On Friday 30 March, 47 excited girls between the ages of 12 and 17 arrived at Roodeplaat Nature Reserve, for an unforgettable weekend. One brave girl was only six years old, and arrived knowing nobody on the camp, but soon crept into every one’s heart and was the apple of her camp mommy’s eye. The SOAPkidz (Sunrise on Africa’s Peaks Kidz) volunteers, who organized the camp, were equally excited that this camp would turn out to be something great.
The girls came from various orphanages and children’s homes and didn’t quite know what to expect as they were divided into groups, and had to get to know each other and learn to work together as a team, from the get go. They had to work on team names and a war cry, which would be their “signature” for the rest of the weekend. In the evening they attended a presentation on bats, combined with a slide show and bat sounds in the background. Thereafter, the teams were sent out into the bush for a “lantern crawl”. Only the sounds of the veldt could be heard in the darkness, with the occasional shriek, when a team was surprised by one of the volunteers, or an innocently by standing heard of zebras.
On Saturday morning, the day kicked off with Pilates exercises, before breakfast, which was only available after the groups went on a hike to find their hidden team numbers. Thereafter all the girls assembled in the “boma area”, to watch a man unpack a few big plastic containers. When the first container was opened and a snake slid out, they all instinctively jumped 5 meters back, but soon got closer to investigate. After an educational and interactive session, each girl couldn’t wait to have a chance to touch the Python while it was holding on to its handler.
The rest of the day was packed with activities, from making bird feeders, to bird watching, to making mosaics, to blind folded navigating through an obstacle course. The highlight of the camp was undoubtedly the “potjiekos competition”, which the girls had to prepare themselves. Each team had to prepare the vegetables and meat; choose from a variety of herbs and spices; and throw it all together. While the potjies were cooking, the teams had to set a table, complete with centerpiece and other decorations, using their imagination and things they could find in nature. It was amazing to see what the girls came up with, given the change to think freely. They hadn’t a moment to spare, as they also had to work on a concert for the evening, using animals as their theme.
Before supper, the table settings and potjies were judged by visitors from the press, who were waited on by a representative from each team. The deliberation took a long time, as each potjie tasted differently, and it was very difficult to choose a winner. Eventually all the kids and volunteers could also tuck in, and it must have been good, as everyone went back for seconds and thirds until there were no scraps left in any pots. After supper, our guests were treated to a fashion show of garments, made from plastic bags, tape and anything the girls could find in the camp area. The kids really surprised everyone, with their creativity and spontaneity in this challenge. The evening was ended with a night hike for those who still had energy left.
Sunday morning, the teams had to pack up and clean their rooms, before the day could start. After breakfast, another guest visited the camp, to have a motivational talk with the children. They were then again divided into teams for activities, ranging from belly dancing, to beading, to learning about ropes and knots. After lunch, there was a prize giving to the best teams, the best potjie, and the team who picked up the most litter.
Although the camp was characterized by smiles from the girls, everywhere one looked, it was with heavy hearts, that the kids and volunteers said their goodbyes. But they had good memories and some newly acquired skills to take back home, to their harsh realities, with them.