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Stories of hope

Something Special – Why Camp for Kids is so much more than a fun week away

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How blessed are we who get to head out to Camp for Kids each year to share in the lives of these young people who have had a hard start in life?

19 years ago, I felt God’s call to volunteer at Camp for Kids. If you’d asked me back then, I never would have thought that I would be running the whole camp for the next 18 years. In these 18 years, God has shown me gifts I never knew I had – it is God who gave me the courage and strength to do this. Camp for Kids is a 4-5 day camp. We do lots of fun things. The kids love the activities, they get very challenged. 

It is always an honour and a privilege to have this time to share and build relationships and trust with this group of young people. 

I just love that I get that opportunity to see those kids come through every year and have their chance to spend time with kids who are all from similar backgrounds to themselves. Even though each person’s story is different, they have this confidence to know that they can talk about their mums and dads, aware that they’re all in the same boat, as opposed to the schoolyard where they don’t feel safe to do that. Camp is a really unique opportunity for these kids to be there together in that same situation. 


Arlo* came to camp at 9yrs old and shared his life thus far. He thought his family had it ‘all together’ until his dad went to jail for a very different reason than what he was told. It was only at camp that one of his friends told him the full story of his dad’s sentence, which left Arlo feeling betrayed and heartbroken. 

Arlo was very thankful to be at camp with people his age and leaders who were able to support and love him through that time. He said the biggest thing for him was watching how we treated one another. How we loved one another, and the different generations that were together in that picture. He wanted that. 

One particular leader, Ben, had sat with Arlo on camp and prayed for him and patiently talked through a lot of these things. This love in action spoke loudest to Arlo – that we cared enough to follow him up, to connect him and his brother with a local youth group, to have them over for dinners, and to take them to church for a year. Many campers like Arlo come back to see their leaders and really miss them when they can no longer be a part of camp due to other commitments.

With 60 kids at Camp, I can’t do all of that by myself, but it just takes one person to invest in someone’s life and show them what God looks like in action. Seeing a group of God’s people together, loving, supporting, caring for one another, having fun together, and living life together is powerful, and because of Camp for Kids, Arlo got to witness that on a large scale.

A lot of kids call Camp their ‘family holiday’ because they get to go every year to a place with people they know and trust, and they feel safe. There’s no niggles and nastiness or anything. It’s really beautiful to be a part of, and I feel really privileged to be in that situation, and that’s what the kids get to witness. 

I’m a bit of a kid person, my husband and I foster children, and we’ve done respite for kids with disabilities, so I just love being around kids. I have to say that initially, camp was a bit intense, and I just thought, ‘Oh no, is this for me?’ But then I saw the impact it was having on the kids. They were having an amazingly great time, and I could see how important camp was for them. So I left camp feeling conflicted. But I got a real call from God, so I decided to commit to being a camp leader. 


Lucy* has been at camp since the age of 8 and is now one of our adult-mentored leaders. She had a tough childhood, and one year she felt safe enough to share some of her story with us. It is very humbling to have campers, who we only see once a year for four days, build trust in us and share their vulnerabilities with us. I feel honoured that the kids trust me with their stories, and even in their adult years, they call on me for prayer or help. It’s quite humbling that they think of me that way. They call me Mumma Bear Claire. 

Ever since Lucy told us her story, she hasn’t missed a camp! This year as we walked to the dining room, she said to me, ‘Miss Claire, whenever you feel you need to step down from leading, I think I could take on your role.’ My immediate response was, ‘You would make a great team leader! The only thing for this particular camp that we need to work on is the Christian heart required.’ She responded, ‘I’m already working on that part!’ Lucy is in an unsupported Christian environment, so please pray that God would put someone in her life to grow her faith and knowledge of Christ our Saviour.


Our camp theme last year was ‘Identity’. It can be quite a challenge to give talks that cater to all the kids, considering their different ages and backgrounds, but through the story of the Prodigal Son, we were able to assure the kids of three truths from the Bible: You are Known, You are Wanted, and You are Loved. 

Mira*, one of our junior leaders, ended up leaving the room during one of these talks because she was so moved. She later told me, ‘You know that part where the dad keeps a lookout for his son to return, and when he does come home with his head hung in shame, his father runs to him, hugs him, and celebrates how glad he is that he has come home? Well, in our house, it’s us kids that wait for our dad, and it’s us kids that run to him and welcome him home. But he never stays; he always ends up back in jail within a couple of months. I’m nearly 16, and he has only ever been home for my birthday once!’ 

