“It’s a long way to Johannesburg, it’s along way to go!” “So, let’s have our own camps right here in Harare”, was the thinking of one lady parishioner at St. Joseph’s Priory. Having obtained the permission and encouragement of Fr. Ockerse, she proceeded to organise the inaugural camp (for girls) -and the “SSPX Children’s Camps, Zimbabwe” were established.
The first one was held in the National Parks, Lake Chivero (previously Lake Mellwaine), from 25th April to 1st May. Fr. Alesio kindly agreed to act as Chaplain, and three ladies volunteered to help the Co-ordinator at the Camp. Two furnished Lodges (under thatch) were hired, the lounge of one being used as a chapel.
Apart from the problem of having only two bathrooms for everyone. there was no “roughing it”, except for the 10 km of shocking roads in the National Parks. (One wonders what they do with the exorbitant gate fee levied on entering the area!) However, it was fun the see the occasional wild life on the way.
The SSPX Camp timetable and games kindly provided by Fr. Swanton were adhered to as closely as possible. The daily Mass with Father’s inspiring sermons as well as the Visits to the Blessed Sacrament had a noticeably beneficial effect on the children (who normally go to church only on Sundays). Congratulations to Danielle de Souza who won the “Best Conduct” prize!
The girls were divided into two groups for Catechism, Father taking the older ones, and one of the lady helpers the younger ones. The children showed much interest in the daily Catechism instruction although they were somewhat apprehensive about the Catechism Quizzes in the evenings!
The eight girls attending were divided into two teams, St. Agues and St. Cecilia, and the competition between them to gain points in the various activities over the five odd days was very evident. In the end, “Cecilia” won with 140 points, with “Agnes” at 78 points.
Games played included “Tomato”, “River Bank”, “Blue Murder” and skipping, the most popular being “Two Flags” – which game Fr. Alesio also joined in, on one occasion. The girls were delighted to be treated to boat rides on the lake on one day and on another, they, tried to get the hang of tennis on the courts in the National Parks.
The daily Art and Craft lessons were very popular and included a religious colouring competition, creating and decorating a candle holder, making a religious book-mark card-making from a set of stamps, and producing a “sacrifice tree”. The evening bonfire was enjoyed immensely by the children, particularly as Fr. Alessia not only accompanied the singing on the guitar, but also entertained the group with his lovely voice.
Although not part of the scheduled programme, the rock rabbits and monkeys constantly hanging around the Lodges looking for food created much excitement. One monkey even had the audacity to steal a banana from the kitchen!
Having been asked on the last day for their views on the Camp, the majority of the girls agreed that they had learned much Catechism and had become much more aware of their Faith. The youngest, when asked what she had liked best at the Camp, excitedly proclaimed: “the jelly”! (However, the hamburgers and chips were voted the most popular meal.) The girls had been unanimous, however, that what they had all disliked the most was getting up so early in the morning!
The two oldest girls had enjoyed the camp so much that they had even asked how soon we would be holding another one! The second such Camp, this time for boys, will be held at the Girl Guides Association Pax Park (also within the National Parks at Lake Chivero) in early August. Although the road to this venue is even worse than the previous one (if that is possible), the premises are far more spacious, much more private and slightly cheaper.
There is a large bunker room for the boys (thankfully with a plethora of ablutions), ample chalet accommodation for Fr. Alessio and the helpers, and a very large hall which can be partitioned off for the chapel on the one end, and the dining area on the other. There is even an “open-air chapel” in the abundant rock formations. However, we might have to take an extra supply of bananas for the monkeys!
Although the venues for our Camps (in comparison with the South African Camps) are obviously more comfortable and congenial for the children and particularly for the poor priest, this comes at a price. As it had been felt that the fees should remain reasonable, we were very grateful for the items donated to a couple of scheduled Morning Markets and particularly the generous cash donations from some parishioners which provided for the deficit incurred at the Girls’ Camp.
Fr. Ockerse has kindly agreed for the Co-ordinator to do fund-raising for this worthy cause. Hopefully, we will be able to continue providing for the children of our Parish with these annual Camps which, at the very least, give them much-needed interaction with other Traditional Catholic children.