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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Camp!!!! (kind of)

5 years ago, with the support of Bishop Stacy Sauls and his wife, the monastery established an annual reading camp for 5th grade students who showed promise yet lacked opportunity. Fast forward to this year: Reading Camp co-director Matt Kellen sends me a text saying “if you’re up for reading camp, WE WANT YOU!” How could I say no? :)

I shook off some counselor rust of yesteryear and got ready for a round of summer winter camp.
Oh my goodness, was it a worthwhile week.
There were 6 30-minutes classes each morning, each one led by an experienced teacher.
Thursday afternoon game drive!
One of many arts and crafts activities.
We did this a lot.
Evening journaling. We did this a lot, too.
I’m still trying to unpack just how valuable, educational, loving, and fun this camp was. How can you describe the value of teaching 3 students at a time rather than 30 (like in school)? How do you verbally express the treat to get out of the township, have 3 meals a day, and have fun while strengthening their English skills? How do you operationally define the personal care each child received? Or having adults tell them “I love you” and “You are special” and mean it?? Also, how can you explain the great weather we had???! 

Here are a few of the highlights:
-the personal nature. With only 18 kids, it was easy to get to know everyone and invest in them.
More morning classes. I believe this one was Phonics.
The 3 guys I was a counselor for. I know, I could use a haircut.
10-15 minute Chapel before dinner. On Sunday (pictured), we learned we can see God in each other.
-it was predominantly stress-free. I don’t think I was stressed or pressured by any camp logistic; everyone did what they were supposed to and more, and everyone was open to spur-of-the-moment ideas.

-the staff bonded through their diversity. Our 6-person counselor team came from 3 different continents, and the accents/linguistics showed. However, it never felt like “us” and “them”. Everyone was different, thus no person was excluded. In short, we were ‘one multitude’ rather than ‘a multitude of ones’.

-the campers soon bonded through their diversity, too. Afrikaans and Xhosa are two clearly distinct cultures, with separate native languages and (in some cases) separate physical communities. We talked about sharing and inclusion on Monday night, and it didn’t take long for the children to buy in. A small yet touching example came during a bus ride on Thursday, when we all taught each other phrases in various languages we knew. Picture children and adults jumping between Afrikaans, German, Spanish (of the Mexico and Spain variety), English (of the US, South Africa, and England variety), and Xhosa. It was a cool moment.

-the beautiful setting. We used a conference and retreat center called Assegaai Trails, located 30 minutes outside Grahamstown. Wildlife just outside the door (and over a fence), with mountains and trees a short walk away. Did I mention the great weather?
Monday’s afternoon activity: Hiking (and finding giraffes) around the property.
Sleeping rooms on the right, dining hall and classes on the left.
-we used English. The language barrier I’ve grown accustomed to over the months had virtually dissolved this week. Not only was English encouraged (to help practice this vital skill), but the director clearly explained how important it is to speak fluent English; to achieve a scholarship to a high-performing school (your ticket to a better life), to function in the English-majority workforce, and to be able to communicate with so many more people.

-piggy-backing off the above point, the students learned very clear and worthwhile realities they could obtain; scholarships, fluent english, see God in each other and all around them (hopefully this is already happening). The camp directors lovingly showed them how they can teach others to be better problem-solvers, with regards to academics, interpersonal behavior, and individual perspective. If I had a grade 5 child in Grahamstown, I’d want him/her to attend this camp.

-one night, the guy counselors broke into song with Les Miserables. This sealed the deal that it was a good week (what, you wouldn’t join? :))

Explaining the importance of reading.
I was encouraged by the long-term effects we learned of during our first-day staff meeting; In the 6 years since the first reading camp, principals and parents alike have consistently remarked on the long-lasting change in the child. There is recorded improvement in both academics and attitude.

Also uplifting: some of the original campers -now in grade 8- made the cut for Inkululeko this year!

Yet another highlight of this journey in SA, and another reason to smile :) I’ll leave you with a few more pictures, and I wish you a GREAT day.

God Bless!

ps the woman you see in several pictures (including the one below) is the next principal of Holy Cross School! Her name is Kary McConnachie, and we are very excited to have her on board.
Saturday Graduation
Thursday Game Drive
Friday beach trip
Bye bye!

1 comment:

  1. Cameron! Such a great post. LOVE the giraffe pix, love the giraffe painting the little girl is finishing (brilliant), love your hair--try it long for a while--you look great! Good work. xoxo