Camp 80

Tshepong Centre for the Disabled | Kwalata Adventure Centre Dinokeng Game Reserve

A new addition to our camp family is Tshepong Centre for the Disabled situated in Refilwe in the Cullinan area north of Pretoria. 27 young people with disabilities, their educators and care givers joined us for a fun filled adventure at Kwalata Adventure Camp in Dinokeng Game Reserve. None of these learners had ever been into a game reserve, so a game drive and seeing the animals in their natural habitat for the first time was a thrilling experience. As camp was a ‘first’ for these children, the varied and fun camp programme kept them entertained and enthralled. It was so rewarding to see their faces light up with each different activity. The campers added their artistic touch to their Camp Footprints tshirts, made beaded bracelets, drummed, sang and enjoyed the evening activities around the camp fire.

At each of our Footprints camps every camper has a turn to be nominated as a “Super Camper”. This award is decided on by the crew members who care for the campers in each bungalow and the reward is for doing some good deed like helping another camper, crew or staff member and being kind and friendly. Much fun and singing accompanies the Super Camper award and the campers just love getting called up to receive their award.

We want to say thank you to Claire Salmon Hoff who is a wonderful long time friend and supporter of Camp Footprints for introducing us to the special people at Tshepong.

Camp 81

Kwasa College | Kwalata Adventure Centre Dinokeng Game Reserve

Kwasa College, another delightful addition to our Camp Footprints family, is situated in the old mining area of Springs known as Daggafontein. ‘Kwasa’ means “the light or sun after the rain” and Kwasa College, founded by the Ven. Sharron Dinnie, the now retired parish priest at St Peter and St Paul’s Anglican Church in Springs, has brought light to an impoverished area with little hope. Kwasa College is addressing the cycle of poverty and unemployment in the area by creating a comprehensive solution for the education and welfare of the children who live there.

This Kwasa camp was funded by an USA organisation called ‘Daughters International’ founded Dr Karen Jooste. Karen was born and raised in South Africa and her passion and mission for Daughters International is to “create possibility for talented young women by creating educational opportunities for them, facilitating experiences of possibility and telling their life stories, so that they can live powerful and vibrant lives and become strong leaders who build strong societies.

We dream that these young women will see themselves as leaders, will believe that they have a “voice ” and will have the courage and confidence to express that voice, share the vision and build their dreams”.

Karen heard about Kwasa College through The Chapel of the Cross Episcopalian Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina who have funded several classrooms at Kwasa College and whose global mission ‘ is to build partnerships across geographic and cultural boundaries’

As the name Daughters intimates, this was a totally ‘girls’ camp with 57 young ladies joining us at camp as well as Kwasa educators, care givers and our female camp crew. What added to the fun of this camp is that Camp Footprints has started a collection of dress up items that we can use for our concerts and there was great delight and frivolity dressing up with an array of colourful wigs, masks, tutus and party gear!

Not only are the campers and crew now vying to dress up and be a little ‘silly’ but Footprints staff, the medical team and visitors including our SeriousFun Global Partnership Program facilitators have joined in the fun of the moment. What we have also found since the introduction of colourful dress up items is that the ‘boy’ campers are the ones now jumping in and love being able to prance around and be silly.

Camp 82

CHOC Siblings | Kwalata Adventure Centre – Dinokeng Game Reserve

Our 6th CHOC Sibling Camp. This camp is one that is very dear to the hearts of Just Footprints as we  are very aware of the often neglect and abandonment of the siblings of children who have been diagnosed with cancer or blood related disorders.  Siblings are often referred to as the “silent sufferers” and the aim and objectives of our sibling camps is to let the siblings know they are not alone.

The siblings of cancer patients being treated at Chris Hani Baragwanath and Charlotte Maxeke Hospitals in Johannesburg and Steve Biko Academic and George Makari Hospitals in Pretoria joined Camp Footprints for a weekend of exploring their feelings, asking any questions they may have around their brother or sister’s illness and to have these feelings and questions validated and answered in a safe, respectful and caring space under guidance and support of the CHOC Children’s Cancer Foundation SA’s psychosocial staff. In between the serious sessions, Camp Footprints supplied the fun activities with a camp programme which included a game drive, various art activities, drumming and song and camp fireside stories.

