Thanks to a generous outpouring of support from family, friends and Children of Uganda (COU) supporters, we were able to run our first ever Camp U-CAN on the grounds of Kiwanga (home to COU’s Phillip’s House children). Together we fundraised, applied for grants, collected donations for supplies and created an appropriate camp curriculum focused on “Empowerment through Play.” In the end, I was accompanied by five female volunteers. When we arrived, there were close to 50 kids eager to get started.
Monday through Friday, the children participated in arts and crafts, sports, drama, music, outdoor education, science experiments, and field trips. Each day began with a warm-up activity, which included songs, a game of Simon Says or a Scavenger Hunt. Activities were then divided into a series of blocks where students chose between two activities, such as Friendship bracelet making, Hide and Go Seek or Capture the Flag.
After lunch, the children would participate in one final culminating activity; for example, a parachute session, small group games on the soccer field or bingo. One day we held a Talent Show where the children rehearsed dance and drumming routines to be performed before judges – American Idol style.
Every day, the children would ask excitedly “What are we doing next?” We were concerned that the older children would be less enthused with camp; however, to our surprise, they were equally engaged and positive about the activities.
Their big planned field trip to the zoo was surprisingly overshadowed by a visit to the airport. None of the children had ever seen an airplane land or take off, so they were extremely excited and in awe. We bought them cokes and sat in the lounge for an hour just watching the planes. Throughout camp – and perhaps even still today – the kids couldn’t stop talking about the airport.
When we finally arrived at the zoo, the children were granted a “Behind the Scenes” pass to feed the animals, pet a Rhino (which many were terrified of), watch the veterinarians in action, and embark on a safari excursion. The Phillip’s House children and young adults where especially thrilled about the zoo. I will never forget the giant smiles plastered on their faces that day.
As our finale to camp, we held a birthday party for a sponsored child named Resty. Every year her sponsor hosts a celebration on her birthday, but this year all the kids at camp were invited to participate. We set up a piñata, held a dance, made birthday cards and crafts, and then ate a special meal with Birthday cake. Afterwards, we announced camp awards.
It has been gratifying to witness the transformative process of having a vision and watching it come to life. I had this moment when we were flying to Uganda when I looked over to see the five people traveling with me – who may have never dreamed of going to Africa before Camp U-CAN – and realized the impact of this amazing project.
Plans are already underway for next year. My goal is to run a larger camp at Kiwanga, as well as introduce a formal camp in Rwanda where I conducted a mini-camp this past summer.
- Frances Bajdik-Bova, Founder of Camp U-CAN