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Oregon camp aims to create a safe and welcoming place for young refugees

Camp Silah in Rockaway Beach welcomed 130 young refugees from Islamic countries to camp this summer.

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Ore. — Empowering youth of all backgrounds is the goal at Camp Silah. The word "silah" in Arabic means connection, which is the theme of the camp.

Last month, the camp at Rockaway Beach welcomed 130 young refugees, ages 9 through 18, from Islamic countries including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Camp counselor Elaha said that many of the campers this year had been through traumatic experiences.

"So there we had made a situation that they could share their story without any fear or any kind of concern," she said.

Camp activities included from hikes, campfires and time on the water — activities some had never experienced before. While they learned about new ways to enjoy nature, Camp Silah is also about learning from each other.

Credit: Camo Silah
Camp Silah 2022

Elaha is an Afghan refugee herself. She came to the U.S. last year. She hopes her experience overcoming obstacles in a new home encourages and empowers the youth here at the camp.

"I want to tell them that it is not the end of the journey, it's actually the start," said Elaha. "We have come here with a lot of problems, but it is just making us stronger rather than weaker or disappointed."

Camp Silah was co-hosted by Portland Refugee Support Group and Untangled. Organizers plan to hold the camp again next year, and expand to offer the opportunity to even more kids.

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