Fun is as essential to Camp Sizanani, as it is to any other camp. But it is not sufficient. Equally vital is the program of life skills, where kids learn how to protect themselves from a deadly disease and how to defend themselves from addiction, exploitation, and abusive behavior.
In life skills classes, campers in the throes of adolescence learn facts about sexuality and have the chance to speak openly about it. Myths about HIV/AIDS are replaced with objective knowledge, and understanding helps mitigate social stigmas. Kids who are infected learn how to live longer and more productive lives. Boys learn to respect girls, girls to respect themselves.
Life skills learning flows into the larger camping experience through arts and crafts, storytelling, poetry, theater, and other activities that to the campers appear to be pure fun. As campers develop trust in their counselors, a variety of settings lend themselves to uncovering and healing scars of abuse. A typical schedule would include Sports, Drums and Dancing, Nutrition, Arts & Crafts, Adventure-Teamwork, Swimming (season-dependent), and Life Skills (proper nutrition/hygiene, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, healthy sexuality, gender stereotypes, etc.). Life skills tools are part of the fabric woven into every activity every day.
Typical Daily Schedule at Camp
- 1st Period: Arts and Crafts/Nutrition
- 2nd Period: Life Skills
- 3rd Period: Swimming
- 4th Period: Adventure
- 5th Period: Sports
- 6th Period: Dance, drama, drumming
- Evening Program: Campfires, skits, games, story theater, bunk nights
Saturday Youth Clubs
Camp is only eight days. To maximize the experience, Global Camps Africa provides a follow-up program called Saturday Youth Clubs at several locations in Soweto. Hundreds of former campers attend the biweekly clubs each week. For five hours on Saturdays, the camp experience is reinforced through sports, games, theater, and expanded life skills classes. Counselors are present to offer the children support in dealing with personal problems.
Asikhulisane Kids Clubs
In 2014, GCA identified the need for a program directed specifically to vulnerable children not yet old enough to participate in the residential camp program. Former campers who attended Youth Clubs regularly brought their younger siblings whose care they were responsible for during the hours that clubs were held on Saturdays. When counselors at the Youth Clubs notified parents that the Clubs were intended for children between the ages of 12 and 19 (former campers), mothers from the community approached the Club leaders and explained that the younger children also needed basic life skills education. In one mother’s words, “sometimes by the time the children are 12, it is too late.” In response, the ‘intentional camp’ model that GCA employs for its adolescent participants has been adapted for children between the ages of 5 and 11 years, and specifically addresses basic health information, children’s rights, and the development of children’s personal strength and resilience. Launched in September 2014, the Asikhulisane “Let’s Grow Each Other” Kids Club Program is delivering essential life skills lessons in an age-appropriate, supportive, and safe environment.