Friday, August 27, 2010

We’ve been given lemons and we’ve made some awesome lemonade!

The past week has been testing to say the least! All government workers have been on an indefinite strike for a week now, with no end in site. To say that this is disruptive to the children is an understatement. This is only worsened when the Garden Village teachers have actually been at school, but have told the children not to come and have been seen standing at the school gate asking them to leave – strike policy is “no work, no pay”, technically these teachers are at their place of work! Our Camp Sonshine teacher, “Teacher Liz,” as the children refer to her has chosen to look beyond the problems (which are many) and has seen the opportunity in doing things, with the few children who have managed to sneak into the school, that she would not usually be able to do. On the first day Liz and her fantastic volunteers had a spontaneous puppet making day, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were there (about 20 kids from grade R-7). In fact, they enjoyed it so much that the following day there were about 30 kids at school! We were able to get to know children we don’t usually have the opportunity to interact with and were able to witness the kindness and caring nature of the older children as they ably assisted younger children with cutting our ears, sticking on eyes and making their puppets “speak”.

Our after school program has also been a little different, we have welcomed all children of all ages, most of whom are thoroughly bored and we know that generally boredom does not lead to good things in the lives of these kids. Yesterday we had a fantastic day weeding, planting and watering the little garden in the middle of the school grounds. No on seems to take care of this garden so our kids got to work. They honestly were so incredibly helpful and did a FANTASTIC job! The garden has been totally transformed and we look forward to the beautiful flower that spring will bring. The children were extremely proud of their achievements! We filled 8 black bags with weeds!

I truly feel that through circumstance we have no control over and cannot plan for we are given the opportunity to stand out and be different. In the programs that we run, one of our aims is always to make kids, staff, the community and anyone we come into contact with feel different to how others make them feel. It is sad that this is the case, but this is the reality in most of these children’s lives. Most of these children are not made to feel loved, accepted, special or valued at home or at school. We think that this is how kids should feel all the time. In times like these we have such an opportunity to act differently to those around us. We can choose to complain about the circumstances, the lack of communication and the inefficiency; all which we would be totally justified doing. Or we can behave in a way in which we feel Jesus has called us to and in doing so be the light and salt in this community. I know that this is not my natural reaction, it is a choice. I am so proud of the Camp Sonshine Africa team who has made this choice. I know that we have used this opportunity well!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Human Foosball anyone . . . ?

It has been a while since my last update, there has been a good, well fairly good reason for this . . . Camp Sonshine Africa has moved offices and I have moved house! All at the same time. While these two moves are very much interwoven, as I often struggle to know where the divide between my personal life and Camp Sonshine Africa are (which is a good thing as I feel I am living what I am so passionate about every single day), it does not make moving any more fun! Anyone who has ever moved house can certainly relate I am sure! The physical move was not even far in terms of distance, in fact, as I sit and type this I can actually look out of my new office window and see the old office! It does signify the end of one era, but also the start of a brand new and exciting one! Below is a picture of the view from our new office.

Things have not been easy at Camp Sonshine Africa lately, we are dealing with many difficult and challenging issues. However in the midst of what often feels like an attack on us personally and on the children and community we are working with, we know that through this we grow and learn and we are determined to come out of these difficult times stronger and wiser! It is often through difficult times that are able to see sparks of goodness and growth far more clearly. A shining example of a small, yet HUGELY significant boost for me was this morning when one of the children I take to school every morning gave handed me a note as she got into the car. When I got home and opened the note I came close to tears, the note was thanking me for taking her to school every morning and telling me that she loved me! This is why I do what I do - not for the "thank you" notes, but to make a significant and lasting difference in the lives of these children and this community. When I get a chance to actually see that this is happening it goes a long, long way in helping me know that we are doing what we believe God has called us to do. It is impossible for me to explain to this 8 year old child how special such a note is to me and how perfectly timed it was.

We had 2 brand new student volunteers start work with us this week, Rebecca from England will be with us until April 2011 and Sina, from Germany will be with us until the end of Septemer 2010. It
is always exciting to get fresh faces involved in the work that we are doing, we are always encouraged and enthused by their fresh enthusiasm!

