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Paying It Forward – How Annie’s camp experience inspired her to help other kids

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How Annie’s camp experience inspired her to help other kids

Annie, how many Camps have you attended? 

I’ve been to 5 camps now! I’ve been attending since I was 13. 

And now you’re a junior leader? What’s that like? 

It’s just like the older, proper leaders, but we’re still learning. We have a mentor guiding us for the week. I do activities with the kids, like the Flying Fox and then little activities like arts and crafts. 

What made you want to become a junior leader?

At the end of Camp, they told us we could do junior leading, and I just wanted to do it! I know what the kids have been through, so I could relate to them if they had questions. But I didn’t become a junior leader straight away. I had to wait a couple of years until I was old enough. 

As a junior leader, do you spend time talking with the kids about life?

Sometimes, yes. We have one day where the junior leaders talk about why we became junior leaders and how we’ve got here, and some of the kids have lots of questions. When I was sharing I told the kids that I’m a foster kid, and afterwards, one of the campers came up to me and said, “I’m in foster care, too.” It was like she could just relate and understand, you know? It was like I understood her experience because of my own experience. I think it means a lot to the kids to talk about this stuff. 

Do you think it’s important to spend time chatting about life with the kids on camp? 

Yeah, I think the kids really appreciate it, they really enjoy having someone there to talk to. When I was a kid, I was very quiet, so I didn’t really tell anyone anything. I guess a lot of the kids on camp are probably like that, too. At one camp, when I was a junior leader, there were these two girls who would always hang around me. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like they needed a lot of love and attention because they never got attention at home. So at Camp, I spent heaps of time with them, and when the camp was over, they got so upset because they really enjoyed their time at Camp. It made me feel good knowing that they were happy.

Did you enjoy Camp when you first went? 

Yeah, I enjoyed getting to meet other people – I don’t know how to explain, but on camp you’re with other people who are in the same situation. They have a parent in prison, too. So, I could relate to the other kids. It was like, I’m not the only one.

What was your favourite thing about Camp?

The games! There was arts and crafts, and we did some cooking, too. We did this thing, like an Amazing Race – we went around finding things and doing challenges. It was so much fun I went twice!

How do you think your life might be different if you hadn’t gone to Camp for Kids?

I feel like I would have wanted to go down a bad path if I hadn’t come to Camp. When I was at my old school, I was smoking and drinking. I don’t really know what could have happened.

I met my mentor, Trish* at Camp – she really means a lot to me. She’s always been there. I didn’t really have older people with me when I was growing up, so she was like a big sister to me. If I didn’t know about the camp and if I didn’t have Trish, I’d probably be a bit lost. 

Annie with her mentor

What did you think about the Bible talks?

I really liked talking about the Bible. It was interesting because I didn’t really know much about it. All I knew was the stories I learnt as a kid, but I didn’t understand any of it at the time, so it was really interesting to learn more about it. 

Has Camp for Kids changed the way you think about God?

Well, yes, in a way – I’m still trying to find that part. Because of the intense things that happened when I was growing up, I’m just trying to find that connection.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, at the moment, I’m doing a TAFE course in Building and Construction. Well, hopefully I just get into an apprenticeship and work from there – I want to build houses!

Why do you think Camp for Kids is so important for children who have a parent in prison?

I guess it’s just something good for them to enjoy. If they’re having a tough time at home or they’re sad at home, Camp would be a really good experience for them – just knowing that someone is there to help them and listen.

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