My moments at Bridges Camp –  from Gareth: Before the taxi came, I was excited because I was going to see my friends again. When we arrived at the campsite, I felt like Bridges Camp is my home. We waited a few hours for the other taxis to come. Then they came and I saw all my friends again. I learned a lot of things at Bridges Camp. I learned respect. I learned to be friendly and I learned that I can have a lot of friends. The week at Bridges Camp was very awesome because we had fund. And I got a lot of friends. At Bridges Camp we are a family. I don’t really want to go home because I really love Bridges Camp. But we have to go home because our families miss us a lot.

After months of planning, we had a successful week at the Big Bridges Camp. 75 teenagers that had participated at previous camps and 15 new participants attended this reunion. All the teenagers that were available actually came back and this made us very happy and honoured our work. Our first camp in January 2013 took place more than 2 years ago but we still had a couple of teenagers from the first camp. However, some of our supervisors actually struggled to recognize these youngsters as it seemed that they have grown from kids into young adults. It was amazing to observe how some of the participants of our first camps have developed over time and we might have remembered some of the as “bullies” or the “naughty ones” and could now observe that they were incredibly helpful and committed to learn new things. To see how happy the teenagers were to be back, to see their friends and to realize that they still have a lot of memories of the first camps they attended, actually showed us that the time they spend with us is very meaningful to them and we are hope that we can play a positive role in their lives with our projects.

 

Thapelo’s moments

The first time I got in the taxi, I knew it was going to be awesome because I’ve been to Bridges Camps. But the last day was full of lessons because there was lots of crying and bye-byes. But it was awesome.

#BridgesCamp #BClol #LoveBC #KeepCalmAndGoToBridgesCamp

 

However, even the first days of this reunion camp were a challenge for many participants as they have to overcome their shyness, be open to find new friends and leave their usual environment as well as their comfort zone to make new experiences. With our games and activities, we try to make this start as easy as possible for them but it will always remain a challenge. But this might actually be really important as it encourages the teenagers to open up, learn how to gain trust in a new situation and teaches them a lot about similar situations in everyday life.

 

Bridges Camp #MyStory

I couldn’t wait to get here, it’s been 2 years since we have been here and I really wanted to see my old friends.

#1Day: Everyone was a little quite and we didn’t talk much. #veryjudgmentalcomments

#2Day: It was going better than day one but still al little bit uncomfortable

#Day3: It was a great day…

#Day4: It was really fun and I enjoyed it, we made a lot of new friends.

#Day5: It was a nive day and I met even more new friends.

#Day6: Last Day L

I learned so much about judgment and being confident. I really do like being here.

 

As we didn’t want to simply repeat our usual programme, we had to come up with a new structure for the camp that can accommodate all 90 teenagers and develop new activities and games. At Bridges Camp, we have a lot of faith in the potential of the young people we are working with and decided that some teenagers of our team should take responsibility for this task. We formed a core planning team that consisted of 8 supervisors in training between the ages of 13 and 16 years who all committed to put a lot of effort into the success of the big camp. In weekly meetings and during a full planning weekend at the camping site, they discussed the vision of Bridges Camp, the objectives of the big camp and which activities we need to include to reach our goals. The result of their hard work was an amazing manual full of great new activities and games. The new structure separated all teenagers in 8 small groups that all had a different colour and were led by one of the supervisor in training who was assisted by one or two facilitators.

On day one when I arrived it was a bit nice, then they put us in our groups. <3

Most of the sessions took place in these small groups and this structure helped to keep track and supervise all of the teenagers but more importantly, it created an opportunity for the teenagers to feel welcomed and be a meaningful part of a group. Apart from the topics judgement and empowerment that still formed a core objective of the camp, the teenagers who developed the manual decided to focus on issues that are relevant to young people, such as goal setting, motivation, confidence and volution – the power to make your own decision. Reflecting on their personal journey at Bridges Camp, the teenagers in the planning team realized that they know more about judgement and feel empowered to defend themselves, have bigger goals, are more confident, motivated to work hard and excel in their duties and have more hope for their future. With all the activities they designed they wanted to pass on all these valuable lessons to the other participants.

