A Safe Haven: Camps for Children and Youth

At Hands at Work, we serve the most vulnerable children who live in the poorest communities. Our vision is to see the local church in Africa united with the international church around the world, effectively caring for these children and their families. From the local church, volunteer Care Workers have committed to visiting the many orphaned and vulnerable children in their homes, knowing their names and walking with them in a journey towards healing from the suffering they have faced whilst growing up amidst poverty, trauma and disease. From the international church, volunteers, churches and other groups partner with Hands at Work in support of our Care Workers. They give their time, they pray and they sacrifice their own resources to bring hope to the hopeless. One way the international church unites with the local church in bringing life to our children is through week-long camps. Church teams come from across the world to be on the ground in Africa and build relationships with our children and Care Workers. Camps are one of the many ways we aim to bring hope and change to each child and young person through relationship with Jesus.

A camp is a safe haven for children, allowing many who face daily responsibility for themselves and their families to just be kids: it allows their childhood to be reclaimed. The celebration of childhood is offered through fun activities, sports, crafts, and devotions focussed on a God who loves, cares and heals. Hands at Work believes that as Jesus came to visit us on earth, we are called to visit others. This love is manifested when our Care Workers visit the children in their homes. It is also evident when teams and visitors come to visit the communities. When they leave their homes and their comfort, and come to Africa to be with others, they are saying that they want to be united with the most vulnerable. Camps provide the opportunity for children to leave their own environment for a short time, and experience a place of love, safety and fun where many Hands at Work international volunteers, teams, and African leaders live and work together in a Christian community. When children are brought to camp and can eat, play and learn in this safe and nurturing environment, they see a picture of healthy family life and opportunities for healing become possible.

Our Care Workers desire to build parental relationships with the children they care for, yet they too are among the poorest of the poor in their communities. Care Workers attend camps with their children, learning a new level of motherly and fatherly love, care, creativity and passion from our visiting teams. Currently, week long camps are held at Kachele farm in Zambia, and day camps are held in South African communities. Camps for youth have recently begun, facilitated by Hands at Work leaders. We desire to go deeper in our care for our communities, and we believe transformation lies within this next generation. Youth camps will focus on bringing healing to young people who have suffered abuse and trauma. As they are encouraged to tell their stories, we will teach about the Jesus who heals, and the power in building relationships among each other. Our vision is to encourage the youth to come together, committed to caring for one another, and hopeful in the change they can bring together to their community.

Hands at Work believes that when the international and local church come together to serve God’s Kingdom, transformation occurs on both sides. After a week of camp, the children, Care Workers, and international team members speak of the life-changing experience they have had. Here are just some of their testimonies:

“When we first met them [the children] at the camp, their eyes were sad and fearful, and yet there was a glimmer of hope in them too. As we shared the week together, we saw their beautiful hearts, often riddled with pain - and our hearts were intertwined with the love of Jesus.” – Shane, Team Leader, Australia

“Having one-on-one moments with the kids was a highlight - colouring or sharing food. Where I knew we were both thinking: I see you and you see me.” – Allie, Team Member, Canada

“We spent our lives with the kids and Care Workers this week. We taught them about David, Noah and Daniel – love, trust, and courage in God. We pray they will hold onto it all.” – Jane, Team Member, UK

Ruth, Dorothy and Jenepher

Ruth, Dorothy and Jenepher

“We loved playing, having lessons, learning about God’s light, and having good food.” – Jenepher, 14 and Ruth 12, sisters from Kalende community. “They learned about mercy, obedience, and how there is God’s light all the time” – Dorothy, their Care Worker

“We saw God at work as the children learnt the good news of Jesus and felt comfortable, sharing their burdens in smaller groups… our own team dug deep and allowed themselves to be vulnerable for the children’s sake.” – Rachel, Team Leader, Australia

“I stepped up spiritually to a level I haven’t before. I should also be able to be that way at home… we can’t go home and do nothing.” –Randy, Team Member, Canada

“One girl who came to camp last year has been dreaming about coming back. She asks for all of the team members by name. Our kids do not forget this – one week changes them.” – Pastor Boyd, Coordinator, Amlew Community Based Organisation