Next month we will be holding an awesome community day (11 Sept). A local corporate events company has been incredibly generous in volunteering to facilitate some incredible activities for us at bare minimum cost price! They will bring equipment for the following eve
nts - human foosball, action soccer, action netball and action cricket! The aim of the event is to allow children and their families to have fun together, in a healthy environment. The cost to us is just R2000 ($290) - the regular cost would be around R12 000 ($1700)! We are looking for a company / companies or individuals who would be able to help sponsor this cost. Please contact me if you are able to help - Alison Smith -

Monday, July 26, 2010

Camp Sonshine Is Number 1 . . . We Follow Jesus Christ The Son . . . If You Ask Us Why We'll Say: . . "He's The Truth, The Light, The Way" . . .

Term 3 has begun whether we were ready or not, fortunately we were! While most of the country is suffering from PWCD (post world cup depression) the Camp Sonshine kids have been enjoying some exciting activities and some exciting visitors!

During the first week of the term we were so excited to have Sarah, a former staff member from the USA com
e and visit. Sarah recently got married and chose to have her honeymoon in Cape Town, while showing her husband Aaron this beautiful part of the world and introducing him to the Camp Sonshine kids! We celebrated Sarah's visit by taking the kids to a local sports field where we played games and collected tadpoles - a favourite winter activity!

The kids were so excited to start playing field hockey again, we were thrilled that more kids than ever before have signed up to play! Many parents have come to ask me how their kids can get involved. We are so encouraged that children and parents are excited about being involved in sport. We are fortunate to be able to play almost all our matches at home (as transport can be an issue for us), and to have a very supportive local hockey club who is keen to see these kids develop and grow as players and hopefully one day join the club, once they reach high school.

Our Friday afternoon "dance club" for girls is also continuing to grow - these kids are born with a natural rhythm that puts me to shame! They love coming up with their own dances, the older kids often teaching and encouraging the younger ones. I just love seeing these girls working together and helping one another.

During the second week of term we welcomed a visit from Amy, a former volunteer from Florida, USA, who is now teaching English in Korea. Amy came over to South Africa for a week long holiday and spent an afternoon with us. The kids were super excited to see her and soon caught her up on all the local news.

We currently have Sabina, an Austrian volunteer working with us. She will be with us until the beginning of September. Sabina is super helpful and is proving to be a wonderful asset in the classroom and during our after school care program.

We are beginning our staff recruit for our annual camp which will be held in January 2011. We recruit volunteers from all over the world for this incredible camp. It really is TONS of fun and is something that these children genuinely look forward to all year! If you are interested in being part of this incredible ministry, please let me know or go directly to our Camp Sonshine International web page to sign up
We are now earnestly fund raising for a new classroom / after school care centre as the one we are currently using is just about at its "best before" date. We need a total of $14 300 to complete this project, $11 100 to get started. We have raised $6 773 to date, so are looking for another $7 500. If you would like to donate money toward this project, you can do so through our website - by hitting the "donate" button. Please put "classroom" in the memo section so that we know how to allocate your donation.

Many blessings to all of you, from all of us at Camp Sonshine Africa!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Waka, Waka, Yeah, Yeah

Shakira and Freshly Ground's "Waka, Waka" has most definitely been the soundtrack to our 2010 Winter Holiday Club! As the holidays draw to a close and the kids get ready to go back to school we can reflect on a wonderful few weeks of football and fun!

For staff, volunteers and children the school holidays come as a welcome break from the school routine. We were treated to an extra long break this time around due to the Soccer World Cup. What a treat it has been hosting the world in our back yard. Some of our children, who participate in a street soccer league, were even invited to watch one of the games live! What a moment in history for these children!

We had some great days and some fantastic field trips, which all help to contribute to the positive memory bank of these children's lives. Some of the activities we did included a visit to the Coca-Cola factory, a mini World Cup tournament, a trip to the ice-rink, a craft and baking day, a talent show, a picnic, a trip to the Drakenstein Lion Park, a special "Girl's Night In" for the older girls and a treasure hunt and game-show day!

