Thandi was 14 years old when she attended Camp Bambanani. A few months before the camp, she had been raped by her Uncle and her parents divorced as a result of that incident because her father supported his brother, rather than Thandi. The family kept the incident as a ‘family secret’ and hence Thandi had no counselling.

In a life skills session at camp, the group was discussing choices and taking responsibility for oneself. After the session Thandi disclosed to one of the ‘counsellors’ about her case. For the first time, Thandi felt she was not to blame. She said that all the activities at Camp Bambanani had empowered her to believe in herself. Thandi went back to continue with her life with her head held high.

Bongani is an orphan and was 17 years old when he attended a follow-up camp. He enjoyed all the physical challenges of the Camp. However, a highlight was when he was given a ‘memory book’ made by someone he will never know. It included a handkerchief embroidered with the word “HOPE” which touched him so much and brought tears to his eyes. Up to that moment, he was living a ‘care free’ life - scared to really think of any future. For the first time he said he was going to look forward to tomorrow, and the next day … to the day when he would be standing at the alter getting married. He would save his handkerchief for that day.

Jabulani was struggling with many things, loosing not only his parents but also 2 of his caregivers and many family members to HIV/AIDS. In discussion during a follow-up session, he shared that for him Camp Bambanani is his family and that he always wanted to be a part of it – more so because of the many learning points especially perseverance, will power and belief in self that had come out of the camp and that has kept him going.

After loosing both parents at 12 Siyabonga ran away from his hostile rural community and lived on the streets of Durban for 3 years. A street shelter programme came to his rescue and later attended Camp. When attending a follow-up session two years after the camp, his impression of the camp was “…it changed my life! Before the camp, I was reserved, scared and couldn’t relate to others. At camp I learnt that I could be a team player, I had many skills and people liked me!”