South Africa is a nation of many contrasts—first-world cities with every modern convenience and luxury sitting cheek-by-jowl with tiny shacks that house an entire family and lack indoor plumbing. Its beautiful views of mountains and seashore are partly obscured by security walls. It’s the nation of the ideals of Nelson Mandela, which struggles today with meeting the basic needs of its citizenry.
South Africa is faced with a shattering rate of HIV/AIDS, which primarily strikes down young adults, leaving their children in the care of their grieving grandparents. It was this situation that inspired licensed Unity teacher Robin Goff to create LoveLight, an outreach of her alternative Unity ministry The Light Center, to help the kids in South Africa rise above circumstances and believe in a hopeful future.
Riviersonderend is a small community in the Western Cape province. A very high unemployment rate combined with a devastating HIV/AIDS infection rate are circumstances that this community, and the kids in it, are trying to rise above. LoveLight helps by facilitating children’s camps for the kids in this town.
My husband Martin and I are YOU (Youth of Unity) sponsors in the South Central region. We live in Austin, Texas. When we learned about LoveLight, we felt called to go and help bring YOU to this place halfway across the world. What we found there has changed our lives forever.
Our first camp in Riviersonderend was in September 2012, and we just returned from the second camp in June 2013. We had 25 teens aged 14-18 at camp this time. The entire event is funded by donations to LoveLight. This June camp was almost entirely funded by Unity Church of the Hills in Austin, Texas.
Camp Ubuntu is held in a beautiful, green setting, so different from the cramped, dusty, weed-choked places in Riviersonderend that the kids normally have to play and hang out in. We had joy songs, campfires (and s’mores), and plenty of good food (especially important since this isn’t always the case at home). Like at YOU rallies, we had family groups, heart talks and lessons. The source material was The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.
Our event took place the same weekend as Legacy Rally, South Central’s summer event that was held in Oklahoma. The teens who planned that event graciously allowed us to use the same material, which they had written, to present to the teens in Riviersonderend. Also, in what was possibly a first, we were able to link, via the wonders of the Internet and FaceTime, to the camp in Riviersonderend and the rally in Oklahoma so that teens from across the world could see and connect with each other. Each group shared a joy song, a prayer, and a blessing. Most importantly, though, each group came away with an awareness of their connectedness to each other.
LoveLight plans to continue this work and expand it. The next camp is slated for December 2013, when three graduating YOUers will join us to plan and facilitate the event. We also hope to support the adults in Riviersonderend in the creation of a weekly group, similar to YOU, from which teens could derive support all year long, not just at camps.
The impact we are seeing from these camps is huge. These teens blossom at camp. They go from shy, insecure teens who won’t meet your eyes, let alone interact, to teens who are open, loving, and have a remarkable boost in self-confidence. They are learning leadership skills, as well as expanding their concepts of trust, the power of intentions, and following their dreams. These teens come home from camp and teach what they’ve learned to other kids. We’ve heard kids who were not at camp singing joy songs in the street. This impacts the whole community!