It was absolutely amazing to see the transformation in the children. They learned that they are not alone and that they can have fun without feeling guilty about their sick brother or sister. These experiences empowered the campers and it has ‘transformed’ children who left the camp. The parents commented on the change in their children and said the siblings could not stop talking about the camp and asked when was camp happening again!

We are delighted that Dr Elewani Madzhia, the paediatric oncologist from George Makari Hospital and a colleague joined in the Saturday activities and psychosocial sessions. The campers were so responsive to our two visiting doctors and we hope to have them with us at future sibling and cancer camps.

Camp 83

St Camillus School | Kwalata Adventure Centre – Dinokeng Game Reserve

St Camillus School in Hammanskraal is another new member of our camp family who joined us at camp in June. St Camillus is one of the oldest schools in the area and on the boundary of the Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve. Although these learners attend school on the fringes of the Game Reserve and live in Hammanskraal, the area surrounding the game reserve, not one of the campers had ever been into the game reserve and never even seen an impala, giraffe, zebra, blue wildebees let alone one of the big 5 that confronted them on their early morning game drive! A couple of HUGE elephants came walking up the road and the children were besides themselves with excitement although tinged with some fear and trepidation! Also included in the camp programme is a game walk within the camp grounds. The campers are taught about preserving their environment and protecting the special game we in SA are so lucky to have and to take the lessons they have learnt and spread the word of No littering and No poaching and be the eco warriors at their schools and within their communities. Most of the educators and care givers who attended the camp with the children had also never been into the game reserve or on a game viewer, so there was also the thrill of seeing a giraffe close up for the first time but like the campers trepidation at being confronted by the ellies!! I think we may have quite a few potential conservationists from St Camillus School in the future.

Camp 84

Sizanani Outreach Programme | Twinstreams Environmental Education Centre, Umtinzini KZN

Sizanani Outreach Programme is the Nardini Sisters’ humanitarian and medical response to poverty, illness and unemployment in the Nkandla District in KwaZulu Natal.

Sizanani are our long term KZN camping friends and 60 children, staff and primary caregivers joined us in the June school holidays at Twinstreams Environmental Education Centre at Umtinzini on the pristine coastline of Zululand. Twinstreams Centre has become Camp Footprints’ ‘KZN go to’ favourite camp venue where Steve and Kim and the three amazing facilitators Radical Raymond, Kool Kevin and Nutty Ntokoza (as they are fondly described on their website) have become part of our camp crew with their incredible knowledge of the beautiful environs of this dune forest area.

Mangrove swamps, estuaries, long stretches of beach, superlative birding and forest hikes are some of the few life changing experiences awaiting the campers in this amazing piece of paradise.

As Camp Footprints is now part of the SeriousFun Children’s Network Global Partnership Programme, training with all staff, caregivers and camp crew take place before each camp and this year the SIzanani, Twinstreams and Camp Footprints crew came together before camp and had great fun with a two day workshop learning all about how Camp Footprints works and how to care and mentor the campers during the camp session.

The camp programme included, a drumming session facilitated by Bhavna’s Musical Rascals with everyone having their own drum and learning various drumming techniques, walks through the dune forest to the beach, fun beach games and cavorting in the waves. The highlight of the camp as always is the trip to the estuary where the children have the opportunity to paddle on the estuary, lunch beside the water, explore the black and white mangroves covering themselves with mangrove mud and then the final delight climbing the dunes and having great fun rolling down.

Another first for Camp Footprints was that we had the most energetic, caring and wonderful Camp Crew Member all the way from Moscow in Russia join us at our KZN camps. Jenya has been involved in camps for kids with serious illness for many years and had heard about Camp Footprints faraway in Moscow! It had always been her dream of visiting ‘Africa’ and so she came all the way to join us and share her camp experiences and expertise with us. We were thrilled when she said none of the camps she has ever attended had the camp spirit that she experienced with Camp Footprints. Rather a feather in our caps!!

