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Edgartown, Massachusetts
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April 23, 2010     Vineyard Gazette
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TWELVE VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2010 It's Riding, Writing and Rhymm Camp By HOLLY NADLER This week was the annual spring Safe Haven Camp, for kids living with HIV, at the youth hostel in West Tisbury. On Monday, the 25 campers and 15 coun- selors had enjoyed a chance to settle in since their Saturday evening arrival.The big icebreaker occurred on Sunday when the fun-loving Harley Riders showed up. First the big guys and their assortment of gal friends took over the rustic kitchen and turned out a barbecue befitting hun- gry bikers anct campers alike. Then the bikers saddled up for 10-minute rides, chugging up and down the up-Island roads in one happy, noisy, muffler-ripping pack. Jermaine Lee, 32, has taken over as director of Safe Haven on the Vineyard from longtime leader and Vineyarder Tony Lombardi, who fulfilled his last term in the summer of 2009. Mr. Lee was born in the Bahamas and raised in Miami. He studied arts education programming at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. He's been riving with HIV himself, so early on he chose to use his skills to care for the community as exemplified by the Safe Haven project. "It's very exciting where we're going with this," he said. "We're opening up a new camp in Ohio and another in Lon- don, England, plus there's a big plan in operation to extend Safe Haven to West Africa. "Our goal, as ever, is to create a safer place for young people living with HIV and to teach them team playing." By Monday morning at the hostel, everyone seemed to be on this page of team playing. In the pine-paneled great room of the hostel, campers and coun- selors assemble to prepare for a glamour photo shoot to take place after lunch. They sit, stand, chat, laugh and string beads from bags of materials set out on low tables. Billy from Philly, a.k.a. William from Philadelphia, 17, is here for his third spring camp. Emily, 12, from Buxton, Me., is also on campus for the third time, in spite of the bad luck first time of breaking her arm from a skateboarding fall. The counselors pay their own way to attend, some of them coming from a distance, such as Caleb, 18, from Min- nesota. Counselor Mary Kate, 21, from Boston, is here for her fourth year. Now at Boston College, she plans to pursue a law degree with an eye on juvenile and family rights. She talks and laughs with 18-year-old junior counselor Sammy Brown of West Hampton. Over in the far comer, four boys tussle over the foosball table. A 12-year-old nicknamed Pudge (real name Israel) hails from Pennsylvania. Bret, 23, is a counselor from Boston. Another coun- selor, Emmanuel, 19, also from Boston, shares a foosball tableside with camper Charles, 12, from Fall River. They're joined by another Fall River native, Davonda, 14. One of this week's counselors is Kate Cecilio of Vineyard Haven, born and bred on Island. Kate is headed off in the fall for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Lee, without having to raise his voice, announces "housekeeping" for the upcoming glamour photos: "You can decide on whether or not you want a head shot, a bust shot" -- he signals from tle waist up --"or a full body shot, for anyone who might be thinking of a career in runway modeling." Before the fashion training proceeds, another photographer shows up-- Peter Simon of Chilmark, who readies one of his professional lenses for a group shot. The crew lines up in four rows before the fireplace. Pudge is urged to come down from the top tier to the bottom rung. The crowd takes up the challenge by "body surfing" him down in a horizontal position to the "OUR GOAL ... IS TO TEACH THEM TEAM PLAYING," SAYS NEW CAMP DIRECTOR JERMAINE LEE. BEFORE GLAMOUR SHOTS ARE TAKEN, SAFE HAVEN CAMPERS AND COUNSELORS SMILE JUST AS THEY ARE. floor. Mr. Simon has him stretch out like a preteen ancient Roman emperor at dinner time. The photographer encourages smiles, snaps lots of pictures, and counts each one down from three. Counselor Mary Kate slings an arm over a female camper with fabulous white-and-blue-beaded braids.The pictures bring out the ham in everyone who has hamminess to begin with. Everyone manages a smile or, more accurately, serial smiles. With the formal posing accomplished, Mr. Simon says, "Okay, let's do a goofy one!" Jermaine Lee holds open palms and fingers up to his ears, others stick out their tongues, puff cheeks, roll eyes, and Emmanel turns his purple cap around to face the "B" forward. Each day of the week had a starring event slated: Later in the evening, the group would gather for a dance at the P.A. Club, presided over by Oak Bluffs cop and deejay Jeff LaBell. On Tuesday, a double set of creative writing classes would be led by Mr. Lee, an aspiring playwright who's hoping to eventually mount his play entitled For the Love of Harlem. Mr. Lee will be leading kids through various forms of writing genres including prose, poetry and a category he terms the "choreopoem," a combi- nation of words, music and movement. The exercises developed by Mr. Lee will encourage campers to share their aspirations, concerns and the additional demands placed on them living with HIV. Wednesday featured a visit to the Gay Head Light, with a remembrance celebration to be held on site. Later that afternoon, it was back to the P.A. Club for a chicken finger dinner. Thursday heated up with a rehearsal for the talent show, April birthday celebrations during dinner, and an evening nature walk at Felix Neck. Today will usher in a West Africa drumming workshop with Salil Sachdev, a talent show and dinner with the Harley Riders at the Chilmark Com- munity Center, followed by a night's rest. And tomorrow is the trip home. GETTING READY FOR HER CLOSE-UE Pictures by Peter Simon . i u00mm00umimmlllimiilllUliildilill00lllllll00iN]l|0000li00 .............