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American Touch In African Youth Camps

 JOHANNESBURG, South Africa,  -- While all eyes are on the World Cup in South Africa, local NGOs caution that school closings, influx of tourists, and relaxation of border controls leave children susceptible to exploitation, petty crime, prostitution, and drug dealing. South Africa is already riddled with one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS. But a unique collaboration of Africans and Americans is tackling the problem.

Camps for youth in Africa to teach life skills have grown in popularity. Global Camps Africa (GCA) was founded in 2004 as an HIV/AIDS prevention/education program by Phil Lilienthal, a Virginia attorney who ran Camp Winnebago in Maine for 30 years. Six years and 33 camps later, GCA has reached more than 4,200 children in South Africa.

In partnership with HIVSA, a South African-based NGO, GCA holds residential camps and bi-weekly Kids Clubs each year for children aged 11-16 years mostly from Soweto. Traditional recreational activities of a U.S. camp are combined with HIV/AIDS awareness, Voluntary Counseling and Testing, and life skills.

In April 2010, GCA shared its model through training funded by USAID/PACT to 65 South African NGOs.

Mr. Lilienthal notes, "Camp is a profound educational tool to change children's lives in a way that schools in South Africa have not been able to do."

According to UNAIDS, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the world’s largest population of people living with HIV. In South Africa, 18% of the population are infected compared to an estimated 23% in neighboring Kingdom of Lesotho.

Reaching across African borders, GCA worked with the Office of the First Lady of Lesotho and the International Association of Applied Psychology, a UN-accredited NGO, and US Doctors for Africa to hold a “Girls Empowerment Camp” before the World Cup for forty school drop-out females.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, internationally noted clinical psychologist, IAAP NGO representative to the UN, and faculty member ofColumbia University Teachers College, and IAAP team member Mary O’Neill Berry, partnered in implementing and evaluating the program.

Says Kuriansky, “The camp was powerful in teaching the girls HIV risk reduction behaviors and income generating activities crucial to resist being seduced into ‘transactional sex’ for money for food, clothes or school.”

The First Lady of Lesotho, Mrs. Mathato Mosisili, lauded the South African and Sesothan teams, and the Americans' expertise as a promising approach to reduce the serious shared health problem.

 

SOURCE Global Camps Africa

 



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