Camp 85

Child Welfare Durban & District | Twinstreams Environmental Education Centre, Umtinzini KZN

At our second KZN camp at Twinstreams we hosted young people from Child Welfare Durban & District. The staff and care givers also joined us at camp and had great fun joining in all the activities. Camp exposes a unique dynamic between the children and the staff where they see each other in a totally different light and motivates the children to be more respectful to their house mother, staff and peers, also being more helpful with chores back in the home and being more diligent with their school work.

Our activities at Twinstreams always include fun and games on the beach after a walk through the dune forest as well as environmental walks through the forest learning about the delicate balance of nature and how to preserve this amazing echo system for future generations. Paddling on the estuary and exploring and learning about the white and black mangroves, searching for unique birds such as the palm nut vulture, trumpeter hornbill and nerine trogan and climbing and rolling down the sand dunes make up real exciting and fun camp times.

Another drumming session with Musical Rascals, many fireside chats, singing and dancing. Our dress up trunk came along with us to camp and great fun was had mostly by the boys who dressed up with colourful wigs, tutus, masks and party gear. A whole change of personality from when they arrived not being very participative!

Our Russian Jenya was again a major asset during the camp and the campers just loved her. She was like the Pied Piper with a string of campers following her every move.

Our thanks again to the Twinstreams team who made these camps extra special for the special children Camp Footprints serves.

Camp 86

Ikageng Itireleng Aids Ministry Soweto | Kwalata Adventure Centre – Dinokeng Game Reserve Gauteng

October  2018

Camp Footprints specifically invited children from Ikageng Itireleng Aids Ministry based in Soweto to join us for 4 nights and 5 days of fun camp adventures, game drives in the Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve and the usual water, art, dance, drumming and song activities. This camp was extra special as Camp Footprints was being accredited assessed during the camp by our USA partners, SeriousFun Childen’s Network to be become a member in their Global Partnership Program (GPP). SeriousFun Children’s Networkwas founded by the well known actor and philanthropist Paul Newman and hosts camps for children with serious illness in 30 programmes around the world helping children and their families reach beyond their illness to discover, joy, confidence and new possibilities.

As this accreditation was essential for Camp Footprints’ acceptance into the internationally renown camp family, we knew that under the amazing stewardship of a fierce advocate for children’s rights in South Africa, ‘Mum’ Carol Dyantyi, these young people from Ikageng with their enthusiasm and high energy would make us proud and step up to the plate and join in to positively contribute to our successful accreditation which they did with aplomb.

We had a very special GPP team supporting and guiding us throughout the criteria accreditation process sharing their invaluable camp knowledge and skills with our Camp Footprints team. Thank you Tim, Rebecca, Sophie, Jared, Elizabeth, Mary, Dani and  Christine! Our amazing camp crew also came up stellar with their energy and enthusiasm during the many training workshops in preparation for the criteria visit before this camp and during the camp keeping the campers entertained and upbeat. Finally to Dr Nicole Kucine and Zac Gannett who came out from the USA for the actual accreditation ‘test’. Thank you for making this final assessment process much less intimidating than we had anticipated and feared! After months of diligent preparation and many late night candle burning hours, Camp Footprints passed the SeriousFun Children’s Network and their Global Partnership Programme’s criteria assessment with full marks! The Just Footprints Team is delighted that Camp Footprints is now a fully fledged member of the SeriousFun GPP programme which is a serious feather in our caps. A score of 100% was achieved in all categories of this vigorous international camping  benchmark – showing that Camp Footprints’ camp experience and expertise in hosting fun outdoor camps with intentional learning and play for children with serious health and life challenges and disabilities is up there among the best in the camping world!

At this camp and with great excitement we also unveiled our very own camper friendly ‘Med Shack’, our dedicated camp medical unit under the supervision of Doc Ed Jooste and our super nursing Sister Mbali Buthelezi who manned the clinic to give medical support to the camp crew and staff as well as the daily visits of the campers to the clinic for their medication and have any bumps, scratches, bruises and ailments attended to. Our sincere thanks to Kwalata Adventure Camp’s Trevor Keith and Daniel Kriel of Prodehl Projects who made this Med Shack happen under immense pressure and time restraints.

