More Than Just a Summer Camp
Spring has sprung, and the flowers are starting to bloom, giving rise to the most beautiful time of the year. As we have transitioned into this beautiful spring, it also kicks our summer plans into high gear. With children wrapping up school and parents juggling parenting, job demands, and summer planning, we rarely have time to stop and think that perhaps, this season of fun, rest, games and time together is powerful enough to bring about positive change in our societies.
It is tough to imagine that life-defining moments could be included in running on the beach, exploring other cities, going treasure hunting, exercising, making arts and crafts or camping. But families who invest time and resources into these experiences know of the benefits. They see and feel the impact in their lives. If these events had no return on our investment, this culture would have been abandoned by our society a long time ago.
Think about societies where there is no quality education and, for many who are willing to work, no jobs or job training. Societies where there are huge health concerns and where they lack the basic necessities of life. People who live in these communities, tackling the life-sapping effects of poverty in their daily struggles, only come across things like vacations or summer camps on TV, if they have one. I could argue that these people who live on the brink of life each day deserve opportunities where they spend a few days away from their struggles. Therein lies the need for these types of programs in struggling communities, so children get to catch a break.
For the past four years, A2S has served over 4,000 Nigerian youth through our summer camps. Based on the needs in these communities, we have integrated empowerment sessions into our free annual basketball camps. These interactive sessions are broken down into three broad categories, namely; mind, body and future. Past topics include tolerance, nutrition, goal setting, leadership and empathy vs apathy. This summer, 700 youth will take part in empowerment sessions discussing social media citizenship, social action and social activism, citizenship and role models. Over 350 children will attend our Summer Bible Camp with a life skills curriculum including arts and crafts, music, games and exercises. In fact, every Wednesday at the After School Program is called “Empowerment Wednesday” where our youth learn skills that they otherwise would not be exposed to. The coaches and teachers look forward to our coaches’ and teachers’ clinics.
These programs are important, taking on a role that is beyond fun and games. They have empowered campers to be more engaged at home and in school, and make healthy life choices that shield them from violence, drugs, theft, corruption, and prostitution. They learn to tolerate one another and treat each other as equals and with respect. And in a society where women have been marginalized, they present a great opportunity to prepare the young men to see young girls as partners to move their societies forward, not as expendable, second-class citizens.
An A2S camper, Raymond put it best, “I thank you and your entire A2S crew for the warmth and selfless service you all showed towards us,” he said. “You left your comfort zone to empower, impact and inspire a broken people whose morals have been smashed by our culture and system of government. You gave us a bigger picture than we could have ever imagined, and most importantly, the tools to achieve it. A2S, because of you, we can think better, play better, and we have become better persons, on and off the court. May God almighty bless you and fill each of your hearts with more love and passion for what you do.”
We all need a break that involves fun and games. Our children need these summer camps. Our youth who live on the brink of life need these types of programs. The return on our investment is huge; I truly believe that these programs can be life changing for our youth in the developing world. As we capitalize on this summer to invest in activities and programs that create a positive outlook on life and change for us and our loved ones, we can extend a hand to send a child summer camp in Nigeria.
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