One individual can make an extraordinary impact.
Camp counselors are essential to the overall success of Camp Sizanani. Many of our counselors share similar backgrounds with our campers, which helps them establish strong relationships and trust. This holiday season, we are proud to introduce you to one such counselor, Dennis Matsholo, who joined the Camp Sizanani family in 2013.
Dennis's story is a remarkable one. “Growing up at an orphanage, I felt alone but when I came to camp, the counselors were so welcoming and made me feel at home, " Dennis tells us. "Now, my fellow counselors support my small businesses and everything that I do. When I am at camp, I can be myself because I know no one will judge me and they love me for who I am. Camp is where I found my family.”
His childhood experience helped him connect with our campers, who are orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS. "After my first time as a counselor, I fell in love with Camp Sizanani," says Dennis. "I love the way we impact kids' lives, the reaction they have when they are at camp, and how they send us letters after camp saying how much they loved being there. It is a beautiful experience."
"Camp Sizanani gives campers hope and when they leave camp, they do well. They join businesses, go to University, and one of them right now is in Italy getting his degree," says Dennis.
“I think camp would have helped me a lot, at some points things were tough, I didn’t love myself, I had low self-esteem and I think a place like Camp Sizanani would have helped me.”
Now, as a counselor, Dennis connects with campers through arts and crafts. "I make sure there is meaning in everything they do in our sessions. I tell the kids to go back to the day they were born and think about everything they've been through, " Dennis says. "We then paint our stories and share them with each other. I tell them my story: red is for the love I found at Camp Sizanani, black is for what I went through as a child like them, and yellow is to show the happiness that I have now. Most of the kids will cry when we do this activity...it helps them to share their stories and to heal through art."
change that begins with a ripple can grow to a wave
Beyond arts and crafts, Dennis is a true entrepreneur at heart and with support from a mentor at Global Camps Africa, he runs two small businesses. Building on his experiences at Camp Sizanani, he is inspired to find ways to give to others in his community. “I use the money I earn from my business to buy shoes and I give them to kids who are from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. Growing up at the orphanage a lot of people gave us things, but we never had a chance to say ‘thank you’ and now this is my chance to say ‘thank you’ to the people who have helped me," Dennis says. Through his small business, he has been able to open doors for children that were not open for him as a child.
changing lives begins with an individual gift
Dennis has hopes and dreams for Camp Sizanani as well, which include expanding camps to various provinces within South Africa. He says, “I would love to see Camp Sizanani have more camps all over South Africa...and beyond! A few years ago, some counselors were able to travel to different provinces to conduct camps, and that made a huge difference. There are many of us counselors, and we are eager to reach even more kids.” Dennis believes in the power of camp and wants every child to feel loved, appreciated, and supported, no matter where they live.
Whether you are interested in being a camp counselor, are a lifelong donor, or simply curious about what Global Camps Africa does for orphans and vulnerable children, we invite you to be a part of our family this holiday season. Santa Claus is great, but your individual gift right now -- in any amount -- has the power to make the real magic for children like Dennis.