This made my heart cry for the lost love of her father, who is so unlike the father in the parable of the prodigal son. Please pray Mira would be able to lean on God the Father, who always waits, watches, and loves her.

When I first started, there were roughly 18-24 kids at each camp. Now we’re getting up to 60 kids a year! Every year it grows just a little bit. I’m super excited about that, because that means people are actually spreading the news about it.

Our junior leaders are 14-15 years old. We had 8 of them this year who came through to be part of the leadership team, to see how leadership works on camp and to take on those responsibilities. It was really great getting their feedback this year about how different camp was compared to being a camper, and how much more responsibility they felt that they had to take on, even though under 18 they don’t have any real responsibility. I guess they feel part of the team, and that has a really positive impact on them. So many of the junior leaders said they couldn’t wait to come back to camp next year, which is so exciting to hear! I’m really praying that those kids come back on board again, because it’s such a great witness to the younger kids that these junior leaders have made choices to be someone different.

Justin and Mallory

One year we had a high ropes course for the first time, and Justin* eagerly began the course. But early on, he was standing on one of the telephone poles where he then had to step out onto a plank of wood. Of course, once you’re up there, you can’t go backwards, you have to keep going forwards. Suddenly Justin felt very afraid, and he got stuck there – he was up the top of the pole, crying, so afraid of stepping onto the plank. We were all on the ground yelling up encouragements to him, but then Mallory*, a junior leader, harnessed up and went up to join him. She got all the way to Justin and reassured him. “I’ll try it first, and if it’s safe, I’ll put my hand out to you, and you can come across with me,” she said. So she stepped out and held out her hand to him. He was still terrified, but he trusted her. So he took her hand, and she guided him across. We were all cheering like mad! We had this big celebration at the end that he had made it through, and it was just wonderful! He was so proud of himself that he had achieved it. It’s always inspiring to watch when the junior leaders step up and encourage the kids like Mallory did. 

During Camp we often talk about behaviour management and good decision-making for life, because we want these young people to be the generation that doesn’t repeat their parents’ cycles of crime. We want them to have a good understanding of life and to show them they can have hope for their future. 

One of the most exciting things is seeing 8-year-old children coming to their first camp, and then at 18 years old, they’re still here being leaders and giving back to younger kids what they originally received from us. It’s so encouraging to know that they saw something different about us, something different in who we are because of how God works through us. That’s been really exciting. It’s a testimony of God’s grace and goodness in these kids’ lives that keeps bringing them back. 

It blows my mind that the older group are willing to give up a week of their school or now working holidays to come and give back to the incoming younger campers. They give up sleep-ins to be up at 7:30 am each day to set up the games and prepare craft. That’s such an impressive commitment from them.


Chloe* really didn’t want to come to Camp last year. She hid behind her sunglasses and kept to the sidelines. But as the week progressed, she became involved in the games and began to take on her junior leadership responsibilities. She dealt with a small argument with another leader at camp in a very mature way, accepting that she needed to set a good example for the younger campers. I was very proud of her willingness to humble herself and make it right. 

We had a great chat about making good choices in life and why Camp for Kids has always had such a push to break the cycle so that she would not continue the cycle her parents are still both stuck in. This year some of our mentors shared their life journey with the campers. It was a very special time to see them be so vulnerable and honest about the difficult parts of life, whilst also brilliantly sharing how they had shown perseverance and resilience to push through to achieve where they are at today.

I have learned so many things on camp myself over the years – trusting that God is always in control, that He has a plan and a purpose prepared for each one that comes to camp, that He is our provider, that He is my strength, that His words are passed through us to the campers. Camp warms my soul! I absolutely love all the kids, even the tougher behaviours can be softened in that week while they are with us.

Each year when I think this may be my last camp, God tells me another story. And every year I follow God back to this camp, I feel rewarded with God’s love and strength to see another year through. Every year I am reminded of how great a privilege it is to be on this camp.

Feel like you’re missing out on something special? You sure are! We would love to have your prayers, financial support, or your leadership on camp (or all three of these) to bless these campers and bring glory and honour to God! 

Claire, Camp for Kids leader

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