Bridges Camp is the best camp that I have ever attended in the world. The first day, I was a little bit scared but now I can see that Bridges Camp is the best. I have learned many things like judgment, volution and motivation. Those things make me feel better. I will like to attend it gain if it is possible. Kholofelo

The time I got into the taxi, I thought the camp is boring but when we arrived, I started enjoying the activities and swimming. I liked the casino night the most and the talent market. We learned about empowerment, motivation and talents. I enjoyed the whole week and wish we could stay for few more days and with the help from supervisors in training. Moshito

One special activity of the programme was the talent market – after a short discussion about talents, the teenagers had the chance to go to one of the many stations where they could try out different talents, such as baking, dancing, singing, pottery, dress making, painting or being curious by taking a walk through the camping site with open eyes to detect new things they haven’t seen before.

Hi guys, my name is Enzo and today I want to talk about Bridges Camp. We have funny moments and also a very important moment that some guys didn’t even take it serious but I want to thank my friends, I mean my family they are like brothers and sisters to me when I need something, I can always go there and ask them. My favourite part is the talent market because everyone can show what they have and give 100%. Surely you can see that there is lots of talent in South-Africa. Thank you.

     

Impressions from the Talent Market

The participants enjoyed having one supervisor in training as a group leader that they could turn to and count on. A lot of the participants mentioned in their feedback letters, that they loved their group leaders and want to thank the supervisors in training, the facilitators and the whole team of Bridges Camp.

When I heard about the camp, I was very excited and I really wanted to come. Before we got into the taxi, I didn’t want to come but when I came and when we arrived at the camp, I immediately felt welcomed. During the camp, we also ate and I personally think that the food was not enough. I had too less food. But further the camp was amazing and I loved it. I loved my supervisor “Cheza”, he is the best supervisor ever. I love Bridges Camp. From Maxime

Throughout the week, they gained more trust in their team members, opened up and share their opinions and experiences and found good friends.

My week was boring in the beginning and I didn’t want t be here. After getting to know people and making new friends it became fun. I also had a chance to do my community service. One of the most important things I learned from this conference is how to stand up for yourself and the importance of expressing yourself. I hope to come again soon 🙂 Veronic

It was also interesting to see that the teenagers saw their personal role models in our young leaders, stated that they really learned a lot from them and looked up to them. Most of the participants told us that they would love to become a facilitator and one boy even mentioned that his group leader inspired him so much that he wishes to be like him one day.

Dear Bridges Camp, I really enjoyed my week here, it was so cool. I felt happy when I heard there is a camp, I learned some exciting things here, there is a little education but it teaches me things I never expected to hear. I also like to thank Lesego (a supervisor in training and his group leader) a lot. And I know that someday, I will be like you. But today is my day, my last day to leave. I guess I will see you guys someday. I also met people I don’t know, from different races. That is the most important thing I like doing in life. To all facilitators and supervisors, I really appreciate your job, I like it. It inspires me a lot bras 🙂 Hope that next time, we will all meet and share good memories together. Khutsong

      

Pictures: The facilitators in action

Our facilitators and supervisors in training have also impressed us and we are so proud to see that they are starting to become very professional in facilitating all the games. This time, we worked with a team of 22 facilitators and supervisors in training as some could unfortunately not make it to the camp due to personal reasons.

