What’s the urgent problem?

Poor, underserved, at-risk kids don’t have access to opportunities to develop the critical tools they will need to live healthy, empowered lives.  They have no hope for the future.  They are part of a generation of African youth that make up the largest number of young people ever on Earth, and their healthy, thriving future is linked inextricably to a healthy, thriving future for us all.  

How is GCA solving it?

Global Camps Africa equips young people with the knowledge and self-confidence they need to change their futures.  From understanding their rights and responsibilities to gaining critical financial literacy, job-seeking skills, and opportunities for entrepreneurship, Global Camps Africa’s camp and clubs programs meet Africa’s young people where they are with the tools they need.

How can you help?

As global citizens, we believe we all have a responsibility to help vulnerable people around the world.  Make camp possible with your financial support today.  A gift at any level makes a positive difference in a child’s life by providing an opportunity to attend our life skills camp, our follow-up program called Youth Clubs, our young women’s empowerment clubs, our financial literacy and entrepreneurship clubs, or our club for pre-campers (children ages 5-11).

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Lebo* is 15 years old.  She came to Camp Sizanani in 2015, and still attends Youth Clubs on Saturdays.  She says, "I always invite other kids to come to clubs.  It keeps us out of the street."

When Lebo describes how Camp Sizanani impacted her, she says it taught her how to talk to people about the troubles she was facing. When she came to Camp Sizanani, she didn’t have the confidence to confide in anyone about her difficult home life.  

You see, Lebo's grandfather at home used to beat her mother and younger sister, and Lebo didn’t know where to turn for help.  After coming to Camp Sizanani, and seeing that vochellis loved and supported her, she felt worthy of help and empowered to take control of the abusive situation her family was in.  She approached an assistant at her church, who connected her with help in her neighborhood.  Her grandfather no longer lives with them, thanks to Lebo speaking up.  

At Camp Sizanani, Lebo gained the life skills she needed to change her life at home, and things are much better for her now.  She learned her rights, practiced her communication skills, and developed tactics for tackling the challenges she faces. Lebo tells her friends, “You cannot hide your feelings, you have to talk.  After Camp Sizanani, I was able to talk to someone who could help.”

Thabo* is 15 years old, and he attended Camp Sizanani in December 2016.  When you ask him what he learned at camp, he's quick to say he learned about HIV and AIDS.

Thabo says he learned that “people who have HIV are the same as anyone else, they just need to take their medication and eat well and protect their health.”

Thabo has a 16-year-old friend who disclosed to him that he recently tested positive for HIV.  When Thabo found out, his first response was to support his friend in getting treatment.  He went with his friend to the clinic so he wouldn’t feel alone. Thabo says he also gives advice to his friend about how to make sure he is protecting himself and others in relationships by practicing safe sex techniques he learned about at Camp Sizanani, especially using condoms.

The HIV and AIDS education at Camp Sizanani is more than just the facts.  In addition to dispelling myths about how it is spread, teaching safe sex practices, and emphasizing the importance of knowing your HIV status, we teach and model respect for all people, regardless of whether they are HIV-positive.  

Thabo reminds us how valuable this education is.  He's been able to provide support and information to a friend going through an exceptionally difficult and scary time.  Thanks to Camp Sizanani, Thabo understands the facts about HIV and he's not afraid to be friends with someone who is HIV infected.

Now, when you ask Thabo what he wants to be when he grows up, he says he would like to be a doctor to help people with HIV. 

One of the key elements of Global Camps Africa’s mission is empowering youth to make a difference in their communities. Through Mpho's story, we can see how young people who have gained a community focus through Camp Sizanani's programs can make a profound difference in their communities and our shared future.

Mpho* and his fellow campers standing beside the bed where he slept at Banakekeleni Orphanage as a young child.

Mpho* and his fellow campers standing beside the bed where he slept at Banakekeleni Orphanage as a young child.

Part of our youth club program involves an annual community service project that the campers design and execute.  This year, for the Nelson Mandela day of service on July 16th, the campers at our Alexandra youth club partnered with a law firm called Bowmans in Sandton, to complete their service project.  The process of planning this day has involved months of planning, and meetings to design the service work.  This past Saturday was the culmination of all those efforts.

Initially, the campers from the Alexandra club decided they wanted to use their Nelson Mandela day of service to support a local children’s home called Banakekeleni Children's Home, an orphanage nearby.  One of the boys who attends the youth club advocated for this project because he himself had been an orphan living in the home when he was younger.  He knew they cared for their children well, but that they didn’t have many resources, and there were many challenges living there, including no hot water, and regular break-ins because of poor security fencing.  The other members of the youth club rallied around his choice, and they all went to visit the home to hear what they needed.  

The women who run the children’s home spoke about their challenges with break-ins, and the cold water, and cold winter nights with poor insulation in the home. The youth from the Sizanani youth club realized they would need help to consider solving any of these challenges for the home.  This is how Bowmans Law Firm got involved.

