After weeks of getting an average of four hours sleep a night, the time for some serious fun finally arrived. Media 24 send out an e-mail about the camp and eager possible volunteers were still phoning asking if they could join us. Theo arrived just after 10 to load most of the kitchen stuff on his way to Roodeplaat Nature Reserve. Donvé, my helpers from SOS children village in Mamelodi, Rob in his 22 seater bus and Chris, our Base Camp activity “Commandant” arrived around 12 to help load the rest of the stuff. By 15h00 most of the stuff was offloaded, the sleeping arrangements were sorted out and the rest of the volunteers started arriving. My 4 helpers from SOS Mamelodi made the kidz who started arriving feel welcome. The children arrived from Hope School, SOS village Mamelodi, SOS village Enerdale, Derdepoort, Middelburg, Kriel, Louis Botha and Jacaranda children’s homes. Around 17h00 it was time for some ice-breakers and Chris and Theo kept them busy until supper. After supper Louise gave a talk about using your special abilities instead of looking at someone’s disabilities.
We had 10 physically disabled kidz on the camp, which made her talk extra special. It was then time for teambuilding and the children were divided into their different teams and given time to unpack their bags. They had to think of an appropriate team name and the presentation that followed had us all in stitches. Some of the kidz decided to go on a night hike with some of the volunteers while the rest of the volunteers discussed the next day’s activities. By 2 o’clock everyone was in bed.
SATURDAY: 30 SEPTEMBER 2006
The volunteers were up and ready to inspire their teams by 5h00. Around 7h00 most of the teams had left for the 4km hike to the picnic area for the day’s events. After dropping Donvé and Sam at the breakfast area I discovered everyone was so keen to hike there was no-one to assist Chris setting up Base-camps. I phoned Gert-Jan (who went to rescue Aileen who got lost) and told him to go straight to the picnic area when they arrive. I rushed back and found Nico, the paramedic jogging in front of the teams. He had no choice but to get in the car and I dropped him at the picnic area. I then went back looking for more help. The last people on the hike were Theo, Angelique and Kgotso. Kgotso’s hand was bleeding from the crutches and all three of them were promptly told to get in the car. After dropping Kgotso at the breakfast spot, the rest were dropped off at the picnic area. Not long after that Aileen and Gert-Jan arrived. I am now handing over the report writing to Aileen – I’ll just add the pictures. On the left you can see a picture of Aileen arriving. Rumor has it that she ended up at another nature reserve before calling for help! With each camp Karen runs she has learnt from her previous mistakes and everything was going ahead smoothly. Not one to just sit idly by, she is organising, delegating and making sure everything is as it should be while the ±60 children from various children’s home’s are having breakfast at the Roodeplaat Dam office.
Chris is finalising the different courses, Theo is sorting out last minute problems and the volunteers are helping out where it is needed. Finally everything is complete and just in time as the children, after a ±3km walk from the office have arrived. Not being slave drivers, they are allowed to sit in their groups to gather their energy for what lies ahead. A fun-filled day full of surprises. The children had been organised into 10 groups of 6 children in each group. 10 of the children had some or other physical disability and they were each slotted into one of the 10 groups. The remainder of the group was made up of children from the various homes. The object being to teach them about friendship, about how people with physical disabilities learn to cope in a world that is not geared for them and also, due to the nature of some of the activities, what it feels like to have a disability. One of the activities entailed each member of the group to be blindfolded while the rest of the group had to give directions while walking on a pre-determined course which included going under and over various obstacles. Another activity entailed each member to sit in a wheelchair and without any help they had to wheel themselves around a course that was laid out so that they had to go over an embankment, down again, over a concrete slab and around some big rocks.Other activities included trying to light a fire with a magnifying glass, learning to tie various types of knots, carrying of water from one bucket to another to see who collects the most water, cleaning the dam of water hyacinths, baking date cookies on a gas stove and making a bug spray.
After all the activities were completed, and lunch in the form of hot dogs was consumed with much gusto by all, the lucky one’s got to drive back to camp with all the paraphernalia while the rest of us walked. While the children and some of the volunteers had free time, the kitchen staff worked very hard to produce a scrumptious dinner of pap and wors. Thereafter the children had the choice of either going to bed or going on a night hike while some of the volunteers got the activities ready for the following day. Sunday dawned bright and early. The majority of the children were up and ready to go. First order of the day was to go and find their breakfast which was hidden in the bushes giving the volunteers time to set up the activities. More sedate ones this time with identifying birds from a bird hide, learning how to play suduko, playing a basic form of scrabble where spelling was more important than the rules of the game, learning basic first aid and how to make a bird feeder from pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed.
