August 25, 2016 Contributor

Alumni Camp: Strength in Community

In partnership with PYE, we successfully facilitated our 2nd annual alumni camp at the Soewater Environmental Centre. Surrounded by the indisputable beauty of the mountains and ocean, the Staff and Earthchild alumni bonded to create an everlasting family.

The youth participants were bussed in from Lavender Hill & Khayelitsha and exited one-by-one with hesitation and skepticism wondering how the week would unfold for them. Much to their surprise, the feeling of apprehension would soon blow away like the strong force of the Cape Town wind.

Self Expression

Each component of the camp was carefully designed to nurture, challenge & transform the mind, body & spirit of the youth participants. The natural environment not only provided serenity but also offered the capacity for the youth to reach their maximum creative potential.

The dynamic combination of yoga, art, music/dance, & community theatre unlocked hidden talents, interests, and passions that may be subdued through standard education. Creativity was used as a vehicle for youth to get to know themselves in a deeper and sustainable way. “We are looking for the youth to connect with self, their community and then facilitate social change,” Nadia Chaney, PYE Senior Trainer. 

Community Pic

Community

Community values were established early in the camp. Starting with community agreements, we all brainstormed ways to create an environment of safety, inclusivity and fun. Gathering together for family group, songs/ lullabies, gratitude/ intention circles throughout the entire day truly established a strong foundation of support & encouragement. “We support you” was the common phrase cheered to anybody who abandoned their comfort zone.

Afternoon workshops were scheduled for the youth participants to boost emotional literacy. Encouraging the youth to choose a workshop guided by their own curiosity, intellect & courage ; stood as a reminder of their innate leadership & personal development. The workshops available to the youth included: African Indigenous games, African Drumming, Breathing & Wellness, Nature mandala, Vision Board, Body Mapping, German, 5 Languages of love, Jewelry making, Little Haters, Basket Weaving, Theatre, & Dance.

Transformation

As the days progressed, the discussions began to dive deeper into emotional intelligence & self-understanding. Amongst those exercises was the River of Life that allowed the youth to illustrate a challenging time in their lives. Another activity used radio signal terms (AM& FM) to distinguish between harmful messages (Against Me) and constructive affirmations (For Me). During this exercise, we witnessed the courage of peers who stepped in front of the community to share messages that had impacted their self-confidence. This particular exercise captured the power in vulnerability and the inner strength that is necessary as a community leader.

The emotions of camp are not easily captured into words but more of an inexhaustible feeling of inspiration. As we’ve reflected on this beautiful & transformative experience, we are reminded that empowering young community leaders directs the world compass towards social change. “ If the last day was a testament to the week at camp, the kids were beaming with happiness and joy,” Janna Kretzmar, Founder/Director of Earthchild Project.

 

Dominique Camille is an Earthchild project intern working in the schools and the office. She is a yoga teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area deeply committed to social justice and liberating expression. 

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