Dear Bridges Camp, I wanna thank Bridges Camp for the wonderful week we had and what I learned I will try to improve what I have learned and thank them (supervisors and facilitators) for learning and giving a wonderful experience. Thanks for the wonderful food we ate this week and the things we learnt about motivation, judgment and volution etc. I hope that I will see all the other teenagers at the next camp at Bridges Camp. I <3 BC by Tyrique Jafta

We want  to honour their hard work and thank them for all the support, these youngsters were willing to do everything that was necessary to make the camp a success and helped us through some very challenging situations we had. On the first and the second day, we were struggling with some very naughty boys who misbehaved in such a way that we got the impression that they wanted to ruin the camp. Eventually, we decided to bring them home as they threatened some girls and put other teenagers in dangerous situations by chasing dogs, attempting to swim without. This was the first time, we excluded participants from the camp and it broke our hearts to see them going home, however, we can’t take the responsibility for their behaviour, especially not at such a big camp where so many teenagers need us. In one of these difficult moments, while most of our supervisors tried to solve these conflicts, we realized that actually all the other participants were busy playing, laughing and enjoying themselves – all thanks to the guidance and instructions of our young leaders that took over the whole camp and gave us enough time to make the right decisions and solve all conflicts. We hope that Bridges Camp has encouraged them to prosper and develop their personal potential and their willingness to put a lot of effort in their work. We also hope that it can be a platform for them to become great supervisors and the best person they want to be (a quote by one of our best young leaders, Tamelin). Whoever thinks that young people are lazy or just like to hang around in the streets without thinking about their future should come and visit our camps and see these youngsters. They will prove you wrong!

Because we had similar experiences at the previous camps, we wished to learn more about young people in South Africa, how they see themselves and their future and what they wish to achieve one day. To get a better understanding of their personal opinions, we included a session that solely focused on their role as young people and the challenges as well as the power that comes with that. We started with a dream journey that encouraged them to think about themselves with their personal luggage and their lunchbox on a hike through a mountain range, walking their individual paths. We told them to imagine that the mountains represent challenges in lives, to imagine their luggage as their past experiences and their lunchbox as everything that gives them strength, such as family or friends. With these ideas in mind, they had to picture their personal path and reflect on their future lives and their expectations. Afterwards, they had some time to narrow their thoughts down and come up with a small slogan to create a poster that represents how they feel about their future. Every poster was unique and beautiful in its own way and the end results of this art project have confirmed some meaningful insight we have gained throughout our work with teenagers from different backgrounds: The posters were as diverse as the group of participants and it is impossible to predict how a person thinks or feels merely based on their background. These young people have big dreams, concrete plans and a lot of hope for their future and are aware that they need to work hard to achieve all these things – they all wish for more than simply wasting their time. They often feel that they are not taken serious and they actually want to share their opinion and wish to be heard. We also conducted interviews with all of the teenagers and they cherished this opportunity to share their point of view and felt acknowledged and important as individuals. We believe that this session can teach us a lot about the work with teenagers in general.

Bridges Camp was really a fun place to be. I was my first time and I enjoyed it. At Bridges Camp, we have learned more what happens in life. We learned not to judge people. We learned to be respect other children while eating and talking with someone. We have done a drama and learned how to act in it and it was awesome. We gave our talent to everyone and we have showed what we have on stage. Lorenzo

But to be honest, we always put a lot of effort in the programme and the activities but what will actually stay in the memory of the teenagers the most, are the new friends they meet, the time they spent together and the fun they have during the evening activities.

Bridges camp was very fun camp. I learned so much at this camp like not to judge people. We did dialogues. Before I got on the taxi, I was scared because I don’t know anyone. I loved this camp because everyone is always friendly. I will miss Caitlin, she is so crazy. Thanks for everything, it was really fun camp. From Nicolene.

This is the best camp every, I will always come if they want me back. I like it all free time is awesome. I made friends with many but my best friend is Nicolene. She is a best friend forever. BFF Caitlin loves Nicolene. From Caitlin

Picture: Having fun during the evening activities

We hope that Bridges Camp will always be a positive space where they can experience how it feels to interact with others with less prejudices, have meaningful engagements with other teenagers, realize that they can have a lot of fun without drugs or alcohol and feel valued and important as individuals.

We want to thank everyone that made this huge reunion camp possible and gave all the supervisors a chance to spend one week with little sleep, a lot of chaos and trouble and 90 wonderful young people!

This was my second time at Bridges Camp, I was at the very first camp two years ago and I have to say, it has really improved a lot. Patrizia

 

The Big Bridges Reunion Camp

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