We were sadly let down by the police, who promised to run 2 fun days with the children, and provide lunch. The police did not turn up for either of these days and we were left fitting the bill to feed the children and come up with some very last minute activity ideas. All staff and volunteers were extremely flexible and accommodating and in the end we had 2 fantastic days, even though they were a last minute scramble! Sadly this kind of thing does not endear the children or the community to the local police!

On some days we were a little disappointed with the turnout, but looking back I believe that the children who were meant to be there were there. We met 2 children whom I have not seem before in MGV, they came along and loved every moment. Both these girls will be joining in our after school care program next term! Even though Garden Village is a small community, we seem to meet new children and families all the time!

We appreciate your thoughts and prayers are we begin term 3 of 2010!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"It takes a village . . . "

We have all heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." We have been so blessed by volunteers from around our international global village helping to raise the children of Maitland Garden Village. As a result these children have been able to experience cultures from around the world without having the expense of actually going there! We have been particularly blessed by Brad, from Atlanta, USA who has been with us for 3 months. Brad has served these kids with all his heart, even when I am sure he would rather have been sightseeing or doing other things - let's face it, this job is rewarding and challenging in about equal parts! As this is Brad's last week working with the after school care kids he decided to treat them . . . yesterday and today we took groups of kids to a local park for a DELICIOUS picnic! We ate gatsby's - a traditional Cape Town food - a long thick French loaf like thing filled with fries, tomatoes, lettuce, some kind of meat and sauce. The kids absolutely loved them! There was juice and chips to complete the feast. We are certainly going to miss having Brad around, male volunteers are like gold dust and are really what we need most as many times it is the males of the households who are letting families down or are absent, so for our boys seeing positive male role models is just awesome!

We are fortunate that as Brad leaves, Nana has arrived! Nana is from Ghana, but has been studying in Atlanta, USA. We know that she is going to bring a wealth of knowledge and service to our holiday club, which begins next week.

We were fortunate and grateful to have some of our government funding reinstated (it had been completely withdrawn toward the end of last year for no reason and no explanation given). However, when I received the 21 page document stipulating how it had to be spent, it seems as though it may cost us more to implement what they require from us, which makes it far less exciting to receive, and may ultimately have to be turned down. We will see . . . I guess governments the world over are all the same ultimately - can't live with them, can't live without them!

We have an exciting and incredibly fun holiday club planned for our extended winter break. South Africa is an exciting place to be right now as the world comes to visit. You can certainly feel the excitement as flags are raised, cars are decorated and everyone has an opinion about who will win the Soccer World Cup - the first ever to be held on the African continent. During this time we will try to capture some of the excitement and celebrate this historic event.

I wish you and your teams all the best in the upcoming weeks. Please pray for safety and peace in South Africa during this time.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Do the Woo-Woo Dance

When all else fails, do the Woo-Woo Dance! Those who are familiar with our Camp Sonshine song repertoire will know what I am talking about!

The past several days since my last post have been extremely mixed, with some awesome highs and some deep lows (challenges). As winter seems set to stake its claim on Cape Town I generally find life a little tougher to deal with as I am far more of a warmth and sunshine kind of person! And really, who enjoys getting out of a warm bed in the dark? There is definitely something to be said for hibernating!

Finances continue to be an issue as the one local organization who was helping us to pay salaries is now no longer able to do so, which means that on a daily basis I am seeking funds to pay our 1 1/2 staff member as well as finding money to support myself. As many non-profits find, this is a constant struggle and stresses me out quite a bit, though I am gently learning to rely on God more and more as he has continued to provide exactly what we need!

We had some incredibly awesome surprise donations of "stuff" recently . . . South Africa Rugby were upgrading their office supplies and donated an incredible copier/printer/fax/phone, which we desperately needed. It is awesome and will take me some time to figure out what all the buttons are for!

We also received 6 huge black bags full of brand news kids Crocs - you know, the funny looking, but incredibly comfortable shoes! These came courtesy of a student teacher who was doing her prac at Maitland Garden Village Primary school! So great! We will use these as a motivation for our children to get their forms for our holiday program back on time - "Bring your form back by XXX date and get a FREE pair of shoes!" This way it seems as though they are actually doing something to earn the shoes (however small it is) rather than just having them handed out!

