Lebo's Story

My name is Lebogang Mashapa. I live in Meadowlands, Soweto. I was a camper at Camp Sizanani in 2006, when I was 16 years old.

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I come from a really bad situation/family. Before I came here I was smoking dagga (marijuana), I was smoking cigarettes. I was with these naughty gangsters, and I was the leader of the gangsters. My friends believed in me so much. When we (my friends and I) came to camp, we came with that mentality, that these vochellis will not tell us anything. That we’re going to be the boss here.

When I got to camp, the atmosphere was different. The first day I wanted to go home. The second day, I was making sure that each and every activity, I would interrupt. And then Vochelli Thulani talked to me and told me how special I am, how smart I am. For the first time in my life, I felt appreciated. I felt like a human being. And that’s where I changed as a whole. When I went home, I wanted to implement all of the things that I learned here.

One of the things that I won’t forget about camp is that they gave me an opportunity; they gave me the privilege to be a child. I’d never had the opportunity to be a child. I never played like other boys did. I worked. So playing was something new for me.

When I went back home, I was attending Saturday Kids’ Clubs (weekly meetings for Camp Sizanani children, sponsored by Global Camps Africa and HIVSA). And the vochelis, they were giving me ongoing support. I started one day not smoking, two days not smoking. Each and every time, when I was doing the wrong thing, I could hear Vochelli Thulani talking to me. Whenever I did something wrong, I would remember the word Sizanani. I would remember all the motivations they gave us there.

Before Camp Sizanani, one thing that I’d never had in my life was knowing that I’m special, that I can make it in life. I’d never, ever had that in my life. For the first time, at Sizanani, I had it. So many people believed in me. Everyone who was here was believing in me. And I asked myself the question: Why can’t I believe in myself? That’s where self confidence was built within me. I want to thank Camp Sizanani for building the Lebogang that I am today.

Walking away from being a gangster
It was difficult to walk away, because I didn’t want to seem weak in front of my peers. I wanted to seem strong. When you do wrong things, that’s when people want to be your friend. That’s how it is. But then I decided to do right things. It’s hard to do right things. But I decided to do them. Some of my friends, they couldn’t be my friends anymore. Some of them decided to change with me, and that’s a good thing.

At the same time, I am still trying to change those that couldn’t change. But it’s hard, it’s very hard. Sometimes I blame myself, that my friend Siyabonga is like this because of me. Siyabonga was a good boy, and then when I came I corrupted his life and now he can’t change. So sometimes I have that regret. But then the most important thing now is that I’m trying so hard. Whenever I’m leading a group of people, I am leading them in a positive way. I’ve learned a lot about leadership.

Being a vochelli (Sizanani camp counselor)
I’ve been a vochelli for six years. Being a vocheli is not about the status or the position. It’s beyond that. When I’m with my campers, I’m becoming a leader. I don’t say, “Hey camper, do this.” I say, “Let’s do this.” I try to be on the same level with them and make them feel appreciated, make them feel loved, make them feel special.

I’ve had children at camp who were abused really, really bad. I had one camper…He once told me he was stabbed. His situation was more or less like mine. He was a gangster. I helped the kid to get out of that situation. I visited him after camp. I attended Kids’ Clubs with him. And now there is a change. He is working with us now, he is volunteering with us.

In 2008, I opened an organization called LIGP. LIGP means Lebo’s Indigenous Games Project. I wanted to give back to the community. I’m not doing it for money. I’m doing it to help other children. I was helped a lot at Camp Sizanani…I thought it’s time I make a difference to these campers, to these kids. I want to burn the past and build the present.

At LIGP, we are doing more or less the same things that are done here (at Camp Sizanani). We have adventure, we have arts and crafts, we have theatre. I’ve introduced a new activity, health and safety. We have fashion, where kids can express themselves by designing t-shirts, shorts, and all that. We do this with the kids after school, from half-past four to six o’clock. We start with homework, and after homework we do activities.

I have 16 volunteers. We’re doing it for free. Phil (from Global Camps Africa) is helping us with materials. Crèches (nursery schools) and parents give us things to keep us going. We’ve registered with the Department of Social Development, and hopefully they will fund the program to keep it going. But for now people are volunteering, even though sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes they (the volunteers) come from home and they haven’t eaten. But I love the spirit they have, that they have committed themselves to the project.

Thanking Camp Sizanani
Really, Sizanani is changing lives.  If I had never come here, maybe I would have many scratches on my face today. I would have given up school. I would have been a thug. I wouldn’t believe in myself. I would have low self-esteem.

