Colombian orphans arrive in Shoreview for Camp of Dreams

A group of 11 orphans have traveled thousands of miles from their native Colombia to Shoreview to spend a week and a half at the Camp of Dreams held at the Ona Orth Ministry Center on Snail Lake’s northeast shore.

The camp runs from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2. During this time the children will participate in a Minnesota-style camp experience, which will include a traditional Thanksgiving feast, arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor recreational activities, games, and a trip to an indoor water park.

“It’s going to be a really fun experience for them,” Camp of Dreams communications coordinator Lindsay Swiggum said.

The children range in age from 11 to 15, except for one 5-year-old boy who is here with an older sibling.

Friends of FANA, Minnesota are hosting the first annual Camp of Dreams and are hoping to connect these children with local families who are looking to adopt. Friends of FANA is a group of families who have adopted from the FANA orphanage in Bogota, Colombia.

Swiggum said a group of individuals from Friends of FANA, Minnesota joined forces this past summer with the goal of connecting older orphans from the Bogota orphanage with Minnesota families at the Shoreview camp.

“The reason we call this the Camp of Dreams is because we really hope to take these two separate parties -- families dreaming of these kids and the children, the orphans, who are dreaming of these families -- and bring them together,” Swiggum explained.   

Swiggum said orphans in Colombia, especially older orphans, have little hope of being adopted. In Colombia, when an orphan reaches 16, they are cut off from institutional aid and are more or less left on their own, as they can no longer stay in government institutions. Young and vulnerable, these kids are all too often preyed upon once left to their own devices and can become trapped in a dangerous world of crime.

While the visiting children know they are here on vacation, they do not necessarily know about Friends of FANA’s mission to connect them with families, or individuals interested in adopting them.

“The ultimate goal is to help find them families before they age out of the system,” Friends of FANA, Minnesota adoption coordinator Patti Bertsch said.

Bertsch, who has hosted orphans from FANA in her home in the past, says around one dozen families considering adoption have contacted her, many of whom will be spending time getting to know the children from FANA while they are at the camp.

Several volunteers and interpreters will be onsite through the camp’s duration.

For more information on Camp of Dreams contact Lindsay Swiggum at or 612-217-0593.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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