Tapping into the creative talent of young people while providing a secure environment was the driving force for this year???s national summer camps.

This was disclosed by Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, following a tour to four locations yesterday.

Accompanied by other Government officials, Mr. Lashley and the touring party, made their first visit at the Ann Hill School???s Camp Reach, which caters to persons with disabilities. This was followed by visits to Vauxhall Primary???s Camp Bluebell in Christ Church, St. Mark???s Fun Fit and Healthy camp in St. Philip and the camp at St. Jude???s Primary in St. George.

Noting that he was impressed with the camps, whose activities were in keeping with the goals outlined in the National Youth Policy, Mr. Lashley said that he welcomed the opportunity to interact with the directors, assistants and participants. He added that the camps afforded children the opportunity to become involved in various activities, including dance, theatre, and more specialised areas, such as science and technology and entrepreneurship.

Observing that fostering skills in such areas could only redound to the benefit of Barbados??? economic and social future, Mr. Lashley pointed out: ???This is a very central and critical programme of the Government of Barbados???We???ll be ensuring and certainly pushing to engage more with the private sector, because there is a huge cost attached to the National Summer Camps programme???

???But, it is an investment that I believe is critical for our young people… You can look at the investment that goes into the National Summer Camps programme; but look at what would probably obtain if you did not have that investment. What would our young kids do during the summer? We may end up spending more dealing with the potential damage that is caused,??? he said, adding that the camps also prepared young people to return to school.

Lauding the contribution of sponsors who had helped to make the camps a reality, Mr. Lashley noted that ???there has been a good response to my call last year for more private sector companies to come on board.

???As we speak, there is a programme which is run here at [St. Judes] camp which focuses on the development of interest in draughts, and that is sponsored by Pine Hill Dairy. There are other entities, such as the Nation [Newspaper], that have come on board???this year to focus on areas that fall in line with our National Development Goals, within our National Youth Policy,??? he said, acknowledging that these contributions had allowed the summer camps programme to cater to some 12, 000 children in more than 60 camps.

Although the programme has experienced some challenges, including operating with a reduced budget and ensuring counsellors were paid on time, the Youth Minister stressed that efforts continued to improve its efficiency, an endeavour which was aided by both Ministry staff and contributions from the private sector.

???It is really myopic to imagine that a government, in rather trying economic times, can continue to increase spend on a number of social programmes without looking at the implications. We welcome not only the involvement of the private sector???but volunteers???who give of their time and effort, and sometimes their money, to help with ensuring that this programme can continue at a level and a quality that we would want,??? he said.


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