Last year, the pandemic changed the way Scripture Union (SU) NSW ran its camps. When the state was in lockdown, the SU team organised ‘online camps’ to continue connecting with kids.
“What we found in all these online events… kids who would not have or would have had big reluctance to go to a physical camp actually came along,” Dave Tankard, regional team leader for SU NSW, told Hope 103.2.
“That was one of the really terrific things that we didn’t anticipate at first but we shouldn’t have been surprised.
“God, that’s exactly what He does. He takes everything that seems to be negative and brings good from it as he promises in Romans 8.”
“He takes everything that seems to be negative and brings good from it as he promises in Romans 8,” – SU NSW regional team leader Dave Tankard
Originally, the Kids to Camp partnership between SU and Hope 103.2 kicked off as a direct response to the devastating years-long drought across the State and finding a unique way the Hopeland community could make a difference in the lives of farming families doing it tough.
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”. – Oscar and Henrietta’s stories
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However, due to a combination of the drought situation improving and an unexpected global pandemic, the incredible fundraising efforts by Hope 103.2’s community had to be redirected slightly.
Why Kids to Camp support was redirected
Hope 103.2 Kids to Camp campaign manager Natalie Bennett said “2020 knocked us all off our feet a little” and all of SU’s camps had to adjust to online or be cancelled all together.
“So a lot of the camp opportunities funded by Hopeland had to be put on hold while we waited to see what would happen next,” she said.
“Along with a lot of challenges, 2020 also brought with it a lot of rain. This blessing was a much needed breakthrough for many rural communities and saw the situation of many farming families change radically.
“Now in 2021, SU and Hope 103.2 have been dedicated to getting the generously donated Kids to Camp funds working hard again to support rural communities but, given the dramatic change in conditions, discussed how we could do this best while still honouring the support received.”
The leaders included activities that didn’t require a computer to ensure that kids were not spending vast amounts of time in front of screens.
Kids painted pictures to use as backdrops for video chats and baked their own pizzas using ingredients sent to them earlier that week. They were then asked to film their activities to share with others in the video chat.
“We want to continue to thank the Hope listeners for their generosity that has really boosted our ability to help kids from all situations have access to fund gospel-centred camps.” – SU NSW regional team leader Dave Tankard
When restrictions began easing in NSW, planning for a camping trip still proved difficult. SU brainstormed ways to support local churches and Christians and came up with the idea for pop-up events that lasted several hours.
“There are wonderful things about travelling away to a destination but a downside to all of that is a much more limited opportunity for kids who have an encounter with Jesus at that camp to be followed up well,” Dave said.
This was also better for volunteers, he said.
“Often, volunteers are not able to give the amount of time required to start a camp or serve on a camp, but they can give three hours on a Saturday afternoon… so it’s more attractive and more accessible to a lot of people.”
Kids still went to camp last year
Thanks to the generosity of the Hope 103.2 community, 536 kids were able to go on SU camps in 2020.
Dave said that 2020 was a “terrific” year for rainfall.
“We’re very thankful but what that has meant is that the drought situation is either no longer a factor, which is the case for most people,” he said.
“Or, if it is a factor, it is probably not something that they would feel very comfortable accepting help around.”
This is because of public perceptions that the drought is now over, Dave said.
Camp support is broadened
SU is now broadening its criteria for funding received through the appeal to include young people and families affected by floods, fires, and other natural disasters, such as the economic impact of the pandemic, unemployment or underemployment.
“The funds themselves will pay for a part or all of the camp fees, and also will extend, where applicable, to meet their travel costs to camps,” Dave said.
This includes everything from arranging buses to pick up kids from certain areas, to helping an adult pay for a tank of fuel for a day’s driving to the campsite.
In the past few years, SU has seen that it is not only kids who need financial support to attend camps but also camp leaders, who are all volunteers.
“Many of them are also in situations where they want to serve on camps and help get God’s good news out to children and young people and families, but financial difficulty makes that very hard for them,” Dave said.
Funds received through this appeal will now also be open to leaders who need support, to pay for a part or all of their camp fees.
“This broadening of the criteria will mean that more adults are able to serve on camps and, of course, without them there are no camps,” Dave said.
“The funds themselves will pay for a part or all of the camp fees, and also will extend, where applicable, to meet their travel costs to camps.” – SU NSW regional team leader Dave Tankard
Kids to Camp funds going to those who in need
SU said they were extremely thankful for the support that was raised through Kids to Camp and wanted those who had financially supported the appeal to have full transparency on how their support was being utilised.
“On behalf of SU NSW, we want to continue to thank the Hope listeners for their generosity that has really boosted our ability to help kids from all situations have access to fund gospel-centred camps,” Dave said.
“[God] takes everything that seems to be negative and brings good from it as he promises in Romans 8.” – Dave Tankard, Regional Team Leader for Scripture Union NSW
Natalie said it was an honour for Hope 103.2 to share the stories gathered from families and students who had been blessed by SU’s camps.
“It has been a powerful demonstration that hope really can win and a genuine example of the Aussie ‘mateship’ spirit.”