Texts in italics and green are excerpts from emails from Roberta Spencer
The Road to Hope (RTH) program is an important aspect of PCAU’s work that supports their outreach and empowerment within communities. The annual camp and empowerment retreat are special times for the children to gather with one another and to interact with the entire PCAU team. This year, they were also joined by Denis Kidde and Roberta Spencer who represented Center for Hospice Care.
The children arrived for camp throughout the day today (February 1). It was so good to see them, and oh, how they have grown and matured. Some are always shy at first, but that does not last long. What a wonderful group!
The theme for this year’s camp and retreat was “I can do it” – aimed at inspiring and challenging the children to believe they can succeed in life despite the hardships that surround their lives. The camp, held in collaboration with GEN Uganda had two objectives: a) equipping the children with self-esteem and decision-making skills and b) exploring approaches on how to best support the young adults after completing vocational school.
Children were organized into three groups: those in primary school, secondary school and vocational school. Each had targeted training sessions and special facilitators. Mark Mwesiga, PCAU executive director, welcomed the campers at Lweza Training and Conference Center (LTCC). He encouraged the children to utilize the opportunity and learn while interacting with the camp facilitators.
There were professional facilitators at the camp from the nursing, business and education fields who offered counseling to children. Rose Kiwanuka, founding country director of PCAU and role model to the children, was welcomed back as a facilitator. Stephen Kasula, graduate of the RTH program and longtime volunteer also joined.
One of the camp coordinators is Stephen, former RTH child who will soon graduate from medical school. Stephen spent the overnights with the children and was our Camp Doctor. The children love him, and he is so loving and supportive of them. We are not sure what we would do without Stephen. He is such a role model for them!
Unique to this year was the drawing project which Denis and Roberta introduced explaining to the children that their artwork would be used to create some RTH greeting cards to be used in fundraising efforts for the RTH program. The children were requested to be creative in their drawings and they loved the project. PCAU promised a monetary prize to the best drawing as well. CHC is tasked choosing the winning drawings.
As usual, it was a very educational and interactive camp with lots of fun activities. Facilitators focused on self-esteem – ensuring each child understood the concept, explored the possible aspects that can crush self-esteem and then focused on helping the campers to build a positive self-esteem. The children had interactions with the professionals to offer counselling and guidance and were involved in decision-making sessions. Play sessions and the games were designed to reinforce these important concepts and promote physical activity.
The days at the camp were full. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, but much time is spent in organizing sessions of activity, learning and discussions. I think the children really enjoy reconnecting with each other year. It is a good program. Encouragement and persistence go a long way. Most of the children performed well in their academic studies. With the high rates of teenage pregnancy in Uganda during COVID-19, the RTH children remained focused on reaching their dreams even though many dreams were altered. They have all overcome so much, you can’t help but love them and want them to succeed!
There was a scavenger hunt which gave the campers an opportunity to work better together while identifying each other’s strengths, skills and abilities. It was a good exercise in teamwork! Roberta noted that regardless of the outcome, they were all valuable, and their worth was not determined by whether or not they won.
Before leaving, children spent time writing to their sponsors. The camp ended with the children’s favorite activity – cutting the celebratory cake! Mark gave the closing remarks encouraging the campers to take the support they are being given and work hard to succeed so they can help other people in the future.
Children are completing letters to their sponsors. It is always a process for them, and they spend time determining what to say and then how to say it in English. They do their best and are proud to write about their appreciation and thanks for sponsorship!