learn about animals they don’t see in the city, and also about nutrition; resources and programs for kids with disabilities: and programs designed for new immigrants.

“We have a very large community of new immigrants to New York who are signing up their children for the Fresh Air Fund,” said Shama.  “We continue to be the place that both outreaches and welcomes, and we’re delighted to serve that role.”

The Fresh Air Fund is currently accepting registrants and Ms. Shama encouraged the community to take advantage of the amazing experiences they offer.

“We need more kids to sign up,” said Shama.  “We still have a lot of spots and opportunities. We absolutely want more kids.”

“On June 29th our first buses depart. Registration is going on now.”

For more information about the Fresh Air Fund, to volunteer or to donate, visit www.freshair.org or connect @FreshAirFund.


–Deb Gordon/WCBS-FM


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