Camp Sizanani really helped me a lot. I want to thank Vocheli Thulani for helping me with my difficulties. I want to thank Vocheli Jackie, who believed so much in me, who showed me that anything is possible. I want to thank Camp Sizanani as a whole.

A Brunch to Remember

Stone Manor Inn and Foodies Step Up for GCA in Loudoun County, VA.

 

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The Stone Manor Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in Lovettsville, VA, teamed up April 15th with generous restaurants and winemakers in Loudoun County, Virginia to launch “Global Taste,” a stellar brunch that attracted friends, old and new, of Global Camps Africa to eat, drink, and be caring for our kids.

Elizabeth van Houtte and Spencer Ault, the owners of Stone Manor, got very interested in GCA last year by attending our 2017 gala with Peter Yarrow at Arena Stage.  Beth and Spencer left that gala and told us, “We want to host something for Global Camps’ kids.” They weren’t kidding – the brunch they put on in their lovely country setting was truly something.

Spencer and Beth set a beautiful venue, with sparkling tables and sparkling wines.  Louise Lynn of Louise Lynn Floral Design donated eye-catching, peach-themed flower arrangements that lit up the tables.  And we thank these wonderful vendors for attracting our paying guests with their magnificent food and drink:

Crushed Cellars and Hiddencroft Vineyards in Loudoun County for their award-winning wines

Thaiverse Restaurant in Lovettsville, VA for Thai dumplings and Massaman beef curry

Trungo’s Restaurant in Leesburg, VA for pulled pork, cole slaw, and mac and cheese

West End Wine Bar & Pub in Purcellville, VA for Charcuterie and a vegetable platter

It’s A Piece of Cake, Loudoun County, VA for Lemon Cupcakes and Chocolate Truffles

Great Harvest Bread Co., Herndon, VA for its fresh breads

Stone Manor itself for Bacon-wrapped dates, East Ender Pie, Potato & Quinoa Florentine, Spencer’s incomparable scones, and Asparagus & Tomato Egg Savory

We recommend patronizing these wonderfully generous vendors.  We can’t thank them and Stone Manor Inn enough for their donations and their passion for our kids.  And big thanks to the over 40 people who contributed to GCA by attending and eating truffles and cupcakes!

 

David Miller to Join Global Camps Africa's Board of Directors

 David Miller with Camp Sizanani Director, Kabelo Malefane, in South Africa

David Miller with Camp Sizanani Director, Kabelo Malefane, in South Africa

Reston, VA. -February 8, 2018  Global Camps Africa (GCA), a non-profit organization based in Reston, has added David Miller to its Board of Directors.  For the past 20 years, David and his  wife, Allison have been the Owners/Directors of Camp Starlight, a private summer camp located in Starlight, Pennsylvania. David truly believes that camp friends are forever and the opportunity to change and impact the lives of campers and counselors is a lifelong dream.  Global Camps Africa uses camp programs to equip South Africa’s vulnerable youth with the tools to lead healthy, empowered lives and make positive impacts on their communities.

David with his daughter, Hayley, who also works at Camp Starlight,  volunteered as a counselor at Camp Sizanani in 2017.  GCA’s President and Founder, Philip Lilienthal, recalls, “David came to camp and instinctively knew what was needed. He is an experienced camp director and knew he wanted to bring his talents to South Africa.”

David says, “The experience of volunteering with my daughter, as a Vochelli at Camp Sizanani in March of 2017 was life-changing.”  After David returned to the US, he wanted to continue to assist Camp Sizanani’s South African camp director, Kabelo, in honing his skills.  David paid for Kabelo to come to the US and visit Camp Starlight and two others American camps, where Kabelo gained experience and knowledge that help him at Camp Sizanani in South Africa.

David is a respected member of a Wayne County Camp Alliance (PA) camp directors group and is a frequent presenter at the Tri-State Camp Conference. He will be joining 13 other Board Members in furthering Global Camps Africa mission to help at-risk children.

About Global Camps Africa

Since 2003, GCA has changed the lives of over 8,500 orphans and vulnerable children through the power of camp.  Camp Sizanani, GCA’s flagship program in South Africa,  provides a safe space for interactive and experiential learning, reflection, and skills-acquisition in a joyful setting. Some examples include:

  • HIV/AIDS Prevention: Safe sex, reproductive rights, safe relationships, testing opportunities and referrals to partner agencies.

