For many of us, the December holidays bring a sense of joy and wonder. We pack our suitcases, pack our car and we’re off to the seaside for some much needed rest and relaxation! Try to imagine that for the rest of your life you won’t be able to do that. You won’t be able to just pack and go. You will never see the sea again.

For many of the young children and teenagers in our programs at the PEN Youth Ministry that is the reality. Most of them haven’t been out of Pretoria in their lifetimes or further than 2 hours’ drive by taxi away from their homes. The sea is something magical, mystical, that they only see in pictures and adverts on the television. We at PEN try to do something about that. The seaside is a wonderful island opportunity where we get to know the kids better, build relationships with them and hear their hearts. It is an opportunity that they don’t get very often because in the current economic climate food and housing is more important than a vacation. And unfortunately for the past couple of years PEN has not been immune to the economic struggles that our country faced and we simply did not have enough funds to sustain this project. The Ignite Sea Camp was one of our regular projects within the Youth Program, but due to many obstacles, we had to postpone the camp for a couple of years. But this year we decided that we must take the plunge again because of the immense impact it has on our kids.

The value of the Sea Camp Project lies in the fact that 120 children can escape the confines of their desperate circumstances for 9 days. During this time, the participants are exposed to, and experience nothing but unconditional love and acceptance. We believe that the beach holds a sense of magic and brings out the child in each one of us. We have also experienced the power of the sea exposing true feelings of hurt and neglect. This is where PEN supervisors and councilors step in to offer therapy, support and assistance in building up these young lives. It costs PEN a R1200 per child to make this dream come true – help from the community to ‘adopt a child’ and pay for his\her fees is much needed.

One of our young adults (who was part of our teenage ministry in 2011) had the following testimonial about her experience at the Ignite Sea Camp:

“The Sea Camp meant the world to me. I was going to sit at home, not knowing where to go or what to do with my time. School is finished and we don’t really have that many places to hang out. At the Camp we learnt more about God, about our relationship with Him, and that it’s also okay to love myself even though I do stupid things sometimes. People care for us and it was the best fun I’ve had in a while. I can still remember it today; volleyball, soccer and hours of swimming. It was so cool to share it with my friends from inFusion and our mentors there. They made it worth our while and I will always remember that Sea Camp of 2011. Looking forward to go there as a group leader now and helping the next generation through their struggles at home”

We at PEN Youth Program believe that the Ignite Sea Camp is a good way to get away from the worries of inner city life. It’s a good way to make new friends and to just experience joy and bucket loads of fun without worrying too much about tomorrow. They also learn valuable lessons at the Sea Camp ranging from what it means to be a child/teenager in today’s life to struggling with Christian morals and values in a society that doesn’t fit that picture. We try to ignite a desire to change their circumstances, try to nurture their love for themselves and one another, and journey with them on their road to healing. On the fun side, they also learn to cook and swim (luckily before the actual camp) and build relationships with each other through games and activities in an environment far removed from the one they are used to.

Although we are on track and we believe God will help us make this dream a reality, we still need your help to make this the best Sea Camp we can possibly make it! We would appreciate your help with the following:

  • Monetary donations (R1200 per child)
  • Food donations e.g. Meat, Rice, Mieliepap, Sugar, Milk, Non-perishables, Fruits, Juice, Coffee, Tea, etc.
  • New Swimwear (ages 10-18)
  • Paper, cardboard and stationary