You can make a difference in the heart of a child
Each child who comes to camp has a story, some more noticeable than others. Some of the children are either withdrawn or 'in your face', compliant or aggressive, or merely hungry for love and attention. Some are suspicious, demanding, sceptical, rebellious, sexually awakened, disillusioned, and scared to show how much they long for acceptance.
They feel guilt for crimes they have not committed or were forced to be a part of, shame for the secrets that have been revealed, responsible for family break-ups and bewilderment at the shattering of their world. Almost all of these children long for the parents that they have been taken from, regardless of what the parent may have done, he is still Dad, she is still Mum. Many of these children find at Southern Cross Kids' Camp, a haven - an opportunity to succeed.
Most of all, they find acceptance without any strings, love without any reciprocal gratification expected, and an atmosphere of family.
James, aged eleven, just sat and stared at his box. We had no fancy paper - this was our first camp and dollars had been tight. While the contents of each box were fine, the boxes were shoeboxes wrapped in white paper and tied with a plain ribbon. The name of each child was written in a felt pen across the box. Slowly James started to unpeel the sticky tape at one end of the box. He workded laboriously while around him others ripped the paper right off, threw off lids and swooped on the contents. James' buddy leaned over and told him it was Ok to tear the paper. At that James shook his head, 'No, I don't want to tear it. I want to keep it. This is the first time I ever had anything given to me with my name on it." He worked at the tape, unwrapped the box and carfully smoothed out the paper, folding it carefully before turning to open his gift. He loved everything in his box, and it went home with him at the end of the camp, with the paper inside and with his name on the top. Its often the little things that mean the most to the kids.
In 2007, James returned as the first ex-camper to become a leader. When asked what SCKC had meant to him, he reponded, "SCKC changed my life".
She sat hunched up, head on her knees under a large tree in the centre of the campground, clenching her fists and trying not to cry. I waited until I felt it was OK to speak and told her how glad we were that she was here, at camp. One of the younger campers, Toni came from a background of neglect and domestic violence and at times the suppressed anger would just boil over. As I talked quietly, comforting and trying to build her battered sense of worth she exploded once more "I am NOT a special kid and even my name means BAD." She had been sceptical at her name poster over her bed as she entered her cabin on the first day of camp. Her buddy had written the meaning of her name below, telling her how special she was and that she was God's creation. Now it all came out. "My name means BAD!" "Toni, who told you that?" I asked. She replied "My mother - she always tells me that. She says I am BAD and I'll NEVER be any good." At this she dissolved into tears while I sat in silence.
Seven years old, unloved, unwanted and already experiencing hopelessness. Over the next several days Toni's buddy steadfastly showed unconditional love to her young camper. The results were not dramatic, but they were there. Toni softened, began to join in more with the camp program, singing the songs and taking part in the activities. She returned the following year, eagerly jumping off the bus and asking "Who will be my buddy?" This year the anger was not evident and she was heard to say to another camper "This is the place where people love you."
The government legislates that the basic rights of children are food, shelter, clothing, education and protection. Every child will tell you the greatest thing they need is LOVE. Unconditional love, accepting love, persevering love. This is the kind of love that is felt at every Southern Cross Kids' Camp.
Alison had a great week at camp. She had enjoyed the outdoor activities, especially the beach where she could splash and swim each afternoon. Although reserved, she had responded to her buddy during the many activities and had let down her guard on several occasions, revealing just how lonely she felt at times in her foster home. She had good foster parents, and the fact that her older sister was with her had been a bonus, but she often wondered about her own parents. Where were they? Were they still alive? She had been in foster care for several years and her early childhood was a blur.
As the children climbed on board the bus for the journey back at the end of camp, her buddy handed Alison her photo album. The response was immediate. As Alison looked at the front cover, she saw a smiling photo of herself at camp. In wonderment she turned the pages,"It's me, me with my buddy and me at the beach. Oh look - there's me on the flying fox!" She turned shining eyes on her buddy "These are the first photos of me that I have! My sister has one of her, but there's nothing of me. Now I have a whole book! Thank you!" The ride home that day was not the down-time it could have been at the end of a fun filled camp. Instead children poured over their photos, again and again and yet again. Happy memories that would last them all year and perhaps a life-time.
"I was just wondering if BlueSea could sign my camp hat?" was the nonchalant question from 11 yr. old Mike. BlueSea was the camp starfish puppet mascot I worked with, and who appeared each morning during the Southern Cross Kids' Camp in Melbourne, Australia. BlueSea would commend campers who had been observed showing kindness and concern for other campers. Mike had arrived at camp as an adult in child's clothing. He was very protective of his younger sister, and expressed amazement that he got to eat more than one meal each day. His mother frequented the bars and regular meals were unheard of. His language and behaviours were openly sexual and it was obvious that he had been thrust into an adult world at a young age.
Now he had attended his first Southern Cross Kids' Camp - a camp where he experienced the unconditional love and acceptance of his buddy and the camp staff. Well, BlueSea did sign that hat (I took it behind the puppet theatre and had a conversation with myself!) It worked - I emerged with the hat duly signed and Mike headed off happily down to the activity area, proudly proclaiming to his friends that BlueSea had actually written on his hat! That started an avalanche of kids all wanting the same. These kids were desperate to become kids again, and SCKC gave them that opportunity.
