n a mid-September evening in the pavilion at Headwaters, Cary Hendricks, director of Laity Lodge Family Camp, was giving a Roundup talk. One side of the audience was filled with Spanish-speakers. English-speakers sat opposite of them. This was Cary’s first time speaking in front of a bilingual audience.
He isn’t bilingual.
That rainy weekend was Family Camp’s first fall retreat for 2018, and it was also the first of a kind—a partnership retreat that combined families from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin with families from Austin Voices for Education and Youth (AVEY), an organization that works for the educational success of children.
Partnership weekends have been part of Family Camp’s retreat cycle since 2010, made possible thanks largely to support from Texas-based foundations. These weekends are different from typical retreats in that LLFC hosts families affiliated with a partner nonprofit that serves families from vulnerable communities.
While all retreats can have considerable diversity, most retreats tend to have families from either one socioeconomic background or another—that is, families at any given retreat generally come from the same types of neighborhoods. This retreat was an intentional attempt to merge families from different socio-economic environments.
“In the office, we’d talked a lot about getting families from different backgrounds together in the Canyon,” Cary says. “But at some point, we had to stop talking philosophically and just do it.”
“We have a really unique opportunity to experiment with creating space for families from different backgrounds to be together in an unusual way. Because we have that unique opportunity, it’s our responsibility.”
Over a year before this retreat, Cary contacted Covenant with the idea, who then contacted AVEY. Soon after, planning began.
Cary says the frequency of Family Camp’s retreats allows them to try new things, but experiments present unique obstacles. This time, one of those obstacles was the language barrier.