There's a wilderness summer camp for refugees that lets them just be kids.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, might seem like a random place for a refugee family to end up.

But things have gotten so bad in parts of the world — in war-torn Syria, in particular — that thousands of families are entering and spreading across hundreds of different cities in the U.S.

And while New Mexico might not be considered a premiere landing spot (most families end up in New York and California), it's definitely not a bad place to be. Just take a look:


Photo by Christiane Wilden/Good Free Photos.

One program in Albuquerque wants to use the area's stunning desert landscape to help refugee kids connect with their new home.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is teaming up with the Catholic Charities Refugee Mentoring Program to take these brand-new New Mexicans out into the wild.

It's a summer camp for kids who are here to find a better life, and it's called the Refugee Wilderness Explorers Program.

All photos by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, used with permission

"This was a way to connect them to experiences they had where they're from, and make them feel more at home," says Danielle Hernandez, the mentoring program coordinator.

She came up with the idea over a cup of coffee with Endion Schichtel, the Alliance's wilderness narrative coordinator, while the two were brainstorming ideas to keep the kids engaged during summer vacation — a time when they're the most disconnected from their peers and, often, feeling isolated in their new home.

Twice a week, Hernandez and Schichtel take groups of kids out into the wilderness to explore.

Many of them are completely new to America, fresh from places in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.

They hike the mountains, explore trails, and stop to identify plants and bugs. The kids are also encouraged to draw or write about the nature they encounter — a good exercise to help them connect with the landscape and practice their English at the same time.

For many of them, this is their first good look at the strange new place they call home.

"One time we were on top of the mountain looking out over the city," Schichtle recalls. "And the kids were [joking], 'I can see the ocean over there! I can see Colorado!' They know they're in America, and they're in New Mexico, but they have no idea where that is. When they first got here, this is not at all what they pictured America looking like. Seeing them have that realization is really special."

But beyond just developing a physical connection to their new home, wilderness camp gives these refugee kids a chance to be just that: kids.

"These kids are often the interpreters for their household; they're often the head of their household," Hernandez says. "They're the only one who knows how to use the bus or make change at the grocery store. They have to interpret medical information for their parents who are often in poor health."

It's a lot for any young person, especially one who's been through what some of these kids have.

So whether you believe in a spiritual connection with nature or not, maybe a chance to play with bugs and goof around with new friends is exactly what these kids need.

"They're just kids," Hernandez says. "And every child needs a childhood."

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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