  • Self-sufficiency: Financial literacy, entrepreneurship, microfinance, and live-market field test days for alumni and youth-club participants.

  • Healthy Habits: Learning to swim, understanding nutrition, exercise and yoga/meditation practices.

 

For more information, please contact Emily Crowder (emily@globalcampsafrica.org).

Report from the Field: Camp Sizanani Goes On! December 2017

By Kabelo Malefane, Camp Sizanani Life Skills Program Director

In December Camp Sizanani had its 85th camp!  Campers and vochellis worked together to make this session of Camp Sizanani truly impactful.

A highlight for me was addressing the ongoing problem of school-aged children who struggle with academics in South Africa.  During the year, our youth club participants told us that it would be helpful to be supported at clubs with their academics.  We know the academic support will also improve attendance our local clubs, so a decision was then taken to see how we could have university students who are also tutors around Johannesburg come to camp and tutor our campers in Mathematics and Science.

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We had 3 volunteers from Goodi Tutors come to camp and they joined us for vochelli training week.  In it they found useful tools to make them better prepared for when the campers arrived.  Tutoring classes were held at the end of the day.  Right away we found that one 14-year old camper wasn't able to read and didn't recognize numbers, reminding us once again of the importance of providing this support at camp.

The campers really enjoyed the tutoring sessions, and we're planning to include this in our youth club schedule so that camper needs can be taken care of in the form of offering homework supervision and school curricular assistance focusing on Mathematics, Science, and English.

Great minds were once again together at this camp and managed to develop the spark it usually brings out of each child and youth who gets to come to camp! Campers enjoyed learning about HIV and AIDS, stigma, healthy eating habits, sports, adventure, and practicing yoga and meditation.  

Looking Back to Go Forward

The impact of youth camps on education, employment, sexual health and parenting in South Africa

by Sydni Brecher

When you are enthralled in the fun and activities at Camp Sizanani, Global Camps Africa’s flagship program in South Africa, the larger impact on the children participating in the program may not be immediately recognizable.  After all, children at camp is a familiar scene for most of us. That’s why Jane Simmonds, a South African public health program evaluator, with support from faculty at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, set out to evaluate Camp Sizanani’s influential experience and gauge its success through her research. For Global Camps Africa, she answered the question: what lasting impact does the Camp Sizanani experience have on the health and wellbeing of the children who participate in this program?

Over 8,000 children have attended Camp Sizanani since Global Camps Africa was founded in 2003. Since our inception, our goal has been to help prepare vulnerable youth in South Africa with the necessary tools to lead healthy, empowered lives and make positive impacts on their communities. The evaluation study aimed to examine Camp Sizanani’s success at having positive life and health outcomes in South African youth. Through comparative methodology, Simmonds and her colleagues interviewed 269 children: 113 former campers and 156 and non-campers from Soweto, Orange Farm, and Poortjie. The study’s results demonstrated a positive relationship between youth development and attending Camp Sizanani.

Here are the fast facts we learned from Jane Simmond’s evaluation study:

  • Approximately ninety-one percent of former campers were aware of their HIV status compared to the South African national average of seventy-six percent. Simmonds credits this achievement to their attendance at camp.

  • Former campers were three times more likely to have had an HIV test than non-campers.

  • Male and female campers yielded a higher condom usage during first sex, most recent sex, and consistently.

  • Male campers are nearly four times more likely to use condoms during their first sexual encounter than non-campers. Females also had a higher rate of condom usage.

  • Approximately seventy percent of former campers attended Youth Clubs prior to camp and after attending, seventy-six percent of former campers attended Youth Clubs for more than three months.

Simmond’s research taught Global Camps Africa a great deal about what we have accomplished since we began. Not only did we receive many positive results, but we also learned ways to improve specific pieces of programming that will increase our impact even further.   In addition to all the many different aspects of our programs' outcomes that this evaluation took into consideration, we can also qualitatively measure each camper’s personal experience...the ways that each child’s self-perception is deeply and forever changed by the education, empowerment, and support that they gain at Camp Sizanani.  For that, we look to the stories we hear directly from our campers.  Please visit www.globalcampsafrica.org/one-question-five-answers to read about how Lebo, Mpho, Edna, Thabo, and Naledi feel their lives have changed after attending Camp Sizanani.

The insight we gain from our campers’ stories, together with the evaluation results from Simmonds’ study, inspire us to innovate and expand our programs so that we can continue meet our campers where they are with the tools they need.