A Day at Camp
“The camp is a very nice place in the forest, and after all the limitations [children] have had because of the pandemic, it is necessary that they begin to establish social relationships outside their [now normal] environment; it is imperative for their emotional development.”
Zabdi Pocop Can, Administrator
The chatter of children and excitement filters through the trees of the Ninos del Lago camp; they had arrived! 16 carefully selected children from Jucanya in the town of Panajachel climbed out of the bus for a special and new ‘Day at Camp’ with Niños del Lago.
“What lay ahead? What are we going to do? Wow, look at this beautiful place, the trees, so much space! I hope they don’t ask me to talk!” Nerves and excitement collided, and vibrated through the whole group as they tried to anticipate what lay ahead of them…
Journey to the Forest, Ninos del Lago’s core program, has had to adapt to the current situation with the COVID pandemic in Guatemala. These include restrictions of groups of people meeting including even restricting children being able to learn and play together.
All schools are currently closed, and all classes are conducted on-line. In a country where the poorer areas and families do not have internet, or little access to it, children are now in their second year of receiving very limited education. The knock-on effect of this will sadly have far-reaching implications.
A Day at Camp is Ninos del Lago way to try and help address this situation.
A certain amount of coordination was needed between various different groups in order to select children for the Day at Camp. NdL is lucky to be able to work alongside the Health Department; the local government (muni), who provide transport for the children; and then Panajachel community groups called COCODEs as well as a group of local women who form the Comision Comunitarias de la Mujer. With the help of these groups, who know the local families very well, a group of children are selected who would benefit the most from being able to go to Ninos del Lago’s Day at Camp.
The maximum number allowed is 16 children, so 16, 7–13-year-olds are chosen for each day camp. They are children who have themselves, or their families have, been detrimentally affected by the pandemic. For examples, children who have lost family members, parents who have become unemployed, children suffering anxiety, and depression were some of the criteria. The need is great, and NdL is hoping to be able to continue offering other Day at Camps in order to be able to reach more children in need.
The Day at Camp is possible with thanks to a professional and very enthusiastic team.
They include: 2 psychologists, 4 Mentors, 2 Assistants, a Cook plus 3 helpers and Ninos del Lago’s 3 permanent staff members (Claudia Rincon, Exe. Dir., Zabdi Pocop Can, Administrator, and Mariano Petzey, site Caretaker).
Ninos del Lago has learned from experience that children often arrive not having eaten breakfast, so experience has taught the team that the first thing is ‘fuel for the fire’! Sitting around the breakfast table they are then able to introduce themselves to the children, make some jokes, make them feel comfortable and understand a bit more why they are there and the excitements that lie ahead. Most of them don’t really understand why they are in the Camp! Many are nervous and shy–something that changes dramatically throughout the day; so much so that the children don’t want to leave when it ends!
“The children are very active and always want to learn new things …
I believe that this camp complements many areas of how they can develop, but above all that the child feels confident and knows that
they can develop many skills.”
Lourdes Lima, Psicóloga
For the team, the most important thing is to provide a safe and secure place for the children, along with new experiences in a place they have never been before.
As Estefani Judith Xingo Vicente, one of the Mentors, explains, “It is a place unlike any other in the area, where the children have direct contact with nature. In addition, NdL’s purpose is to support them with their emotional health, providing a space, food, and an experience different from what they are used to. We aim to teach them in a meaningful way, where everyone has the opportunity to have a say, develop creatively, and grow in knowledge.”
The day is divided into a series of different activities to stimulate, educate, encourage creativity, ways to express themselves, and how to work as a team.
“The children develop their self-esteem, their ability to do things on
their own, make new friends, and integrate into a group.”
Edith Yolanda Vásquez Choguaj, Mentor
One of the most popular activities is a Rally. They are divided into four teams according to ages and have to complete four tasks. The children also enjoy the creative and very relevant activity ‘My Super Mask’; decorating a plain white mask that they then take home with them. As well as making these masks, the reasons for having a mask are reinforced around the themes of general Health and Hygiene.
All children have suffered mentally from the various knock-on effects from COVID and how it has impacted them personally, their friendships, their families, and their communities. Therefore, NdL believes it is also important to help address the children’s emotional health:
“I was in charge of the older children for group therapy where I was able to emphasize the importance of discovering their dreams and goals and my job was to increase their self-confidence so that those dreams can become goals, and that those goals can then be fulfilled.”
Nancy Azucena Alvarado de García, Psicóloga.
As the afternoon draws to an end, the atmosphere has changed completely from when the children first arrived. Everyone is relaxed now, know each other, feel comfortable in each other’s company, has had fun, has learned lots, and most importantly have big, beaming smiles… AND, no one wants to leave!
Ninos del Lago is planning to continue these Day Camps as long as it is possible, taking all the health precautions necessary. But most importantly, providing a new, different, fun, and educational experience for vulnerable children.
“One of the objectives of Niños del Lago is that children can forget a little about the health crisis we are experiencing through recreational and educational activities where we can help children to be aware of the new ways of living.”
Ana Maria Gonzales Suar, Mentor
Please help us to provide these vital Day Camps.
Each day with two meals and a snack provided for 16 children costs just
Please click the link below to contribute towards our future Day Camps. We gratefully appreciate all contributions, however small.
For further information on a Day at Camp, click here.