“We want to speak life into them” The importance of Camp for Kids for the children of inmates
As a former Director of Camp for Kids, Rachel Mason understands the importance of providing an outlet and a safe space for children of prisoners each year. “If we can give the kids at least one positive week in their year, then you’re impacting them for a number of years which could turn into a lifetime of change.”
How long have you been involved at Camp for Kids?
“I lead for 11 years, and directed the camp for 3 years.”
What does Camp for Kids look like?
“It’s a week-long camp in the school holidays. We do basic camp activities – canoeing, flying fox, stuff like that. We have sessions where a camp speaker will share stories of hope and positive choices, and about Jesus. We also do lots of activities in small groups. So a whole range of different things.”
Why do you think Camp for Kids is so important?
“I think camp really provides these kids with an understanding that they’re not alone. We don’t specifically say, ‘All of you kids are here because you have a loved one in prison,’ but they slowly discover it for themselves and then realise that they’re not the only ones in that situation. Even though they’ve had their difficult experiences they’ve got people around them who want to give them positive experiences and want to speak life into them and show them the good things about them.
“I think more often than not the kids feel pretty negatively about themselves, asking things like, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ Camp gives them something to look forward to. So no matter how bad things are, at least they know that they have that one week to look forward to. There are a lot of kids who don’t want to go home at the end of camp. They say things like, ‘I don’t know when I’ll get to do something like this again.’ They’re like, ‘It might be a whole year before I can get back to have fun.’”
Tell me about Stacey*, one of the campers.
“Stacey’s dad has been in and out of prison for the majority of her life. She’s been in foster care from an early age because her mum’s been in and out of drug rehab. She’s got huge walls up. It takes a very long time for her to trust anybody.
“I think it hit her quite hard, like a lot of kids, that all of us leaders have volunteered our time to come there. We’re not being paid. We actually, for the most part, put money towards it ourselves and take time off work or study to be there. I think that really hit her that there are actually people who care and want to take time out to be there for her.
“I think camp has given her a community of people that she feels comfortable with. Each camp she’s come out of her shell a little bit more. I probably met her six or seven years ago on camp, and you basically wouldn’t get one word out of her, whereas now she’s a junior leader, and is doing everything she can to make sure that the kids that are on camp, and in her group, are feeling loved and protected and everything, by her. So I think it’s really had an impact and made her realise, ‘If camp has had such a big impact on me, how can I help to have that same sort of impact on someone else?’”
How did Stacey go as a junior leader?
“There were two girls last year who were two of the more demanding campers. But they absolutely clung to Stacey and we literally had to make Stacey go and take a break so she could have some time to rest and recuperate in order to be able to continue to support them. I think these girls realised that Stacey was genuine and she had that care for them that helped them to get open to her.
“I think she helped them to be more engaged over the course of the week and take part in the activities rather than doing their own thing. They stayed with the whole group because they didn’t want to leave Stacey’s side.
What impact has mentoring and Camp had on Stacey?
“If Stacey didn’t have Camp for Kids and a mentor, I think she would have potentially headed down a much darker path in her later teenage years. I believe camp gave her a community she feels comfortable in. A community that she can talk to and hash things out with when peer pressure and tricky teenage things raise their heads.
“I think the biggest thing for me has been watching her grow as a junior leader; the compassion she has for the younger kids, and her passion to see them have a more positive life.”
What would you say to encourage someone reading this to support Camp for Kids?
“ When you donate to this program you’re completely changing a kid’s life and redirecting their path.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Social Media Links