Stories from Youth Camp - The Tote Bag.
Upon arrival at the campsite, the youth were shown to their cabins where a surprise awaited them inside. Inside, each camper found a tote bag with their name on it. The tote bags held a “youth camp starter kit” including; a tribal t-shirt, a water bottle, notebook, a carefully chosen bible and a welcome message with a QR code taking them to a personalised video. Throughout the entirety of camp we were amazed at the impact these items had on the youth and we would love to share some of these stories from youth camp with you.
The Warmest Welcome
Seeing Zoe’s face split into a huge smile of childlike whimsy has to be one of my camp highlights. Zoe is quite guarded and it always takes her some time to relax when she’s in a new environment. But when she scanned the QR code and found a video of her mum, wishing her the best time at camp, her guard relaxed and she let her joy bubble to the surface. It was an amazing way to start the week at camp.
Blue Team is the Best!...
Emma has been part of youth group for 2 years and she has always been very quiet and has never said much. But when Emma put on her blue camp t-shirt, she became a part of a tribe. She opened up into the competitive spirit and began bantering and conversing with other campers. Banter turned into friendship and connection for her and she barely stopped talking for the rest of camp!
Missing in Action (Bible)...
“Where’s Timmy” I asked as we were about to start our evening activity. The room was buzzing with energy and expectation as only a room full of young people can. “He’s reading his bible” someone replied.
What?!?! I was stunned. Timmy is a young boy who has all the energy in the world. Normally he can’t sit still for 2 minutes, let along stop long enough to read. I went to look for myself and there he was, lying down on the carpet, reading with the page turning intensity that comes from a book you can’t put down. For Timmy who has poor literacy, we had bought a comic book style action bible which he had fallen in love with. Timmy had been exploring the idea of God for a long time, and now he had a way that discovery was accessible for him for the first time. He was hooked.
Reflect & Remember...
Throughout camp, Sarah learnt the value of writing down her thoughts, feelings and prayers. Sarah excitedly told me that she now uses her camp journal twice a day, morning and evening! Sarah also used it to reflect on camp and write down all the parts she wants to remember forever.
Where there's a Youth, there's a Water Bottle...
Everywhere we went, I saw water bottles. As they lay momentarily abandoned on the ground they became a sign of young people engaging in fun together. There they were at the bonfire, axe throwing, mud run, silent disco and at the beach. Everywhere the youth went, so did a water bottle. It was so encouraging to see so many young people let loose together and the smiles this brought to their faces. For us, having fun is more than a time filler. It’s a core part of our strategy.
We hope that you are just as excited about these stories from youth camp as we are! It was so important to us that from the first moment the youth arrived at camp they felt welcomed and felt like we were excited that they were there. One of our youth got Covid the week before camp and unfortunately couldn’t come. One of our team dropped off her tote-bag and even though she couldn’t join us on camp she still felt like she was a part of it.
The bags took a lot of time and a lot of attention to detail and we are so thrilled with the impact it achieved. We are so grateful to all the parents and friends who sent in videos of encouragement and to everyone who donated and made this idea possible. So many special moments were created and we’re already hearing more and more amazing stories from youth camp.
If we are to continue to make an impact on the crises of youth mental health, we need more young people to discover what this teen found. The necessity of belonging to a caring, small group community, where you are known. Only then will we see the tide of statistics that represent the pain of young people start to turn.