“My name is Cecil and I am 19 years old. I live in Soweto, Johannesburg. My home is one room and there are four of us at home – me, my younger brother, my little sister, and my mother. I don’t live with my father. My father doesn’t care about us. I don’t even have a relationship with him.
My mother is unemployed…she’s a gambler. Sometimes for the whole week she is not there, and I have to look after my little sister and brother, feed them and prepare their school clothes and things. It’s kind of hard. Sometimes I have to do bad things, like rob someone, to make money for my family.
I think my life will be different when I leave camp. Here in camp I’ve learned to be a better person; I’ve learned to encourage other people. I’ve learned to believe in myself no matter how hard the situation. I’ve learned to be there for people who need a helping hand.
Here in Camp Sizanani, I have a lot of role models. I see brothers, I see sisters. They (the vochellis) can give you the strength to be a better person. Here you get taught how to express yourself. They teach you not to be afraid. You have the power to express yourself, even though you’ve never had it before.
My name is Cori Glass and I am 31 years old. Three years ago I spent 2 weeks as a vochelli (counselor) at Camp Sizanani.
In some ways, Camp Sizanani looks very much like a camp in the U.S., with kids cheering, singing, dancing, laughing, and playing. In other ways, Camp Sizanani is so different from camps that I am familiar with. For many Sizanani campers, camp is the difference between a future filled with abuse, sickness and hopelessness and a future in which they feel empowered to make positive life decisions using the skills and knowledge learned at camp.
I am an assistant director of a camp in New Hampshire, where I spent my childhood summers. I believe strongly in the power of camp for kids, which is why I continue to make it a part of my life as an adult.
"My name is Nthabi. I’m 24 years old and I stay in Soweto, Johannesburg. I was a camper at Camp Sizanani in 2006, and I have been a vochelli [camp counselor] since 2007.
I was quiet when I was young. I couldn’t express who I was. I couldn’t stand in front of people and say, “This is me.” I only stood behind people.
Now I know how to look someone in the eyes and say what I really feel.
When I first went to camp, I had a favorite vochelli, Vochelli Nonhlanhla. That lady told me many things, like “You are talented, you are good in arts.” Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted in life. But because of Nonhlanhla, I learned how to answer. I wanted to be an artist. I eventually went to school to study arts. I am still pursuing fine arts now.
"My name is Lerato, I am 16-years-old. I live in an orphanage for children who are HIV-positive or their parents died of AIDS. My parents died when I was 7 years old. I have brothers and sisters who still live in our parents' home, but it wasn't safe for me there. When I was 8 years old, my sister's boyfriend raped me. After that, I had to move away from my village.
At Camp Sizanani, I have attended Life Skills classes. It was my favorite part of camp because it helped me get over the things from my past. I also learned that I can live a happy life even though I have HIV. If I take my pills, HIV does not have to be the end of me. I would like to be a vochelli someday.