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.

Global Youth Service Day

Last year we connected with Youth Service America (YSA), an organization focused on empowering youth to participate in community service. Their mission, “to help all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues” aligns so well with GCA’s mission and vision. By becoming a community partner with YSA, we have gained access to many useful resources to strengthen our program and outreach.

YSA connects youth with the tools to develop tailored service projects that really encourage them to develop the critical thinking skills needed to become agents of community change. They host Global Youth Service Day every year, which is a three-day weekend of worldwide youth service endeavors, and the largest service event in the world!

We are so excited to announce that each of our Youth Clubs will be designing and implementing their own service project in honor of 2017 Global Youth Service Day! Each club will use YSA’s phenomenal tool-kit to complete a community needs assessment, consider community assets, determine their best strategy, and design a rock-star service project. Their #GYSD project will be the design of the larger program that will take place in July in honor of Mandela Day, a national holiday in South Africa where groups come together to give back to their communities in honor and memory of Nelson Mandela.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela

Meet Nomfundo

Before I came to camp, I was involved with negative friends and had no direction at all. My family didn't believe that I could finish my matric [high school exams], and go further with my studies. I wasn't confident with myself, because I was surrounded by people who were not nice to me.  I had club feet and people would call me names. I lost my confidence through that. I lived with my mom and dad and three siblings. I am the oldest.  My mom is the only breadwinner for now, and I help where I can.  My aunt has HIV.  Before I came to camp I thought she would die soon and now I know more and I can help here in ways I couldn't before.

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When I went to camp, the first day I felt at home, welcomed, and loved.  When time went on, I was able to be confident in myself, and accept the way I am.  I wouldn't talk before, and now I am outgoing and confident and talk all the time. That's when I decided I wanted to be a vochelli to help other kids believe in themselves, that they can succeed.  Without camp, I don't think I would have finished my matric.  I didn't believe in myself. In life skills, the topic of self esteem made me realize that I have more in me than what other people see.  Vochellis never gave up on us, even now. That gave me the strength I needed to get through matric. After that I went to the University of South Africa and studied.  I had to drop out due to financial problems, and now I am at South Western College studying to become a teacher, because I realized I want to be working with children. I feel like I have found my calling.  I want to support children to grow with a positive attitude.  I want kids to believe in themselves, and help them know that they can make it.

Even though my family doesn't believe that I can finish my studies, I still put in the effort because I believe in myself thanks to my experience at Camp Sizanani.

Empowering Young Women Entrepreneurs at Camp (Guest Blogger Skye Boucaut)

January 2017

For many of us the new year symbolizes a new start. 

I had the great privilege of starting out the new year ticking off a big dream of mine - running an entrepreneur camp for teenage girls through a partnership between Bizzy Girls ( www.bizzygirls.com) and the GCA financial literacy program Imbokodo. 

Having been to Camp Sizanani three years ago it was such a pleasure to be reunited with some of my former campers and fellow vochellis and also to meet the new students joining in.

The purpose of Bizzy Girls Camp is to inspire young ladies to start their own business, develop leadership skills,  and build self confidence. We empower them to dream big while learning the skills required to become the next generation of female entrepreneurs. Women's empowerment is certainly a hot topic at the moment and the timing couldn't have been more perfect to take this concept abroad! 

Sixteen students arrived for the first day of camp shy, curious and unsure what the week would bring. It was truly a gift to watch new friendships form, partnerships grow and business ideas come to life as the week went by. And because all change starts from within, we started off every day with a yoga and meditation program. We shared goal setting exercises and discussed the challenges young women face in their communities. As the workshop progressed we discussed how we can overcome these challenges and support each other's ideas and endeavors.

The girls did a tremendous job making jewelry, launching their own fashion labels and making natural skin care products - the creativity and focus in the classroom was incredible. All their hard work paid off when we finished up our last day of camp with a pop-up store where the girls got to sell their products to the public and keep their earnings.

One of our students, Lerato who launched her own fashion label, shared her camp experience with us:

"I am writing this from South Africa and I am glad to be one of the girls to take part in this camp because it really taught me ways I can make a living and that to be an entrepreneur you need to have partnerships, know how to communicate and also be patient. 

I thank all the people who made this camp to be a reality and play a role in many girls lives because it's easy for girls to end up abusing drugs or ending up pregnant at an early age where I am from. This camp really makes us believe in ourselves and to get to know different types of businesses and opportunities and also reminds us that there are people who really love us and support us to dream big. Thank you."

To everyone who donated to make this happen, we thank you. Lerato and her colleagues thank you. 

This year also marked the beginning of new company SEED. We look to you, our community partners, to continue your support.

Fanele's Story: Empowered through Camp Sizanani

Fanele, who is now 12 years old, found our program through our Asikhulisane Club in her neighborhood.  In September 2016, she attended Camp Sizanani.

“I started attending Asikhulisane because I heard kids singing and playing, and I came to join," says Fanele.  The Asikhulisane Club in her neighborhood meets every other Saturday.  Children there participate in camp activities that develop life skills, empowerment, and basic health understanding that is age-appropriate for 5- to 11-year olds.  The children are often the younger siblings are our former campers, who attend our camp follow-up program, Youth Clubs.  But we do not turn any child away from our community-based programs.

Fanele says, “I enjoyed the club because I learned new things. I learned what HIV is and how it can be prevented.  I also learned about my rights and responsibilities. I have the right to go to school, and my responsibility is to read and learn.  I have a right to shelter, and it is my responsibility to keep it hygenic.  I can do that by washing dishes and sweeping.  My sister and I do those chores together.”

Fanele's mother encourages her to attend the club meetings.  Fanele says, "My mom says she likes the club, because we learn more, and we respect her more."

Young children like Fanele in the townships around Johannesburg need programs like Asikhulisane and Camp Sizanani.  These children are the seeds of our shared future, and with your support, they will blossom into educated, empowered, healthy young people who are equipped to be the change agents of their communities.  

 

At camp, I had fun, because we learned how to swim, and how to plan a story in theatre.  I learned what is a choice and a decision. I can decide to do things for myself.