While waiting for lunch, everybody had to pack their bags and make sure the accommodation was left clean and neat. And then it was prize giving time. Prizes were awarded for the team that took out the most water hyacinths, the team that picked up the most litter, the team with the most teamspirit and the overall winning team. A special prize was also awarded to a team that was caught picking up litter after everyone had gone to bed. Their bags of litter was stolen at the picnic area and instead of giving up, they tried to make up for lost “bags”. Prizegiving:
After lunch the children were all given various tasks to make sure the hall, kitchen, bathrooms and outside areas were clean and everything packed away. While the children were waiting for their transport, they watched a video that had been taken during the course of the two days activities and much hilarity followed. Taking each of the activities you have to ask yourself “But what are they learning from these simple activities”. They are learning to work as a team. They are learning about trust and maybe having a little bit more respect for those that are not able to do the normal things we can do. They are also learning that you can make and do things, and that you don’t always need a lot of money to do it.
They are learning that sometimes haste makes waste and that you don’t have to have all the correct utensils to make things and you can figure out how to make do with what there is. They are also learning about nature conservation and the importance of keeping our planet clean, not only for our selves but for our children. That is a lot of learning from a couple of silly games. And it is not just the children who are learning but the volunteers are also learning and one of the things I learnt was not to under estimate children. Just because they don’t think or do things your way, does not make it wrong, just different. – Aileen (Outdoor Adventures)
This camp was made possible with the help of the following sponsors:
Checkers Hyper Centurion;
Cornell & Martie Schuster;
Environmental Resources Management;
First National Bank Rietfontein;
Footprints Hiking Club;
Kualani Civil North;
Ingrid & Armand V Tonder;
National Geographic Kids;
Pretoria Birding Society;
Standard Bank Gezina;
To the following volunteers who arrived there with their hearts filled with love, thank you so much. You made a huge difference. Aileen, Andries, Angela, Angelique, Antonio, Belinda, Celeste, Chris Dykes, Chris, Chris, Cynthia, Dave, Donvé, Esmarelda, Evelina, Frans, Fritz, Gert-Jan, Kgotso, Kim, Lorraine, Louise, Luis, Merchell, Michael, Mpho, Mseventy, Nico, Nicola, Nkosi, Pauline, Petronella, Riaan, Rob, Sam, Sharron, Theuns, Trudie, Tshepo, Tumelo and Willie Some of my thoughts and feelings: It was awesome to see different people from different groups of life working together to show the kidz that there are still people out there that care. The kidz from Hope School taught us all a lesson – I never saw one of the boys not smiling. It had a ripple effect on the other kidz. When I told Kgotso I needed his help at one of the camps, his hands were bleeding from the crutches. One of their requests was to have girls at the next camp – so that the girls can maybe see past their disabilities. With the environmental project they used sticks to remove the water hyacinths. It touched my heart when I was told that one team was still picking up litter at 1 o’clock after their litter was “stolen” the previous day. It was so nice to see the youth leaders leading by example. Thank you once again to all the wonderful people who helped to expose the kidz to nature. I am still receiving phone calls from the homes – apparently the boys can’t stop talking about the camp. Removing the water hyacinths was voted top activity by most of the kidz. Together we can make the world a better place – Noeksie aka Karen
Some of the volunteer’s remarks:
“I just wanted to say thank you to you and the team for an amazing weekend."
"At the risk of sounding over the top, it was literally a life changing experience."
" I have been nervous for so long about becoming involved with anything to do with children as I have always thought that my emotions (and lack of control thereof) would get in the way."
" This weekend touched my soul in so many ways, as well as teaching me so much about myself and what I could cope with (not always successfully, but hopefully this will change with time and more experience!)”
“I truly enjoyed the camp, although waking up at 5am was quite a challenge. The kidz in my group were a pleasure to be with u and I felt so proud of them especially when a 9 year old can answer the medical questions that Nico asked in the first aid session. Thats a doctor to be. They became very environmentally conscious and refused to allow others to litter. "
"I had a tremendous time at this camp and I learnt a lot and I really hope that I can be a team leader and contribute a lot at the next camp.”
And now for some feedback from the kidz:
“Thank you guys for everything you did for us. It was nice and I had fun but can you please ask the sponers to help you with money so you can buy more beding and tv and nice things. But eitherwase it was great to be in this camp….. team 6”
“It has been the biget camp and the engoapleac. I like the way we were mixt with other childer. It hepes us to know other peopel. I would like to say thaxk to all the cooks and all the food and all the sponsors. This zthat I like wes the food and some of the activities. The one I did like was robs. They sued improfer this camp to inwierd the girls but don’t take it serayer I am just joking – Abraham”
“The nighthike made me feel like I am brave and I learned living without girls. I didn’t like hiking daylight because I was swetting. I am not used to walking long distance sometimes I get headake – team 10”