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Camp in Sierra Leone teaches children to ?live in light’

Sept. 20, 2006

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu

Campers and counselors walk to church at the children’s camp.

By Phileas Jusu*

MOYAMBA, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — Two hundred and ten children from different parts of Sierra Leone and from various religious backgrounds gathered this summer for a weeklong camp at June Hartranft Memorial Primary School for Girls.

The Children's Ministry of the United Methodist Sierra Leone Annual Conference organized the July 17-24 camp, which had as its theme, "Live as Children of Light," inspired by Ephesians 5:8.

The event was the third organized by the Children's Ministry after Sierra Leone's bitter civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.

The camp was timely, said the Rev. S.E.A. Fonnie, superintendent of the United Methodist Church's Moyamba West District, where the event was held.

"After the war, we have found out that most children are wayward," he said. "But now that this camp is in session, it will serve as a forum where their lives will be molded. The lessons they're going to learn will instill in them a God-fearing spirit and the values of Christian life."

In his address to the children at the official opening ceremony, Bishop Joseph C. Humper of Sierra Leone admonished the children to treat life seriously and warned them to stay away from harmful drugs. He said the children were in the camp to prepare themselves for future leadership.

Humper told the camp counselors — teachers and caretakers who had traveled with the children from different locations in the country — to spend time with the children and be pacesetters for them.

The children spent the week studying portions of the Bible and learning about HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, and they also had fun through indoor and outdoor games. The interaction and the discipline they received from the camp “will also have a positive social impact on the children," Fonnie said.

Overwhelmed by turnout

Sallu Kamara, a camp counselor and director of the Bible Training Institute in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone, is optimistic about the camp’s impact on the children. “The United Methodist Church has a policy to nurture children during a vacation like this, so as to become good citizens in the future. We expect them to learn to be orderly at home, school and the community within which they live. We also expect them to learn Christian virtues like respect for elders and also to become better Christians and children in the communities where they live."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu

Children sing songs at the camp in Moyamba, Sierra Leone.
The Rev. Jane Lahai, head teacher of June Hartranft Memorial Primary School for Girls and also camp manager for 2006, shares Kamara’s optimism. "I believe the boys and girls will take home new knowledge, new skills and comportment. On the whole, I expect good from this camp this year."

She was overwhelmed by this year's turnout, she said. Her school has a boarding facility for just 150 girls. Accommodating more than 200 campers was a challenge she had to swiftly improvise for. "I have been a camper since childhood, so I know how to manage children well. I have also held and managed two such camps previously."

Comfortable beds were arranged for all the campers, and a separate makeshift boarding area was prepared for the boys.

"We are seeing more turnout this year because just after the war, parents were either afraid to part with their children or were not adequately informed about our camps," Lahai said. "The information seems to have gone down well this year, hence the high turnout. My only prayer now remains that we are able in the future to have another building like this (pointing to the two-story boarding home) so that we can host, train and care for more children."

New friends, new skills

The Rev. Etta Nicol is the director of the Children's Ministry. At the opening ceremony, she assured the children that they would return home full of knowledge, and she encouraged them to be attentive in class.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu

New arrivals unload their gear as they begin their weeklong stay at camp.
Sahr Sam, an 11-year-old from the UMC Boys Primary School in Koidu Town in Eastern Sierra Leone, enjoyed the camp. "I came to this camp to learn more about God," said Sahr, who wants to learn how to preach. "I also like the camp because of the big playground and good water to drink."

Hannah Kanu, 13, a second-year student from Holy Rosary Secondary School (a Catholic high school) in Kenema, Eastern Sierra Leone, also gave the camp high marks.

"I was delighted to come because I have never been to a camp before," she said."Already, I have learned a lot from what (the) bishop said yesterday, that I can be a child of light by being a good girl."

Eleven-year-old Hawa Abu, from the UMC Primary School in Kulanda Town, Bo, Sierra Leone, had attended the 2004 camp as well. She said she loved camping "because of the new friends I make and the new skills I learn from them."

*Jusu is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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