As expected, the Nan Hua Temple African Children’s Camp ran smoothly. The children arrived with their eyes filled with excitement, anticipation, curiosity and the determination to learn. The two-day camp was a whole new experience for these less fortunate children that came from informal settlements and orphanages. The volunteers for the camp arrived a day before just to make sure the activities were interesting, organised and that the children will have an amazing time on the camp.
Upon arrival, the children were greeted by a group of warm hearted volunteers that were ready and willing to spend their time and pour their hearts out to take care of them. The children were arranged into groups according to their ages, with the help of the volunteers; the children created their own war cries and group names for their individual group. Each war cry and group name was unique and original. The children sang and danced with glee, bonding amongst their fellow group members and participated in the whole activity energetically and happily. Even as a group, each member performed outstandingly.
During the opening ceremony, Venerable Hui Xing introduced the concept of the three good deeds to the children. Speak good words, do good deeds and to possess a good heart. The children listened intently, and nodded in agreement, to the words of the Master and took every word to heart. They were introduced to their camp president, Josephine, and vice camp president, Thabang, who both were very enthusiastic about the camp.
The children were taught meal etiquette and they adapted very quickly. The meals were delicious and after each meal, the children always carried a blissful and content smile on their face. The activities for the rest of the first day were fulfilling and fun packed. Activities on the first day tested and push them to use their ability to the fullest; they played games that required good communication and teamwork such as the three-legged race. During their art lesson, they had to tell a story through their drawings. They were creative, optimistic and cooperative with the challenges that they had to face. Each group’s work was exceptionally well presented and impressed the volunteers.
The following evening, they were given a life orientation lesson on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), rights and responsibilities, how to dial Child Help Line and how to make the right life choices. They listened and concentrated in the lesson that proved again that they were eager to learn. The life orientation lesson provided knowledge that the children can relate to and apply in real life situations. The life orientation was enriching for the children to enable them to grow and also to absorb more general knowledge, which they need in their respective communities.
The second and the last day of camp started at the break of dawn. The children went out and enjoyed a healthy, morning exercise session. They then had a wonderful and nutritious breakfast made by the volunteers. After breakfast, they had an interesting lesson of basic sign language, which they enjoyed a lot. The events for the day were more physical activities where the children played games outdoors with tennis balls and water. The treasure hunt, being more challenging and a very interactive activity, really got the children to think for themselves. Before starting the treasure hunt, the children were given an inspirational speech by Sizwe, one of the volunteers and a teacher during the camp. Sizwe told them to follow their dreams, the importance of hard work, to stay strong and determined and not to let any one’s words put them down. They were also taught that giving up is never an option; they just had to keep trying until they succeed.
After the treasure hunt, the camp slowly drew to an end. During the final event, Venerable Hui Xing delivered the closing speech, praising the children for behaving so well and following all the rules that they were taught during the course of the camp. All the children raised their hand high up in the air when Venerable Hui Xing asked who would come back for the African Children camp next year. It was a definite indication that this year’s camp really made an impact on and difference for the children. Each group sent up one representative to reflect on the past 2 days and what they enjoyed most of the camp. Most children said that they enjoyed the food; they thanked the volunteers and masters sincerely for making the camp happen and for making it fun. One of the kids said that he’ll definitely be at Nan Hua Temple for the next camp and said that he was looking forward to it.
The groups were also given prizes. The group with the highest points got to choose their prizes first. The points were awarded and deducted from the groups according to neatness, creativity, teamwork, manners and discipline. The children were delighted with their prizes that included bags filled with stationeries and other little things that they needed. Some of the children’s smiles were so wide that it stretched from one ear to the other. The smiles on the children’s faces helped ease the exhaustion of the volunteers and made all the long preparations worthwhile.
After saying the final goodbyes, the children left for home. The children didn’t want to leave but, unfortunately, had to as the end is always inevitable; when there’s a beginning there’ll always be an end.
The camp was a success thanks to the hardworking, dedicated and experienced volunteers that come year after year to help. The children managed to make new friends, learn a bit of Buddhism and they were also more knowledgeable compared to when they first arrived.
Throughout the camp, the children also became more aware of their own potential and were more confident about themselves with help of their peers and the volunteers. They’ve grown over the course of just two days. They became more mature, understanding of others and disciplined. The volunteers were proud that the children flourished under their care and also look forward to seeing these children for next year’s African Children’s camp, which will take place next year at the end of June.