Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, assisting camper??Amara Drakes??during this year’s summer camp programme.??(C. Pitt/BGIS)??

As business people prepare their budgets for next year, Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, is encouraging them to come on board as a corporate supporter of Government’s National Summer Camp (NSC) Programme in 2013.

Mr. Lashley disclosed that this year’s programme had received some assistance from the private sector. "Pine Hill Dairy has been a trailblazer in terms of the kind of corporate sponsorship we would like to encourage. I want to thank the company for assisting and I remain confident that it will continue to support the programme. This is also an avenue where the cost to Government may be minimised.

"Sponsors can join with the Pine Hill Dairy to support the National Summer Camp programme because it is supporting the national development goals, thus ensuring our young people have the kind of systems that can help them mature in a way that can be of benefit to Barbados," he stated.

The Minister added that he would also like to see a greater number of mature people volunteer to work with the children and camp assistants, and urged interested persons to contact the Division of Family and Youth, which is located at Mall Internationale.

Underscoring the importance of the programme, he said it gave the counsellors an opportunity to work with campers to develop various skills and improve personality traits. "We recognise that within the camp programme we would not be able to solve all of the problems in the six weeks…The review reports which are prepared at the conclusion of each camp always highlight some areas where we need to improve. We have to work on these areas, conscious of the fact that persons in the camp programme come from the wider society," he added.

The Minister noted that training programmes could be created to deal with these issues, so they could be nipped in the bud. "I think rather than focus on some of the issues that people may perceive as negative, that we should see them as opportunities for intervention and the camp programme helps us to identify these issues," he suggested.

Mr. Lashley described the NSC programme as revolutionary and said it had been embraced by the nation’s parents, who have showered praise on it. "I know some parents have said to me that they would like to make contributions to the management of the camp, both financially and otherwise, and I think this is something we will look at very seriously. Many parents are saying we are feeling a little guilty because we are not paying a cent for this programme, which is meaningful and successful. And, we are looking at ways in which we can incorporate their suggestions and ideas…," he said.

Over 12,000 children participated in this year’s summer camp, and in addition to the general subjects such as art and craft which were offered, some campers were exposed to specialised areas, namely technology, entrepreneurship, the performing arts and sports. There were also camps for persons with disabilities.

And, according to the Minister, that specialisation had helped significantly to expose those young people to areas that they might not have ordinarily been interested in. "Many of our camps focus on science and technology and creativity, helping our young people to come face to face with their artistic capacity. And, there has been tremendous success in the areas of art and craft and dramatic presentations," he observed.

The National Summer Camp Programme was revamped in 2008, to ensure that children were in a supervised environment during the period. Mr. Lashley explained: "During the long summer holiday in particular, our parents and guardians are challenged to ensure their children are safe, and the camp programme fills that void. It is a tool for major national development of our children, and, therefore, much attention has been paid to the programme’s content. We see it as an opportunity to reinforce teaching, but in a less formal environment.

"In addition, our children are well-nourished because we pay a lot of attention to the preparation of meals. Both the Ministry of Health and the National Nutrition Centre work very closely with us to ensure that the meals are of the best quality."

He pointed out that since the introduction of the programme, the leadership skills of the directors and camp assistants had improved and he attributed this to the training received. He also expressed the view that persons who worked with the camp programme could go into the world of work or other organisations with a very good background in leadership and management, among other things.

Mr. Lashley disclosed that the summer camp programme would evolve based on the policy direction enshrined in the National Youth Policy, where young people are being encouraged along innovative and creativity lines.

So, four years later, the National Summer Camp Programme continues to meet some of its goals, and is on the right path towards achieving others.


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