The campers knew that Bowmans was interested in partnering with a local organization to have a Mandela Day of service activity.  So the campers put together a proposal and met with the head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bowmans in their board room in Sandton to present their ideas for Nelson Mandela day.  Their proposal was well received, and Fatima, the head of Corporate Social Responsibility, was especially interested in the project because she herself grew up in Alexandra, a township notorious for poverty and crime, and she grew up to be a successful lawyer at Bowmans.  She reminded the campers that they have the potential to do anything with their lives, and great people can come from Alexandra.  The campers were thrilled and continued their planning.

Bowmans dedicated financial support for the efforts, including recruiting the assistance of a very generous handyman who came to help with some of the heavy lifting.  The children worked with Craig, the handyman, to install a new washing machine, put up extra security fencing to prevent break-ins, hang a new washing line to help clothes dry quicker, and fix the ceilings in the children’s bedrooms to make it warmer in the winter.  Craig even helped install a new water heater to provide hot water for the home.  All this work was done over the weeks leading up to Mandela Day.

This Saturday, a team of 15 volunteers from Bowmans came to the home to help the campers finish their service work with a decorative touch of artwork for all the bedrooms to remind the children that they are loved. Everyone chipped in on the day and it was a great success.  The campers have committed to returning to the children’s home to visit the kids who live there, as they have become friends over the past few weeks.  This type of community impact is exactly what is possible, when empowered youth are moved to action.  Thanks to Camp Sizanani they were supported and encouraged to make this project a success, and their sense of the value of service is reinforced for their years ahead.  

Mpho is leading his generation to a better future through service to one another, just as his great compatriot Nelson Mandela admonished us all to do.

At 16 years old, Edna* never thought about what she wanted be when she grew up...no one had ever asked.  People in her community just assumed she would end up dropping out of school, likely getting pregnant as a teenager, and staying in the same poverty-stricken township situation she was born into.

What we learned from Edna, and other campers like her, is that empowering young women through Camp Sizanani's programs can change that future.

Edna loves talking about the difference camp has made in her life.  After coming to camp, she decided she wanted to become a social worker, because she was inspired by her vochellis (counselors).  She realized she wanted to work in service of others - to help them be the best they can be - the very same way the counselors at Camp Sizanani helped her. 

Thanks to the lessons she learned at Camp Sizanani, and the support of her counselors there and at her Youth Club, Edna is claiming her power to study and pursue her dream of helping others.  Now, Edna sees this as a reality for her future.

The change from hopelessness to empowerment is one of the five keys to changing a generation that Global Camps Africa has uncovered in its 14 years of research and program implementation. Now that Edna has taken control of her future and has been given the knowledge and tools to pursue her dream, her life can never be the same.  That is the power of Camp Sizanani.

The Epstein-Brill Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship Program launched in 2016 in response to an emerging need in our campers' communities and South Africa more broadly.  With their newly acquired life skills, health education, and hope for the future, Camp Sizanani's youth needed more support to face the specific challenges of unemployment, underemployment, and financial insecurity.  Financial literacy and entreprenership training is one of the 5 answers to our one critical question, "What does it take to change a generation?"

Naledi* was part of the first group of FLEP campers.  She is 17 years old and lives with her mother and siblings in the township of Poortjie outside of Johannesburg.  Participating in FLEP has changed her life in profound ways...from how much food her family has to eat to her dreams for the future.

"FLEP has taught me a lot of things I didn't know, like saving money.  I didn't know that making a list of the things you need before going to do your shopping was important until the vochellis taught us in FLEP and I tried it at home with my mother.  After I learned about the budget and shopping list, I made the budget and list with my mother before she did the shopping.  I started by writing down what we needed most and ran out of, then added what we still had but would be out of shortly.  When she came back from shopping she was so happy because she had some change left and we didn't run out of groceries that month." 

Naledi's mother is so grateful for what she's learned from her daughter that she's giving Naledi the extra money from the savings on their groceries every month.  "I didn't save before because I never had any extra money, but now after FLEP I have a money box where I save my pocket money until my mother opens a bank account for me."

Part of Naledi's experience in the FLEP program included the development of a business plan, which culminated in a Community Market Day where she launched her fruit and vegetable stand to the public and an evaluation panel.  The business she created won an award for Best Business Presentation, and Naledi has decided to take what she learned from the evaluation panel she met with on Market Day and re-launch her fruit and veggie stand.  "My partner and I are doing more research and saving our pocket money, fixing the mistakes we made before, and planning to open again in October," she says.  "I am going to use the money I saved in my money box from what we have saved on groceries to improve our business."

Before joining the FLEP program, Naledi says she was studying social sciences in school and not doing well.  "FLEP has made me study harder because the vochellis taught me that education is the most important tool for success.  Before, I didn't believe I had to have an education to start a business because I didn't know about market research, doing the costing and pricing, and that I could invest in my business to make it grow.  Instead of following what my friends study in school, I've changed to subjects I love like Business Economics.  Now I study even on Saturdays and Sundays, and I have passed my first and second terms."

Naledi has a message for all the donors who have supported Global Camps Africa and FLEP:

"I'm grateful for what you did for us.  Your support means a lot and has changed the minds and the lives of those who went through FLEP.  Because of you, now I want to be an entrepreneur selling healthy food so people can practice healthy living. I wish you could continue changing the lives of other children like you did to me.  "