Sisters find some solace

Sasha, 11, and Yasmine, 13, are sisters. They’re also straight-A students. They take to learning as much as they enjoy listening to music and watching television. Sasha loves to sing and Yasmine likes to read and write. They seem to lead typical lives of girls their age, except for two things: Their mother is in prison and their father is disabled and unemployed.

Six months ago, the mother was convicted on two counts of forgery and sentenced to three years at Central California Women’s Facility Prison in Chowchilla. The prison is more than six hours away from the girls’ home in Hesperia, which makes visiting difficult. The father, Anwar Shawwaf, who suffered three ruptured discs in his neck and spine during a near-fatal car crash, has been out of work since 2007.

“I owe money to everyone,” Shawwaf said. “I try to do what’s best, but it’s not enough. I can’t even send my two girls to camp because I can’t afford it. That hurts.”


Both Sasha and Yasmine have been helping Dad at home. They cook breakfast, clean the house and look after their younger brother. When they finally make time for themselves, it’s not surprising how they spend it -- usually coping with life without Mom.

“We talk a lot and ride our bikes together,” Yasmine says. “I try and talk to my sister about our mom, but when I do, she cries. It’s hard.”

“I miss her,” Sasha says. “I want her to come home.”

Jessica Lawrence, chief executive of the Girls Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, explains how a week at camp can affect the sisters’ lives.

“With all the responsibilities at home, camp lets them be just girls for a week,” she says. “It takes the pressure and their minds off trying to be adults.”

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, Sasha and Yasmine will return to Camp Azalea Trails in the San Jacinto Mountains near Idyllwild this summer, along with 150 other low-income girls.

The camp, owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, is, according to the Shawwaf sisters, “the coolest place in the middle of nowhere where you can meet new friends, play archery and ride horses.”

With $1.8 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, approximately 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Summer Camp Campaign, in its 55th year, is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

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