Children in foster care often experience “transient and traumatic lives” but week-long camps held across Australia want to bring fun, value and long-term change to these young people in need.
For 20 years, Christian charity Southern Cross Kids’ Camps has annually run 13 camps nationwide for children who are in the child protection system. The Adelaide Hills camp has been going for five years, and 50 volunteers help to run and lead a camp for 32 of South Australia’s abused and neglected children.
“The camp’s motto is ‘Providing a Week of Happy Memories’ and this is the heart behind what we do,” says Adelaide Hills co-director Rachel Mulligan. “We seek to give these children a week where they experience respite from their often transient and traumatic lives and show them their worth in Christ.”
Children at SCKC also can participate in all sorts of outdoor and indoor activities, as well as benefit from being with their own ‘Buddy’ – an adult who gives one child “undivided attention, which demonstrates value and worth to each child”.
Along with such personal investment, SCKC puts stock in distributing Bibles to each camper at the start of the week. Provided by Bible Society Australia, these Bibles impact children in different ways.
While many are not interested in the Christian aspect of SCKC, here are three recent stories about how the Good News influences young lives each year at the Adelaide Hills camp.
Thank you, thank you, thank you
A nine-year-old girl attended the Adelaide Hills camp for the first time this year and her foster carer told SCKC:
“I want to thank you for the joy that she has for Christ. We go to church every week but she is now singing the songs she learned – on repeat – and asking to read her Bible each night. I love it.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you … You make Jesus a friend to those who need him most.”
The story of David, discovered
Also attending a SCKC camp for the first time in 2021, a seven-year-old boy had his first positive encounter with God’s Word, as Mulligan explains:
“He had never been exposed to the Bible or the concept of God as anything other than a swear word. He was initially skeptical of the Bible and did not want to engage with it but, as the week progressed and he saw the story of David unfolding (our theme for the week), he became more curious.”
“One night he asked his Buddy (adult leader) to find the story of David in the Bible and, from that point on, became very enthusiastic about how the story would progress, and what other stories the Bible held.
“He would carry his Bible around and proudly show others that he had found the story of David and knew what was going to happen next! It was an absolute delight to see him engage so fully after a hesitant start.
“His carer reported that he returned from camp happier than she had ever seen him and was also showing her the stories he had found in the Bible.”
Something to remember forever
An 11-year-old girl has been attending SCKC for the past four years. She graduated this year and Mulligan reveals how her journey at camp sums up what SCKC is all about.
“Each year, SCKC places an importance on ‘Memory Verses’ and challenge the campers to memorise a new verse each day. This 11-year-old camper was very engaged with this challenge and consistently won prizes for her ability to recite the verse each day.”
“She would get her Buddy to find and mark each verse in her Bible, so she could find it later.
“At the end of her years with SCKC, she had marked and remembered so many verses and had stories marked for her to go back to.
“This absolutely personifies the prayer that we have for these children when we give them a Bible each year – that the love and peace of God would go with them into their year and beyond their time at camp.”