With our youth camps, we create a platform where young people from different backgrounds and communities can meet, overcome their own prejudices and change their perspective by learning more about societal structures and injustices. Our goal is to instil a critical consciousness in the participants with a focus on discrimination and injustice in line with an intersectional approach.
Each participant is invited to three camps over the course of 2 years. This long-term focus is essential to practice critical thinking with the teenagers, to significantly impact their outlook on life and equally to ensure the sustainability of our projects.
In their first year, the participants attend a Bridges Camp, which focuses on stereotypes, prejudices and racism, gives participants a chance to overcome prejudices through interpersonal contact and ultimately promotes unity among young people.
The second camp is the Gender Camp, which focuses on gender norms & roles, sexuality and guides participants to question how they see themselves and each other in relation to these topics. It fundamentally aims at achieving gender equality.
The participants attend the third camp separated based on the race they identify with. Black teenagers join the Empowerment Camp, which helps the teenagers to find ways how to cope with discrimination and racism and aims at enabling solidarity and unity among the teenagers.
White teenagers participate in a Critical Whiteness Camp, which encourages them to question basic assumptions about whiteness, race as a social construct and to reflect on their personal perception and behaviour in relation to societal injustices.
“I have learned that ultimately it is not so difficult to make friends between white and black teenagers.” This conclusion of a participant on the last day of one of our Bridges Camps shows how she not only found new friends at the camp, but also changed her perspective on friendships. It also reminds us how difficult it is for young people to get in touch with each other when they grow up in structures of racism and other forms of discrimination.
With our project Bridges Camp, we want tocreate a platform where young people from different backgrounds in South Africa come together and make a contribution to overcome these obstacles an injustices. For 5 days we create a new environment in which young people from different backgrounds come in contact, talk about exclusion and respect, overcome prejudices and make friends. In various activities, we show young people how our social interactions and social structures along the racial lines shape our daily lives. The camp is thus the first step for the young people to develop a critical awareness of these topics and to engage each other in reflective and open interactions.
Many participants develop desires and set new goals for the time after the camp, e.g. a group of wise and black teenagers from the same environment have decided to spend time in their everyday lives and to stay friends.
We pursue several objectives:
- Overcoming prejudices through personal contact.
- Creating an awareness of social structures and injustices.
- Encouraging young people to become active themselves and set a sign against racism.
- Promoting self-initiative and responsibility.
“I have also become more confident and have discovered how to approach others and integrate myself. The camp helped me to leave my comfort zone and I learned many interesting and funny things. The camp was a really good experience for me.” – Brett, a participant
At the camps, the young people are supervised by a team of 10 adults. We offer preparatory seminars and mentoring for the supervisors, so that the participation in this project can also be enriched for them.
“One can observe how prejudices are overcome. The camp was a very nice experience for me. It is exciting and interesting to see how children of the different social backgrounds, who have virtually no contact with one another despite the spatial proximity, meet each other and, against their expectations, get along very well.” Ole, a volunteer from Germany
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Our vision is to create a platform where young people from different backgrounds in South Africa come together, overcome their prejudices and find ways to fight racism. We pursue several objectives:
- Overcoming prejudices through personal contact: Our camps are based on psychological theories that show that contact is necessary but not sufficient to change attitudes and behaviors towards other groups. We developed a program that makes it easier for young people to meet and change their preconceived perspectives.
- Creating an awareness of social structures and injustices: We do not want to give the participants any behavior or opinions, but create a critical awareness of social structures.
- Encouraging young people to become active themselves and set a sign against racism.
- Promoting self-initiative and responsibility: In many situations, young people feel that they have are ignored or not taken seriously. In our opinion, this leads to many problems in our society. At Bridges Camp, we believe in the potential of young people and want to actively promote it.
A camp is an ideal way to create a platform for personal contact between teenagers from different social groups. First, the camp takes six days and takes place outside the everyday life of the youth. This is necessary because the young people already have deep-rooted prejudices that can not be dismantled within a single day or in their usual environment. Secondly, we can combine educational activities with leisure activities at the camp. Thirdly, the young people can also prepare themselves to return to their familiar surroundings and reflect how they can implement what they have learned.
Structure of our camps:
The camp consists of:
- Leisure activities: sports and other games, treasure hunt, bonfires and an unforgettable entertainment program in the evenings. These activities create a platform for the participants to make contact and realise how they can achieve their goals together.
- Experiential learning: educational and art therapy exercises. These exercises help young people become aware that prejudices exist and encourage them to reduce them. They also help them to develop a higher self-esteem that they need to pass on their new lessons learned and have a positive impact in their direct environment.
- Small groups and discussion groups: Through various activities and discussions in small groups, the young people learn more about different topics, such as respect, prejudices, interpersonal conflicts and self-confidence, and can form their own opinions.
- Leisure time, where the teenagers can interact and make friends.
How we work with teenagers
It is particularly important for us to give the teenagers as much responsibility as possible during the project. We want to give young people a chance to recognize their own abilities and interests. The facilitators have repeatedly told us that they often feel they are not taken seriously at school or in everyday life because of their age. Instead of being patronized, they wish to develop their own potential. And as much as they long for guidance, they also wish to be a role model for younger teenagers.
“For me my role is to help other children not being racist, seeing that everyone is equal, helping other children or teenagers to get to know each other and to make new friends and not to be shy. I like that role because first when I came to the camp I was shy and along the line, I got comfortable with everybody around me and started making new friends.” – Breyton, a facilitator
The teenagers, who have been selected to join the Growth Path and become youth leaders can take on increasingly more responsibility at the camps: on their first camp as facilitators, they can explain different games to the participants and are responsible for carrying out the treasure hunt and a colorful evening. At the following camp, they lead small groups and discussion sessions. After several camps, they can also offer activities for larger groups and invent their own program points.
“Right now, I’m a Supervisor in Training at Bridging Gaps. I think it’s kind of like of being a facilitator, but with more responsibility and more activities you are responsible for. So it goes deeper. I’m enjoying it so far. I really want to stay active, they have taught me so much to grow, so I would like helping others to grow as I did. Yes, possibly I’m going to be a supervisor in 5 years time.” – Kelly, a ‘Supervisor in training’
“I feel that my role is an important role in the camp, so that means that I have to try being a good leader in order to help others with good understanding and make them aware of things that are happening in their own country. Further, it comes with great responsibilities and it is also enjoyable. What’s more, I am having fun with teaching other people and being at the camp and it’s also a great experience.” – Lyza, a ‘Supervisor in Training’
“Before I became a facilitator at Bridges Camp, I’ve only gone through all of my duties. But now I try to complete everything as good as possible. I try very hard, because I want to excel in everything. I have participated in several camps and am now a ‘supervisor in training’. Together with the others, I developed a manual of interesting activities and games for an upcoming camp. I can now stand before a group and speak confidently. I wish I could take more responsibility for the camp.” Reezan, ‘Supervisor in Training’
In this three-day program, participants will learn more about the importance, existing injustices and ongoing discrimination in terms of gender and sexuality. The teenagers are always very interested in these topics and are willing to question and change their own views and habits.
The program consists of many impressive workshops and activities, for example:
- In an exercise, the young people create collages that represent the stereotypical ideas of men and women and discuss how they are influenced and in part narrowed in their identity.
- Through a role-play, the young people learn more about sexuality and how they can set personal limits and are to avoid risky situations.
- One day, the participants dress and wear pieces of clothing that are typical of the opposite sex. Based on this, they talk about the question of why there are sex-typical clothes, what messages we send to children and why it is much more uncomfortable for a boy to wear girls’ clothes than the other way round.