Joel’s Story: Building a Language & Cultural Immersion Camp | Concordia Language Villages

Joel's Story: Building a Language
& Cultural Immersion Camp

Joseph Joel Yang speaking to campers
Photo provided by Joseph Yang

It is not uncommon for villagers and staff to go out into the world and use the language and culture lessons learned at Concordia Language Villages to overcome barriers. But less frequently do alumni utilize the village experience itself to create solutions. Joseph Joel Yang, a Lac do Bois veteran with three years of experience as both a credit villager and staff member, saw an opportunity to use his background as a tool for facilitating youth activities at Yang family gatherings.

“It started as a yearly, two-day family reunion held on Labor Day Weekend. I was selected by our family leader to be our family’s national youth coordinator,” says Joel. “My job was to plan activities for the reunion to help the children in our families build healthy everlasting relationships and bonds.”

After some initial difficulty, Joel approached the family leaders and suggested utilizing an approach similar to the Villages. By applying his experience as a villager and staff member, Joel established a summer camp program in Wisconsin to fit the specific needs of the Yang family. In the summer of 2007, the Yang 7133 Family Youth Camp began its inaugural session.

“The camp is Hmong language and culture immersion with an emphasis on our Yang Clan values and traditions,” says Joel. “For the past three years, we have taught the language and culture through songs, activities, and skits.”

Closing Program Ages 8-9
Photo provided by Joseph Yang

From its first year, with 45 campers and a staff of 7, the camp has grown to include as many as 80 campers with ages ranging from 3 to 19 years and a staff of 31.

“Many of the counselors are parents trying to do what they can to help,” says Joel. “Most of the volunteers take a week of vacation to help support the camp.”

In 2012, Joel, who goes by Tswv Yim at the Yang 7133 Family Youth Camp, witnessed an exciting first for the program.

“It was a wonderful year as it was the first year we had returning campers become counselors,” says Joel. “They had already been through the program for four years and understood the expectations and environment of the camp.”

Overall, Joel continues working to make the program the best it can be.

“The goal of building healthy, everlasting relationships and bonds through learning language and culture has been a great success. The energy and enthusiasm is incredible,” says Joel. “Our camp would not be what it is without Concordia Language Villages’ influence on my life.”