WorldCamps is a US based organization started by Philip Lilienthal, who owned and operated Camp Winnebago in Maine for almost 30 years. After retiring, Phil decided to start a new camp in South Africa for children affected by HIV and AIDS. However, this camp isn’t your typical tennis-playing, craft-making, camp song-singing experience. Don’t get us wrong, they have all those activities and many others to boot, but this is a camp that includes an education on what they call “Life Skills”. Classes include proper nutrition and hygiene, HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, gender stereotypes, and a healthy view of sexuality.
These might seem like pretty heavy topics for a youth camp, but in a country where children are too often forced to deal with adult issues, it’s important to properly educate people. A large part of the AIDS epidemic in Africa is due to prevailing attitudes and behaviors toward sexuality and AIDS. Trying to change a country-wide attitude is difficult, but WorldCamps has found a unique environment in which to do so. The camp provides a place for children to play and relax while meeting others who either have family that are HIV+ or are HIV+ themselves.
Presently WorldCamps is located outside of Johannesburg in South Africa, but they will soon open a second camp in Pietermaritzburg. The camps bring together 30 trained counselors and over 100 children aged 10 to 15 years. However, due to demand it is impossible for all the children to return. Other programs, such as Saturday Kids Clubs, allow the campers to reconnect with each other during the year and meet new children. They intend to branch out in the future to other countries with a unique, fun, and crucial learning experience for kids. The motto of WorldCamps is “Nation Building, Community, Good Health, and Fun.” Something every child deserves.