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.