She was a children's drama teacher who emigrated from Samarkand, Uzbekistan. A native of Siberia whose descendants were Holocaust survivors, he was a professor of modern Russian literature.
In 1997, they founded the Council of Aid for Central Asian Jews, more familiarly known as Channa’s Camp.
“We want to help people of the community, who may be from a low-income family, raise their children in a place that feels like home,” said Mastova. “We don’t want our children to watch television all the time. We will help keep them off the streets.
“To date, we have made a difference for over 1,000 children from over 250 families,” she added.
The camp, located at 75-02 113th Street, offers an enriching and therapeutic environment. Services range from tutoring and recreation to cooking, music, art, and dance. A social worker assists children who may be facing family problems and personal issues.
The summer season will run from June 30 to August 22, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A kosher breakfast, lunch, and snack is served.
The Summer Youth Employment Program provides job opportunities to those between the ages of 14 and 24.
“They learn how to be responsible,” said Mastova. “Children we worked with years ago are now working for us, and they discuss introducing their children.”
Over the years, Channa’s Camp has had its share of inspirational stories.
“We worked with a family from Israel who had twins,” recalls Mastova. “The two daughters experienced some psychological trauma from their parents' divorce, but when they attended their daughters’ dance performances and choir practices, they ended up getting back together.”
A future goal is a new playground, as well as making their 1950's building accessible for people with disabilities.
“We don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome,” said Mastova. “We are hoping to install an elevator that would cost approximately $150,000, but we don’t have that type of money. We are hoping for donations and would like to coordinate fundraisers.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/CACAJCamp.