Every year, across the territory, children whose parents cannot afford to take them on a holiday are given the chance to celebrate life at Salvation Army camps for children.
Territorial children’s ministries secretary Captain Tracey Davies says the campers, selected as recommended by Salvation Army corps, social services and social centres, benefit from ‘an adult connection to their world – some campers are lacking that connection; the time they get with their parents or guardians can be limited by financial concerns.’
Tracey said the camps serve to ‘create a space where leaders can get to know the children; let them tell their stories. The camps give children another view of relationships, they let them know there are other people who want to give time to them, and also give parents who are struggling financially a chance to give their children a great, positive experience. Camps also help children see something of God.
‘Parents often give us feedback that they can see the difference in their children’s lives; they note the impact the camps have.’
The Victorian divisions held two summer holiday camps for children last month.*
Former EVD youth secretary Captain Nari McGifford told e-connect that 63 campers were cared for by 23 staff members at Ferngully Lodge in Healseville (Vic). The boys and girls, some with developmental issues, were referred by Salvation Army centres in the division.
‘Life has been tough for them, and they and their families could do with a break, she explained. ‘We wanted to give them the best possible start for the year.’
Nari added that the Ferngully experience, with which she has been engaged for six years, is a delightful opportunity for the kids. Some of the campers came from backgrounds of intergenerational poverty and/or family violence.
Divisional children’s ministries secretary Lieut Karyn Wishart oversaw a camp of 55 boys and girls, and 20 staff members, at Lady Northcote camp in Bacchus Marsh (Vic.). The children, referred by Salvation Army services, centres and corps, came from the Northern Victoria, Western Victoria and Melbourne Central divisions. ‘The children came from real “hardship homes”, Karyn explained fondly, ‘and we had to be ready for anything, as more than half of our kids had special needs. These presented particular challenges for staff, in how we responded to issues, and expanded our patience levels.’
A former primary school teacher, Karyn said the camps are an important formative experience for the campers. The children enjoyed the camp concert, giant swing, flying fox, etc., and relished the Melton Wave Pool. ‘The kids were lovely and definitely had fun; many came in not knowing anyone but they quickly found friendship and inspiration. It was great to share their faith and our lives with them; it was a positive life experience for the campers and the staff.’
Tracey thanked all staff members across the territory who had volunteered their time to work with children and teenagers, and recognised that ‘while people may think it’s a donation of a week’s holiday, the impact that the camps have on young lives and the staff is amazing’.
* Camps for children and teenagers experiencing disadvantage were also held in South Australia and Western Australia divisions.