Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections on Camping in Africa

I've never been a huge fan of setting New Year's Resolutions.  In fact, I tend to have more of a reflecting personality around this time of year.

This entry is a reflection on a point in my past.

In March of 2008, I was attending a Camp Conference in Atlantic City. I sat in  a seminar on a Camping professional who was/is making a difference in the lives of at-risk children in South Africa via Camping.  Through Camping, he created a program that educated children from Soweto (a 'suburb' of Johannesburg in South Africa) about life skills, AIDS awareness/prevention as well as giving them an opportunity to experience a Camp.  He had tremendous success and runs several 2-3 week camp programs when schools are not in session.  Employing domestic staff from South Africa as staff and inviting International Volunteers from all over the world to compliment this program.

I left this seminar blown away by the difference this one man has made.  He simply saw a problem and did something about it.  His program, Global Camps Africa, has given 1000's of at-risk children at experiencing camp and providing them with valuable life skills that, in many cases, saved their lives.

Shortly after the conference, a colleague and I began to research what it would take to volunteer.  After careful research, a fundraising campaign to make a donation to the program and the crafty negotiating to take 1 month off from our jobs, we boarded the plane and set out on our journey of impacting lives through Camping in South Africa.  It never occurred to me of the impact that it would play on my own experiences.

At this point in my life, I had been a Camp Director for a very large (and super awesome) sleep-away camp for several years and had facilitated the arrival and orientations of hundreds of international camp counselors arriving in America to experience Camp.  Up to this point, I had never experienced life in the role reversal.  It was fascinating to be dropped into a completely unfamiliar environment, amidst staff who spoke many languages (most staff spoke 12-20 different variations of Zulu in addition to English!), a different culture, and a new camp.  It was amazingly awesome, yet frightening to be in such a new environment.  I believe it is a very similar feeling to the thousands of internationals who travel to America to work at camps each summer.

This particular session of camp was for girls, and during my stay, I helped assist in teaching AIDS Awareness and Life Skills to these campers, which ranged in age from 8-18 years old.  Many of the campers came from impoverished areas.  The information we were sharing was eye opening for them.  Here is a photo of a neighborhood that many of the children resided in when they weren't at camp:
This particular neighborhood had 1 Faucet of running water for 10,000 people.  I'll say that again....1 faucet for 10,000 people.  How many faucets do you have in your own home?  It was clear to me that through this camp, we were giving them the tools to help save their lives!

In just a few short weeks, my life was transformed and was proud to have helped make a difference in the lives of children who needed camp very badly.  I'm proud to be associated with this awesome program and recommend the experience to anyone.

In addition, I feel strongly that this experience has helped shape my own life as I lead my own company down the path of impacting lives of people through camping.

Here is a video of me whooping up the crowd of kids and staff at camp with a song.  Enjoy.  While you read this excerpt, watch this video, or run your hands over the water in the many faucets in your home, ask yourself, how will you make an impact in this world?


  1. That's pretty amazing! After seeing that video I don't think I will ever see you the same way sitting quietly in your office with your tie on. :-)

  2. Simply wonderful. I'm right there with you, Jeff. So to speak. :D

  3. Thanks for those grounding words. It is so important to come back to that experience. Sizanani changes SA and here. Kat

  4. Great video, Jeff. I haven't heard that song in so long! :) So thankful for the FV love that you brought to the kids at this camp:)