For Oscar Spora and Henrietta Pottie from NSW’s drought-ravaged Central West, the simple joy of going on youth camp last summer has made a tangible and lasting difference—not just in their own lives, but in their families, too.
The teens are among more than 200 young people who attended Scripture Union camps in the past year, sponsored by Hope 103.2 listeners through the Kids to Camp appeal.
Kids to Camp was birthed in 2018, after the Sydney radio station asked drought-affected communities what we could do here in the city that might make a real difference. The answer they sent back, was: “Give our kids a break”.
Because in a drought, life can become all work, and no play. Holidays and fun activities are luxuries a lot of rural families simply can’t afford any more. In many cases, it’s unrealistic even to leave the farm for a day, with sheep and cattle that need to be hand fed. Family tensions can run high, and emotions can run low.
So a little time away, in a caring and supportive environment, can make a world of difference.
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Oscar, who lives in Curban just north of Gilgandra, said the drought’s effects have been hard going.
“Sheep are dead round the farm… like, just seeing bones, and coming home and [it’s] depressing, Dad’s not real happy. That was pretty hard,” he said. “I remember year, Dad was just so edgy.”
Going away to a Cricket Camp at Dubbo in the school holidays brought Oscar lot of joy—which has continued long after the camp ended. The smiles on Oscar and his dad’s faces when our team met them in November (below), spoke volumes.
“I loved playing cricket, going for a swim, going and playing Laser Tag, going to ‘Inflatable World’,” Oscar said. “Doing those things, it’s good fun. I made heaps of new friends.”
And with new friendships, comes new hope and strength. As Oscar explained, “It feels like we’re not alone any more.”
Henrietta, a student from Molong north-west of Orange, was impacted by her SU Camp experience, too. She chose to go on a camp dedicated to mountain biking, and had an unforgettable time. Just seeing green leaves alone was a refreshing change.
“When I went away on Bike Camp it was a lot greener where we rode,” she said. “So it was a nice break to look at some greenery for a change. We rode 40 kilometres a day and sat around [camp]fires at night. Just being in the outdoors, there was so much to look at, different environments.”
Henrietta said being sponsored for an SU camp meant a lot to her family.
“We don’t go away as much… the animals have to be fed every day, so we can’t leave them very long.”
“We’ve had to cut back on a lot of things,” she said. “We don’t go away as much on holidays. The animals have to be fed every day, so we can’t leave them very long.
“Families obviously want to send their kids away so they can have an enjoyable time but they can’t always do this. So just to have the pressure taken off, and their kids still being able to go away and have an enjoyable time, is really great.”
Hope is Desperately Needed
A lot of the students who were sponsored in the 2018 Kids to Camp appeal came from Gilgandra High School, and the school’s principal Neal Read said it had made a visible difference for his students.
“The response to those families in Sydney who have given of themselves in supporting the [Kids to Camp] initiative, was genuinely overwhelming,” he said. “The difference the respite gave those students who attended, [between] before they left and when they returned at the beginning of the year, was quite palpable.”
Neal struggled to hold back tears, as he shared a little of how tough the drought has been on his students and their parents. He said hope is a crucial ingredient in keeping families resilient.
“This drought will be a defining factor in their growing up,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be something which is always a negative. I think that’s where that aspect of hope is really important.”
How Can I Make a Difference?
Through Kids to Camp, Hope listeners have sponsored over 500 drought-affected kids and teens to attend Scripture Union youth camps in 2020. If you still want to give, you can support SU NSW in their ongoing ‘Give Hope to Drought Affected Families Appeal’. This will help them to…
- Train and support their camp volunteers
- Create resources to share the gospel at camps and school clubs
- Help team members travel long distances – to camps, training and drought-related ministry