In the first week of May, Cabrini Ministries had its inaugural Live Your Best Life camp of 2013. Held between school terms, these tri-annual camps bring in teenagers from our hostel and the surrounding community to participate in education and recreation activities. Since beginning in 2010, the camps have become a regular part of Cabrini Ministries’ childcare program. 2013’s Live Your Best Life camp followed the trend of increasingly enjoyable and engaging camps. Over the course of a week, the teens created a series of murals based around the Live Your Best Life theme, participated in an amateur debate, and defeated a team of Cabrini Ministries’ staff in a friendly soccer match!
Camp began on Monday, May 6th with an opening ceremony presided over by Father Theodomir. Father read a passage from Matthew and gave a blessing for the 90 or so teens present. By the next morning that number would be 105, far exceeding our expectations. The staff was excited to see such a great turn out. The new faces among those who attended previous camps gave us a sense that our work building relationships with and between teens in our community has been working. After Fr. Theodomir finished his blessing, Menzi Simelane and Mrs. Tfobhi Mamba welcomed the campers to Cabrini Ministries. They described the expectations of Cabrini Ministries and St. Philips Mission, with Mr. Simelane suggesting to those who had never visited a Catholic mission before that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” with a smile and laugh. That first evening, the children were broken into groups and given time to introduce themselves to one another and to elect two leaders for each group.
The second day began with the first of a series of “Morning Motivators” prepared by Mr. Simelane. Each morning, Menzi would gather all of the teens together and read a poem to set the theme for the day. Before and after the poem, he would play the day’s theme song. Over the course of the week, the songs included “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Lean On Me,” and “I Am The Winner in Christ My Lord” by Tsepiso Motaung. The educational group sessions began after the opening of the second day.
The first round of activities included working on discovering the “Real Me”, taking stands on issues important to teens in the St. Philips community, and learning to identify and manage emotions. After the sessions, the campers had time to enjoy lunch and then head for soccer or volleyball to help release some energy after the morning sessions. After returning from sports, the campers began on a mural project put together by Ben and Beth Kickert. Over the course of the week, each group of campers would paint one portion of the overall mural. When finished and put together, the mural read “Live Your Best Life” and depicted images selected by the campers about the theme of the camp.
Over the next two days the campers continued working on their murals, took part in more educational sessions, and got the chance to take part in recreational activities, such as making earrings, working with art supplies, learning a hip-hop line dance called the “Cha-Cha Slide”, and learning to make cookies without an oven. The campers and staff also got to try some new foods – chicken curry and pasta with ragu – which they considered to be one of the best parts of the camp. Kitchen staff members Lucia and Priscilla did an excellent job prepping and cooking for so many campers! Thursday night, the campers participated in a debate on the use of corporal punishment in schools. In between arguments and rebuttals, members of the audience read poems they had prepared on how to “Live Your Best Life”
The last day of camp, campers participated in a motivational activity based around soccer led by former local and international player, John “Shisa” Mdluli. After finishing up his activity, he coached the camper team in a friendly soccer match against Cabrini Ministries’ staff. The staff team was made up primarily of nurses, maintenance staff, and drivers while the camper team was a mix of Cabrini Ministries’ soccer team and members of rival local teams participating in the camp. It was a great show of sportsmanship and maturity for the campers to compete on the same side. The game was close throughout and although most spectators expected the staff to be quickly defeated by the campers, the staff put in a concerted effort and managed to bring the game to extra time. But a goal by camper Morris within the first few minutes of extra time handed the campers a 1-0 win over the staff.
On the final night there was a series of performances by the teens, though it got off to a late start. The night blew in windy and rainy, taking the electricity along with it. The campers were sent back to the hostels where they could be more easily chaperoned for the evening. However, because it was the last night of camp and the campers had been preparing all week, Ben suggested bringing up lamps, extension cords, and a generator to power the performance hall. He drove everything up in a van, from which we ran the generator! After finally restoring, the campers were gathered to return to the hall and start their performances. The mood was excited, with the campers thrilled to not have to spend their last night of camp in bed. The performances included singing and dancing, poetry reading, a few short comedy skits, and hip-hop by the brothers Mxolisi and Sipho from Cabrini Ministries’ hostel. Even with all the activity, by the end of the night many in the room were struggling to keep awake, exhausted from a full week of activity.
The camp officially ended on Saturday with a Mass said by Father Gaston. In his Homily, he spoke of the mural that the campers had created. He encouraged them to embrace their uniqueness, to use the different gifts that God has given to each of them, and to never stop striving to be great examples of God’s creation to the world. After mass, the campers returned to the hostel for transport home.
The first camp of 2013 was a great success. Those who attended and worked at the camp left with feeling positive about their experience. The teens were able to enjoy themselves as teens and at least for a week release the burden of being from a disadvantaged background. The staff put their knowledge, experience, and creativity to use, showing their capacity and their compassion when working with the campers. We look forward to seeing them again for our next Live Your Best Life Camp!
“… Whatever situation you come across
Speak to someone you trust.
Before more damage happens in your life,
Think how important you are in your community
And in God’s presence…”
Aretha, Cabrini Hostel, Form 4
“Cabrini! Cabrini! Whom shall I call you? Mother? Father? My everything?
I just don’t have enough and quality words to show my praises and gratitude to you.
We thank you for your care,
We thank you for bringing back life to us,
We find ourselves living like all other children,
A normal life,
We are at school,
When children are sent home for school fees we are not affected,
Even though we have no blood relative to care for us.
We may have lost our parents,
Or have parents who are unable to care for us,
But you have come and closed the void in us.
Really, what good words can we give you our Cabrini?”
Mxolisi, St. Philips High, Form 2