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Special Needs Campers in Dedham Connect with Others in Turkmenistan 

Catherine Pegram

More than a dozen children at a special needs camp in Dedham are learning about other kids like them, half a world away. Thanks to technology, the campers at Camp Capella are making friends with Special Olympic Athletes in Turkmenistan.Counselor John Quinn is helping kids at Camp Capella connect with the other campers, thousands of miles away, in a country north of Iran and Afghanistan.”It’s kind of like taking the concept of pen pals, writing back and forth, but we’re getting that instant response, that instant feedback. Plus we can send photos and videos.”The long-distance experience is part of a project sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Dana Mosher, Executive Director of Camp Capella, says the first challenge was finding Turkmenistan on the map. “You Google Earth and say here we are at Camp Capella and globe that earth around and here’s Turkmenistan. And I was actually surprised even of couple of kids actually knew where it was. I had to Google it but they knew where it was.”The campers in Turkmenistan are part of a Special Olympics program. And 6-year-ld Hunter says he’s learned they like baseball, just like him. “And they like basketball and football,” he says.9-year-old Logan says, “I was thinking they were kind of a little bit different, but they aren’t”Logan says even though the campers are the same, the cultures and the climate are not. The biggest difference he’s discovered?”Probably about when the degrees is probably 115 degrees down there. You had to drink a lot of water.” Quinn says he hopes this cross-cultural exchange makes for a camping memory these kids will never forget.”This is an experience they wouldn’t normally have. They get to see beyond their little world of school and home life and see there’s other stuff our there. Other kids out there like them, it’s a lot of fun.”The kids in Dedham will chat with Turkmenistan campers for the next couple of weeks.