It's Harambee time!


Sandy Horner
Focus on Adoption magazine

Harambee is an annual camp in Naramata, BC for families parenting children of African heritage, either through birth or adoption. Cultural activities and networking are highlights of the camp with a primary goal of creating long-term relationships between the families.

Harambee is a Swahili word meaning the celebration of unity. For my son and me it means so much more. Harambee is the one week of the year that we would gladly give up the other fifty-one for. It is magic. For us it is the one week of the year where we fit in, where we blend in with everyone else.

The Harambee Family Summer Festival is a camp for families raising children of African heritage whether by adoption or birth. It started about 16 years ago when two adoptive families in the Okanagan went camping together. By last year we were 75 families and 300 people strong, and each year we take over the town of Naramata for the first week of summer vacation. The camp is so popular that there is a waiting list to get into it, and families come from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and even the USA.

For that one week we celebrate who we are and how we became families. Most of the families consist of Caucasian parents raising adopted children of African heritage. We sing, dance, and drum. We laugh and cry. We learn traditional African songs, dances, and stories. The children develop life-long friendships with other kids who are just like them. They develop mentorships with adults that share their race. Culture, heritage, and diversity are celebrated. Families are celebrated. Friendship is celebrated. It’s like a huge family reunion.

Most of us only see each other for that one week of the year. But as we pour out of our various vehicles, motor homes, trailers, and campers the magic begins, and we resume friendships, as though we saw each other last week instead of last year.

The people we share Harambee with "get it." They understand the differences involved in raising a child who is of a different race. They understand how differently adoptive families can be treated. They understand the importance of recognizing those differences and celebrating them. They understand the importance of honouring culture, heritage and diversity.

Culture, heritage and diversity are important to everyone. Whatever your race I urge you to celebrate not only your own traditions, but to also embrace and honour those of others. Celebrate unity and join me in shouting "Harambee!"

Sandy Horner is a grade 3 teacher in Lillooet, BC and soul parent to five adopted children. They are a triracial family and share their home with three cats, two guinea pigs, and art and instruments representing their cultures. Sandy is a hockey coach and writes for the local paper in her "free" time.

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