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.

Campers Plan Mandela Day of Service with Bowmans

By Kim Posthumus

We visited the new Bowman offices in Sandton and four campers from our Youth Advisory Council presented their ideas for community service at the Banakekeleni Orphanage in Alexandra Township.  The main request was for raising the height of the security wall, as they have had a number of break-ins. 

It was really special for the campers to be invited to the Bowmans Law offices.  The kids had a great time, one of them named Thembi wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.  The kids were all shocked when Fatima, an attorney at Bowmans, told them she was from Alexandra Township herself! Everyone left inspired and feeling good about their efforts.

The next week, the group went with the handyman that is connected with Bowman to visit the orphanage.  They talked about the best ways to work together to build the wall and make other needed repairs.  Our next step is to return with an evaluation team from Bowmans to determine how much the project will cost and how much financial support Bowmans is able to provide.  We're excited to see our Youth Clubs leading this important project in their community.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out on Nelson Mandela Day!

First Annual Epstein-Brill Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurship Program Market Day

South Africa is faced with a challenge of limited and poor participation of young people in the economy, resulting in unemployment and low entrepreneurial activity, which means that young people are not acquiring the skills and experience they need to assist in driving the economy forward. The Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship Program (FLEP) assumes that when entrepreneurship is taught at an early stage, children are better prepared to identify and take advantage of economic opportunities at their disposal. Therefore, increasing entrepreneurial skills of children and youth to achieve sustainable livelihoods encourages them to be more resourceful and creative in realizing their full economic potential. Entrepreneurship education allows children and youth to explore career paths that match personal interest while building several skills that will best serve them in their chosen profession or vocation. 

FLEP provides a course structure detailing the target age group as well as the module structure with specific units per age group. The objectives of FLEP are to: 

- Create an appreciation of the value money and other resources; 
- Recognise how spending decisions have an impact on one’s life and that of the families and the community; 
- Create the ability to engage in financial negotiations and make smart consumer choices; 
- Help young people plan and use acquired resources to obtain products and services they need; 
- Enable young people to evaluate information about products and services to make informed decisions about spending, saving, borrowing and investing; 
- Understand how to adjust in personal budget in response to financial challenges; 
- Create the ability to compare costs, benefits and trade-offs before deciding how to use the money and resources; 
- Increase awareness and interest in entrepreneurship as a potential career option; 
- Improve the perception and attitudes towards entrepreneurship. 

These objectives were translated into a training manual. A total of 16 vochellis representing 5 Clubs were trained on the FLEP manual. Out of the 16, 14 attended the full course and four were selected to take FLEP during the pilot phase. A decision was taken to pilot in two clubs – Poortjie and Orange Farm. It was also agreed that both pilots would focus on the 12 years and older children. The pilot would be used to test the curriculum and prove the viability of FLEP as one of the activities to be provided during the Club and Camp sessions. 

The 22 sessions culminated into The Market Day was held on the 6 May 2017. All the logistics for the Market Day were done by the GCA/Sizanani office staff.  Nine camper-run businesses participated and were evaluated by the panel of experts.  We are so proud of each camper's hard work, and look forward to continuing to support them as they consider the next steps in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Celebrating Mother's Day at Sizanani's Youth Club in Alexandra Township

by Sharon Mdaka (Vochelli)

In our new Youth Club in Alexandra Township, our main activity on May 13th was discussing Mother's Day and what it means to have a relationship with someone who cares for you like a mother does.  Our campers expressed their thoughts and feelings about what makes a good mother, and described a good mother as a woman who shows interest in, supports, and cares for children.  

According to our campers, a mother doesn't have to be someone who gave birth to you...it can be any woman who shows care, love, and guides a child's life.  Some campers who don't live with their biological mothers (some have died, some have moved away for work) mentioned that they look to their teachers as the mother figures in their lives.  


One camper, Sesethu, said that losing her mother was the most difficult thing she's ever faced.  She thought she would never find someone who would love her, but now she is grateful to have her aunt who loves her and takes care of her as though she is her own child.  


Our Youth Club campers then made Mother's Day frames to give the special mother figures in their lives.  They used the frames they created to express how they feel about these special women, and how they want their mothers to feel when they receive them:  special, important, recognized, and loved.

Deeper Impacts of Camp

by Kim Posthumus, Camp Sizanani Operations Director

It’s always wonderful to hear about ways that Camp Sizanani impacts campers in ways we haven’t articulated before.  We recently developed a partnership with a psychosocial support organization called Sophiatown Social Services. They support us by sending a certified counselor to camp, and following up after camp with campers who have significant psychological issues.  Some of our campers are coping with serious complicated grief, or are survivors of rape or abuse.  We see it as highly important to support these children after camp, and it is an excellent support to have Sophiatown assisting in this effort.  Sophiatown Social Services runs therapy sessions for vulnerable children, as well as after-school tutoring programs.  As part of our partnership, they have sent some of the children they work with to Camp Sizanani.  It has been amazing to see the results.

Sophiatown has helped shed light on an aspect of our program that has had a major impact on one particular camper, and we suspect many other campers like him.  For the sake of confidentiality we will call the child Mpho*.  Mpho has been attending the Sophiatown Social Services' centre for several months for counseling, and he has been hinting at some trauma and psychological strain for some time, but he didn’t open up to his counsellor in his sessions about what the root of his pain was.  It often takes young people who have been through trauma significant time to reveal the source of their pain, as it takes a long time to develop rapport and trust in the relationship between child and counselor.  Mpho attended our most recent session of Camp Sizanani, and by the fifth day of being away from home, in a fresh environment, and surrounded by talented and compassionate vochellis (camp counselors), he opened up about his trauma.  It was following a session in life skills about xenophobia, that developed into a conversation about xenophobic attacks.  It turned out that Mpho himself was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He revealed to vochellis that his mother had been killed in a xenophobic attack, and he was now living with a woman who was wrongfully claiming to be his mother.  All of these critical details had been omitted from Mpho's treatment at Sophiatown because he was too afraid to share.  

The space and the fresh air and loving environment of Camp Sizanani provided an opportunity for Mpho to receive the type of psychological support that is critical for the healing process of a child who has been through this type of traumatic loss.  Now Sophiatown is better able to support the child, and he will be able to heal more fully than he would have before.  Sophiatown staff shared this story with us to show the value our program has for the children they serve, and we are grateful to understand on a deeper level the impact we make on the children who come to camp.