By Turner Cobden
Friends of Ngong Road Board Member
I’m glad to report that we have had another fantastic year of camp in Kenya, offering the opportunity for both staff and students to enjoy getting away from Nairobi for just a little while. I joined Ngong Road Children Association staff members Kelvin Thuku, Antony Kamau, and Mary Muriu as a co-director for both our senior and leadership camps. Camp was held at the St. Francis Xavier School near Lake Naivasha, famous for wildlife and scenic beauty.
The students had fun and that is one of our core requirements for camp to be a success. In addition to just having fun, the children also had a chance to see the surrounding area and, during senior camp, go to Hell’s Gate National Park on a field trip.
As we finish our 10th year of camp, it’s worthwhile to reflect and think about how this portion of the charity has evolved over the years. Our original camp, run by Tom Gleason in 2007, had some very basic goals: food, structure, and enrichment. The camp was held in Nairobi and had all children in the program participate (only 150 back then!) during the daytime. At the end of the day, the children would go home and come back again in the morning. Camp was also significantly shorter, with the entire program finishing in just one week.
Camp became an anchor for these children in some ways. As I continued to come back subsequent years, I would hear stories about how for the first six months after camp the children would talk about how they enjoyed the previous camp. The next six months were filled with thoughts about how much they looked forward to it. That is a powerful testament to the work that our volunteers, staff, and directors do.
Knowing what a valuable experience camp is for these children, the camp program started to evolve and grow over the next few years. Camp started to be segmented by age bracket to provide more age-friendly activities. For instance, the older children in the program could start receiving additional enrichment and life skills, taught by our volunteer staff. We experimented with field trips and then started actively relocating the entire camp to different regions so the children could be exposed to different areas.
We have now grown to multiple camps: Little Kids Camp, Grammar Camp, Senior Camp, and our most ambitious, Leadership Camp. For the past few years, Leadership Camp has created an opportunity for our older students to apply and actually be part of the staff for camp. They are trained with a servant leadership model, focusing on enabling their teams and squads to succeed together. There are no heroes at camp; success is team-based.
For the second year in a row we were delighted that Sally Kenney joined us at camp. As a sponsor of three children and Executive Director of the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University, she is uniquely qualified to empower our leadership campers and take them to new heights.
Sally also implemented a partnership of Friends of Ngong Road with Tulane University. This year and we saw our first three students from Tulane earning course credit for joining us at camp! It was a fantastic first and a stellar way to continue growing camp after ten successful years.
Thank you so much to everyone that allowed camp to again be another wonderful time for the kids. From personal experience, I can admit the staff had some fun, too!