If you are a parent reading this, stop and pray for your own kids and thank God for the innocence that is theirs and then pray for the kids at SCKC in Australia (and at Royal Family Kids' Camps across the US) that they would remember the love and acceptance that they experienced at camp and know that there are people who care.
"What camp?" answered the woman on the phone when a registration person called to ask if her girls were coming to camp. "Southern Cross Kids' Camp - it starts today and the girls aren't here." The woman grunted "I forgot - thought it was next week. They can miss it this time." Knowing what an experience the children would miss, the worker offered to come and pick up the children and the parent agreed. When the SCKC car pulled up outside the house, it was evident that this was a needy family. And when 9 year old Tara shyly got into the car saying that she was the only one coming, one look at her confirmed the need. Her face was hidden beneath a tangled, matted and obviously lice-infected mop of long blonde hair topped by a battered hat. She spoke very little on the journey to camp and would not make eye-contact. She was very aware of her unkempt appearance and embarrassed by it.
On arrival at camp, Tara was taken to Nurse Tracie's cabin to meet her buddy, Joanne. This was Joanne's first camp too and she was nervous at meeting her camper. When she saw the state Tara was in, she immediately forgot her nervousness and together she, Tracie and the Assistant Director Colleen, started to try to treat the hair. For Tara it was a long afternoon as they worked on her tangled mass. After a phone call to her mother for permission, Tara let them cut her hair, making the washing and combing much easier. The head-lice were clearly visible from a metre or so away, and parts of her scalp were open sores. At times there were tears - the shampoo stung or the comb tangled, but slowly progress was made. As she combed, Joanne talked quietly, telling Tara of all the fun that would be happening in the week ahead. When Tara emerged for the evening meal, no-one recognised her. Her hair, bobbed to her shoulders, shone clean and smelled of shampoo and conditioner. By the next day she walked with her head up, making eye-contact and gradually entering into the fun of camp. When her mother met the bus at the end of camp her response what "Oh look - you've given me my beautiful daughter back!" Our hopes were that she would look after her children better - but we were not too convinced that anything would change. But for Tara there was a new assurance, a new confidence - she was beautiful!
Note: The following year both Tara and her older sister Lisa came to camp. Tara's hair was infected, but only mildly (as were most of our campers). Her sister was heard to remark "I wish I'd come last year - Tara hasn't stopped talking about it all year."
Mark and his younger sister Lisa came together for their first camp. As they filed into the dining room for lunch after their arrival at camp, they were amazed at the food that went onto their plates. "Wow this is good!" said Mark as he started to eat. When the call for "seconds" was made, he was in the line, plate held out. "Thanks" he told the cooks and settled down to finish the lot. The rest of that first afternoon was spent with many activities - archery, the flying fox, arts and crafts, making bug boxes and much more.
And then the bell for the evening meal rang. Mark stopped and stared as he watched buddies and campers head for the dining room. He looked disbelievingly at his buddy as he asked "You mean we get to eat AGAIN? How many meals DO we get in a day?" He later explained to his buddy that his mother wasn't around much and when she did come home she usually was "sick" and couldn't cook. "I look after Lisa" he told his buddy proudly. "I can get us soup - I know how to open the can and add the water and heat it up." He said that they usually only ate once a day and that the meals at the camp were the best he had ever seen!
Although the policy in SCKC is not to promote any contact between campers and the adult buddies and staff after camp, at times we do run across our campers during the year. This happened to Peter, the director at the time, of the Yarra Ranges Camp. The local primary school had approached him to be a Chaplain at the school, which entailed visiting there each week and being available for any children who wanted to talk to good listener.
He was delighted when on one of his visits he spotted a boy from camp running across the playground. "Hi Alan - how's things?" he called. Alan stopped to chat and then blurted out "Only 94 more sleeps to camp Pete!" Returning to his office later that day, Peter stopped by the calendar on the wall and started to count. "He was right!" he told me. "There really were only 94 sleeps until camp." 94 sleeps.. it was obvious that this little lad had been counting down from the day he got back from his first camp. 94 more sleeps until a return to childhood.
SCKC has partnered with All Sorts Opportunity Shop in Boronia. We just love being apart of such a great team. If you have any items that can be sold and you no longer need, All Sorts would be happy to take them off hands. All proceeds go to the ongoing work of Southern Cross Kids' Camps. Read more...
On Saturday the 14th February 2015, our Founding Director, Carolyn Boyd departed this life to be with the Lord. Words fail to express our feelings of loss and grief, as Carolyn was a true servant and ongoing volunteer. She was not only our Founding Director, she was a Writer, a Leader, a Teacher, and she was also our friend. Read more...
The City of Dandenong recently held a presentation evening where 4 SCKC representatives attended. At the event, SCKC received a Certificate of Recognition presented by the Mayor of Dandenong, Cr Heang Tak. The Endeavour Camp was supported by the City of Dandenong by receiving a community support grant in 2015. Read more...
At Southern Cross Kids' Camps we believe that the greatest calling on earth is to take part in the challenge of raising a generation of children who have a hope in the future. Read more...
Our annual camps offer specialised programs for children who have experienced abuse. Each child participates in enjoyable activities ranging from sports, obstacle courses, group games, craftwork and we aim to bring some joy and laughter back into the lives of these children.Camp Dates