A decade ago Christel House and Culver Academies started a partnership that is changing lives. The two institutions connect on several levels, with one providing the opportunity for students from Mexico, India, and South Africa to attend Culver Summer Schools & Camps.
Christel House, headquartered in Indianapolis, builds and maintains schools in those countries and the United States in an effort to break the cycle of poverty. The schools provide a complete experience by educating students, providing nutritious food, healthcare, and guidance for families. Founder Christel DeHaan covers the administrative expenses of the organization, allowing all donations to go directly to benefiting the children.
DeHaan, who has Culver connections of her own, met Culver’s Chief International Officer Antonio Giraldi ’75 through a former Culver trustee, the late Richard Ford W’49. Giraldi took the next step, visiting Christel House Mexico, and that is when the lightbulb went off.
The missions of Culver and Christel House were just so similar, both wanting to educate young boys and girls to be responsible citizens, I knew as soon as I visited that we needed to partner with them. – Tony Giraldi
“The missions of Culver and Christel House were just so similar, both wanting to educate young boys and girls to be responsible citizens, I knew as soon as I visited that we needed to partner with them,” he said.
At the same time, CGA’s Leadership Committee for Africa was reaching out to Christel House for another partnership. LCA raises funds by selling bracelets made with beads from locations like Africa, with the proceeds going to Christel House. LCA members also regularly travel to the South Africa and India Christel House locations during the Global Pathways Spring trips.
The relationships eventually led to the development of a plan to bring Christel House students to Culver. Now, two campers each from South Africa, India, and Mexico receive scholarships to attend the summer program. This year, they were joined by a student from the United States.
The scholarships gives these students the opportunity to enjoy up to three summers on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee. Many times coming to Culver is the student’s first time out of their home country and almost always their first time to America. Katherine Hansen ’15 has visited Christel House South Africa and is now the International Intern for Summer Schools & Camps. She explains that “these kids are ones that have gotten through adversity,” which adds a different dynamic and unique aspect to the international partnership.
“I was nervous about almost everything. I wasn’t nervous about meeting people, just about the place Culver in general”, explained Naseefa Adams, a Christel House student from South Africa. She added her favorite parts of Culver are her deck (Deck 2) and playing kickball, which they don’t have in South Africa.
The students fly into Indianapolis International airport and are greeted by Christel House staff, who help them every step of the way until they’re moved in at Culver. Each camper has a unique experience and opportunities to participate in activities such as sailing, horseback riding, water ski, cheerleading, ice skating, and leadership class.
“Working with the Christel House staff and campers has changed my life as well,” explained Emily Ryman SS’70, director of Summer Financial Aid and an admissions counselor. “The campers who come to Culver and the staff who work with them at the Learning Centers are kind, thoughtful, gracious, courageous and open to learning.”