SOFT Camp hit by cut in funding
Some of the most critical components missing from the 2014 National Council For Substance Abuse’s Project Safeguarding Our Future Today (SOFT) Camp are the time and facility for counsellors to teach the young campers all the necessary life skills. This has been because for the first time in 13 years there is no residential camp, plus the period was cut by two days –– all due to insufficient sponsorship.
Project SOFT’s aim is to help prepare ten- and 11-year-olds transition smoothly into secondary school. Normally held as a seven-day sleep-in camp, Project SOFT taught such skills as time management, sanitation, self-esteem and skills-building, and addressed issues like bullying and positive and negative peer pressure.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY this morning on opening day at the Valley Resource Centre in St George, director Makeada Bourne said organizers, therefore, had to restructure the entire schedule so they could host a day camp to ensure that children could still benefit from the information.
Bourne stressed that because it was now a day camp, the number of children –– usually as many as 40 –– as of today had totalled a bare 25 because parents had withdrawn their wards. They would rather have had the children sleeping in, than having the hustle of getting them to the new location every morning.
At the old location of Marion House in St John, the day of the child began at 5 a.m. when they got up, did devotions and their, exercises, as well as the cleaning and tidying of their rooms for inspection. All this in addition to being taught survival techniques, and how to roast breadfruit, herrings and of things traditionally Barbadian.
”We tried to teach them time management; that you can get it done if you wake up early enough. If you plan and you stick to the plan, you are able to accomplish what you have to do. I think that will be a critical component that will be missing.
“This camp is not mainly a teaching camp; but you will find a lot of activities to build skill sets, so that when they go into secondary school they will have a more comfortable feel in terms of applying the knowledge they have learnt throughout the week. But that was practical and every day.
“There is a difference when you have children away from their environment and you are teaching and imparting and reinforcing information,” Bourne said. “At the end of the week, you are able to see some form of a change.
“However, when you have them for just a couple hours day, teach them something, and they go back into the same environment, you have to basically start over. That in itself is going to be a great challenge for us this week,” the programme officer admitted.
Bourne stressed that though the NCSA team had realized the work to be done would be more difficult, they were yet committed to undertake this year’s theme Healthy Youth, Healthy Community, Healthy Workforce. And, she thanked all those sponsors who did come on board to assist the camp.
Colin Cunningham, representative for sponsor the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), alluded to the restricting circumstances of the camp as disappointing. Nonetheless, he vowed the bank’s continued investment in the youth and its assistance to the camp. The CDB having engaged in sponsorship of the camp from last year, Cunningham implored other entities to lend the youngsters a hand as well.