In April 2001, the Southern California Nikkei Community came together for a day-long conference called “Ties That Bind” (a follow-up to a statewide conference by the same name). Among the many by-products of that conference and the subsequent dialogue it produced is Camp Musubi: A Japanese American Heritage Experience.
Driven by separate directives to address issues of leadership development and cultural preservation, the concept of a camp that not only addressed issues of cultural identity for middle-school youth but also centered on using young adults as a part of a leadership continuum emerged.
Now, Camp Musubi is celebrating its 11th year and is “coming of age” in that 11 is the average age of a camper in the program. Some of the first class of 8th-graders are finishing their first year of post-undergraduate work.
Camp Musubi has survived over the years as a true collaboration of community organizations and individuals who have steered the camp through several different administrative support models and fiscal agents while avoiding becoming the sole program of one agency.
Camp Musubi is fortunate to have had dedicated camp directors over the years, Janna Abo from 2003-2009 and Tony Osumi from 2010-present. Without the consistency provided by these dedicated camp directors throughout the years, Camp Musubi would not be here today!
Of course, whether Camp Musubi will be here tomorrow depends on a number of things. In its current model, the camp relies on a group of individuals representing sponsoring organizations or, like me, a current or past Musubi parent. Since the camp is not incorporated, it relies on informal management and the goodwill of the sponsoring organizations. The Little Tokyo Service Center, the Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District and now Kizuna have provided the needed administrative support.
The camp’s future will also be determined by how much time and financial support can be elicited from individuals concerned about the future of the Nikkei community. Efforts to stabilize the camp budget with annual commitments as well as increasing the size of the camp’s Development Committee are under way.