Big happy smiles, restful gazes, bright eyes and warm hugs - It was really great to share the experience with the youth who partook in the Camp Basil Jones, Ambergris Caye, Belize. Knowing that most of the campers had not visited any of the cayes (islands) in Belize and that the beach, sun, sand and sea was a first for them made it even more special.
For four weeks, Mito Paz of Green Reef, Mr. Lincoln from the Belize Department of Youth Services and don Raul, caretaker of camp, ran the Camp Basil Jones hosting youngsters from all over the country. Through the Department of Youth Services, various inner city youth got the opportunity to camp on the beach at one of the most pristine areas on Ambergris Caye, one which even many island residents have experienced.
One hundred campers ages 11-17 from all over Belize got the unique opportunity to participate in this fun-filled adventure and experience the thrill of a lifetime at a week-long summer camp. Campers pack their bags and head to a rustic beauty beachside retreat, where they swam and snorkeled to the reef, exercised on the beach, played volleyball, basketball, football, partook in arts & craft, nature hiking, beach clean-up, turtle nest spotting/protection, built camp fires, told stories, recited poetry, danced and showed off their individual talents.
Each week was devoted to different groups of 25 from Belize – 1. Belize City 2. Orange Walk & Northern Belize 3. Cayo District on the west 4. San Pedro & Caye Caulker, but camp kids made it from as far as south Placencia and other rural areas. Summer camp was that of both fun and learning. On its third consecutive year, the summer youth camp program aims to promote conservation and preservation of the Belize Barrier Reef, working towards youth empowerment in Belize.
Mito and Mr. Lincoln made sure their time at camp was packed with fun scheduled activities that included special guests who talked more about the environment and involved them in creative and fun activities. Camp kids new that caretake don Raul was serious and stern, but at the end of camp they were calling him ‘grandpa’ and expressing how sad they were to leave him behind. Don Raul fed them, cleaned their sleeping quarters and assisted the kids in any way he could; he was especially good at telling scary stories during the bonfire.
At the end of camp the kids were still wearing those happy smiles they came to camp with, but left with a lot more knowledge, experience and friendships that they formed during their special time on the island.
The camp was spearheaded by Green Reef in collaboration with the San Pedro House of Culture (NICH), Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and the Department of Youth Services with financial support from the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), BelizeKids.org, Finn & Martini, Blackadore Caye Resort, Oceana, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and National Institute of Culture & History (NICH).