Summer camps are often associated with children having fun and making new friends, but they also provide outlets for important personal growth and awareness. For children of minority backgrounds, being able to embrace who they are at camp can be difficult. However, at Bring on the Sunshine’s week-long Africa Camp, campers are encouraged to celebrate their cultures and traditions, and share them with others.
“Africa Camp is a community response to the needs of children of African heritage in the region,” explained Jacqui Terry-Carroll, Artistic Director of Bring on the Sunshine. “We saw how children sometimes would struggle to live in both the new world of Canada and the old world of their immigrant families . . . and we decided that we—the community—needed to share the sense of pride and the wealth of African culture with children of the region so they could ‘grow up global.’”
One of the goals of Africa Camp is to offer children aged 5 to 12 an alternative narrative while attending camp. Specific activities they participate in include drumming, dancing, painting murals, storytelling, and learning about African history and culture.
Special guests—working professionals of colour—are also invited to come engage with the campers. This allows the campers to learn about future career paths, and the endless options ahead of them.
“We had a black fireman come in to demo his equipment, and it was so funny to watch the kids as their jaws literally fell open when they learned about his career,” Jacqui said. “They had never seen a person of colour fulfill a role like that, and had never considered such a career for themselves.”
All of the programs and activities help teach campers more about African heritage, and explain the importance of cultural diversity within Waterloo Region. Through this, they realize that they are welcome in our communities, and have just as much to contribute as everyone else.
“Kids experience being ‘normal’ and not ‘other,’ which is a reality for many places outside of Canada,” continued Jacqui. “Kids learn to feel proud of where they came from, and feel like they belong.”
While Africa Camp focuses on delivering programs and content for children of African descent, it is open to everyone regardless of their ethnic background. It successfully creates an environment where everyone is welcome.
Africa Camp runs this summer from August 14th to 18th, with a special community dinner and performances on August 17th. More information and registration can be found online at www.bringonthesunshine.ca.