Our girls and boys hockey teams continue to have fun and are getting better and better with each match. They look SUPER smart in their new uniforms!

We have been working hard at getting a holiday program together for the upcoming June / July holidays. This is tough work as we have never before had such long holidays in the middle of winter, this is all thanks to South Africa holding the soccer world cup. It does not really make sense to me at all as it seems as though all the soccer games are outside of school hours anyway, so what the point of having the kids out of school for 5 week is, is beyond my comprehension! We would desperately like to take the kids out on some field trips during this time, we have been offered some generous discounts, but are still struggling for funds. Anyone who would like to sponsor a day out for our kids please let me know! Our options include:
The World of Bird - R625 ($89)
Planet Kids (indoor play area) - R625 ($89)
Drakenstein Lion Park - R500 ($71)
This would include entry for 20 children and 5 adults to these attractions. I am working on family and friends to help with transport!

Some GREAT news is that one of our sponsored kids came home yesterday with a certificate and trophy that had been presented in assembly for "Working very hard to achieve the very best everyday" I wish you could have seen how proud she was. This obviously made my day and certainly made hers! This poor kid has been through so much in her life, going to a good school and having a wonderful Christian teacher is about the only stable thing in her life, so this was such encouraging news!

If you would like to sponsor a field trip for our children please contact me or go to our website - where you can donate through PayPal, please reference where you would like the money allocated.

Check it out . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Man Marries Cat

"Man Marries Cat" was the billboard newspaper headline that caught my eye as I drove Chelsea and Sade (our 2 sponsored children) to school. I have no idea what the article was about as I did not buy the newspaper, but it certainly caught my eye. I am hoping to use the same trick to get you reading further!

The last few weeks have been tough here at Camp Sonshine Africa. We were hit with 4 break ins in 10 days at our after school care centre in Maitland Garden Village. Each time we did what we thought would secure the building, including adding additional burglar bars and welding some windows shut, but each time the perpetrator managed to get in. All in all we lost 2 computers, 2 CD players, a counter-top stove plate, some dish towels, 3 boxes of healthy snack bars, all our multi-plugs, R300 ($42) and had some letters from pen-pals torn up. Eventually we paid a guard to spend the night there and also removed everything of value! Unfortunately this means that until we are able to further secure the building the kids miss out on having computers and CD players available for learning and fun.

We were dealt another severe blow last week when we were told that Cape Youth Care (a local organization who helps us financially) are having some financial problems and are no longer able to support us. This came as a sudden and completely unexpected blow. They were paying about 1/2 the amount required to pay our 1 full-time and 1 part-time staff member. This obviously puts us in a very tough situation and desperately needing to find funding elsewhere (any suggestions are most welcome)!

On the positive side of things we were so blessed by everyone who so generously gave money toward kitting out our sports teams. Yesterday as our boys took the field to play their hockey matches they looked so smart and professional and I KNOW that they felt great in their new kit! Each kid got a new t-shirt, socks, a gum guard, shin pads and hockey sticks. They played their hearts out and had so much fun! This makes me really happy and makes me realize why we do what we do. Seeing these kids enjoying themselves while playing sport and uniting as a team is so much better than the alternative of hanging out on the streets and finding trouble! If we were not here doing what we do, hanging out on the streets would be the only alternative for many of these children.

On Saturday some of our girls got to enjoy a wonderful hike with the local SouthPoint Church youth group. The weather was perfect, the scenery spectacular and these kids were once again enjoying nature, making new friends and getting plenty of exercise. Their alternative would probably have been watching Saturday TV or movies which they are probably not old enough to be watching.

Many of our kids have also been involved in the Pinelands hockey club's development program (Friday Night Lights) where they provide hockey coaching for kids on a Friday night from 6PM - 8PM. The kids are thoroughly enjoying learning news skills and making new friends. Sadly, Friday night in Maitland Garden Village often has many adults abusing alcohol and then getting violent. Taking kids out of this situation to have fun while exercising and learning new things makes us very happy!

You can check out our latest newsletter on our website at

Many thanks for stopping to read what is going on in the life of Camp Sonshine Africa and if anyone knows why the man married a cat I would be curious to find out!