Samantha Clark, associate director of quality assessment and due diligence for SeriousFun Children’s Networks said of our achievements” Everyone here at SeriousFun is proud of your hard work and commends you on your performance. Preparing for a criteria assessment, and hosting your visit is difficult work, but shows the performance of the entire team working together, to make the best possible opportunity for our campers. You have passed your criteria assessment with a score of 100% on all 5 sections: Medical, risk, programme, HR and facilities. This is not an easy feat to accomplish, and I encourage you to take some time to celebrate with your Team”.

Ikageng provides services and support to children in Soweto who have been orphaned or affected by AIDS, as well as young people living with HIV. Many of Ikageng’s children live in child-headed households, where they take on the role of parent and look after younger siblings. Others have a terminally ill parent or live with a grandparent who struggles to get by on the small pension provided by the government. Ikageng’s holistic approach connects children to food, clothing, school fees, healthcare, life skills training, transportation and psychosocial support services to help them thrive.

Our Russian Jenya was again a major asset during the camp and the campers just loved her. She was like the Pied Piper with a string of campers following her every move.

Our thanks again to the Twinstreams team who made these camps extra special for the special children Camp Footprints serves.

Pictured above is the seriously pleased and happy Camp Footprints team with their coveted certificate.

Camp 87

Forest Town Foundation School | Kwalata Adventure Centre – Dinokeng Game Reserve Gauteng

November 2018

In November 2018 Camp Footprints again hosted 2 back to back camps for our special little friends who attend Forest Town School. The first camp was for children with special needs ages 6 to 10 years. These children all so enjoy coming to camp with a variety of suitable sport and water activities like the slippy slides and loads of bubbles their favourite activity. They love the music, drumming and ‘dancing’ even in their wheelchairs and our early morning ‘wake up and shake up’ exercises set to music under the watchful eye of our dance master, Vusi, is also a special treat for them. The campers also value their ‘independence’ and can explore the campgrounds in between the programme activities in the totally enclosed safe space of Kwalata Adventure Camp but always under the watchful eye of three of our camp crew members.

Irrespective of their challenges, these young people are all quite amazing and tenaciously, enthusiastically and with abandon participate in every activity and are always an inspiration to our Camp Footprints staff and camp crew.

Forest Town Foundation School, established in 1948, is the founding organisation in South Africa in the field of education, therapy and medical/clinical treatments for children with complex disabilities. Over the decades it has served thousands of children and extended its programmes to include youth over the age of 18 years. The school additionally provides further vocationally-based education through work-based training, post-school learnerships and highly specialised medical and clinical services developed together with internationally published medical professors and doctors.

Camp 88

Forest Town Foundation School | Kwalata Adventure Centre – Dinokeng Game Reserve Gauteng

November 2018

The second Forest Town School campers were aged 7 to 10 years and despite their challenges, display great courage and participate in all the different camp activities with great enthusiasm and an eagerness which is always an inspiration to and has a profound effect on everyone at camp. They enjoyed the game drives in the open game viewer excited at seeing the various animals in the wild; painted their unique stamp on their own branded Camp Footprints t-shirts; made Camp Footprints beaded bracelets and as at every camp loved the ‘wake up shake up’ morning musical exercises with Vusi our dance expert.

Not only the children but also the teachers, social workers and care workers from the special needs schools are also an inspiration to us all at camp as they are the most kind and caring people with a love for these children that goes way beyond duty and responsibility.

Forest Town Foundation School’s aim is to bring every child with disabilities to his or her best potential, starting as young as the age of three years until they are able to graduate from their accredited post-school learnership programme at the age of 25 years. It takes more than eight people with a wide range of specialised activities to work with a child with a combination of disabilities throughout their growing years. The Forest Town School currently serves approximately 350 children and youth with complex disabilities, additionally providing them with social welfare and feeding support, transport and assistive devices for mobility and communication.