For the second consecutive year Global Camps Africa held two camps in different locations at the same time: this year in Kwazulu-Natal and Magaliesburg! We are pleased to report that that they were both great successes, full of learning, laughter, and inspiring stories for campers and counselors alike.
In Kwazulu-Natal we hosted over a hundred campers from six organizations. As to be expected, there were some challenges in holding camp in a new location, including adjusting to cultural differences as well as incorporating new staff. There were 32 campers that were HIV-positive.
The Kwazulu-Natal camp saw many successes. The management there was delightful, considerate, and generous, lending us items like swimsuits and towels. They prepared a final banquet on the second to last night of camp with ham, roast chicken, potatoes, squash, and fruit cake and trifle for dessert. Phil reported back many heart-warming stories from his role this session as a swimming vochelli.
We also held camp at our usual location in Magaliesburg, Jackson’s Ridge, which serves children from Soweto. This session we hosted 137 campers and 33 vochellis there. Before the campers arrived we held four days of training on different topics including construction, focus on strengths and success, adult relationship, partnering with a child, believing a child can succeed, handling sensitive issues, team building, creating a safety bubble, code of conduct, intentional programming, and report writing.
Once the children arrived, campers enjoyed activities ranging from life skills, nutrition, theatre, arts and crafts, sports and adventure, swimming, and yoga. The campers were particularly excited about yoga as it is something that most only see on tv and never thought they would get to do themselves. Through yoga they learn that all they need is within them, the importance of physical exercise for a healthy mind at the comfort of your home, and to self-regulate. It also gets campers to purposefully think about who they are and how they value themselves.
The effort and excellent work everyone put in to make camp such a wonderful place impressed the new vochellis. Jackson Blackburn from the U.S. also appreciated the child-focused nature of the training, and could not wait to put that into practice back home.
EMS Training at Jackson's Ridge
Before camp began in Magaliesburg, a training team from the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Service (EMS) came to offer first aid training to our vochellis at the Jackson’s Ridge site. The EMS team conducted Stay Alive Till We Arrive (SATWA) training, educating the vochellis on how to help themselves and others in emergency situations with a basic first aid training and a practical evaluation on CPR.
The EMS team provided an introduction to sign language, such as letters of the alphabet from A-Z, how to spell their names, and how to construct a sentence using sign language. They also shared information on basic firefighting that included types of fire, how to evacuate the building that is on fire, types of extinguishers and how to use them, and a bucket brigade on how to extinguish fire while waiting for the firefighters to arrive on the scene. On the last day the EMS team gave all the vochellis who attended the training an assessment to demonstrate understanding.
In addition, the EMS team had the chance to participate in some of our training activities, which they said will help them in how to conduct activities for children in their school community outreach.
Report from the field - Sizanani Family Fun Day, New York City
Phil Lilienthal, President and Founder of Global Camps Africa, was very hands-on this camp, as a swimming vochelli heading the program at the Kwazulu-Natal camp. Some of the goals of the swimming activity include teaching campers to overcome their fear of the water, teaching them how to swim, or improving on what they already know, such as learning different strokes and increasing speed. Beyond these technical skills this activity also helps campers improve their cooperation, concentration, and communication.
From the first day of activities the group demonstrated their flexibility and resilience. There hadn’t been a chance to hand out swimsuits yet, so the campers started with a simple activity of taking of their shoes and socks to do some kicking while sitting on the side of the pool. For those campers who wanted to do more, Phil and the other swimming vochellis had them walk across the 3 foot deep pool, and started to teach them the crawl stroke, first having them practice on land, then doing the stroke while standing and walking through the water in their clothes. A few campers needed some hand holding to get across the pool the first time and they all made it. At the end everyone got out to drip dry before heading over to the next activity, still damp but already more confident.
Other highlights included a spontaneous game the campers came up with in the pool. It started as monkey in the middle and then became two teams passing a ball and keeping it from the other. They handled it beautifully, including the smaller and weaker swimmers and keeping it from getting rough. The point was that they were having fun playing ball without even being conscious of having mastered some basic swim techniques and showing no fear of being in swimming!
On the last day, instead of doing more work in the pool, the swimming vochellis took the campers to the beach to show that not all bodies of water are alike. Standing in the surf (even just up to the knees), experiencing the undertow, learning about tides, and seeing the power of the ocean impressed and excited all of them.
At the end of the December session campers gave thanks to the swimming vochellis for helping them face their fears, many of whom expressed that they feel like they can conquer anything now that they have learned to be comfortable in a pool.