The secret behind those huge smiles at DIODE Camps
By ALVIN DAN
After being part of the DIODE team for a while now, I’m slowly and surely coming to terms with what parents go through when they think about sending their beloved children to camps.
I have found that some Malaysian parents are apprehensive about the idea, especially if they are sending their children away to camp for the first time.
Well, camp season is here again. As a parent, your concerns are valid. It’s completely normal to feel worried about what will happen to your child at camp.
Here are a few things I have learnt through working for DIODE Camps, and why there is absolutely nothing to fear.
1. DIODE electrifies, but not in the way you think
The name DIODE conjures up different images for different people. For us, DIODE is a semiconductor that spurs current to flow through in one direction.
The camps are open to youths from all walks of life, religion, background and status. The goal is that after going through the programme, they will all return home with a single, unifying direction – that within them is the opportunity to be a leader in their own spheres.
Whether it be a formal position, or an informal one, the most important thing for a young person to understand is that the best leader first learns to lead himself or herself, and we show them how to do this within the safe confines of camp.
A natural leader is a person who puts one’s words and thoughts into action and follow through with it. Repeated enough times, any leadership position will come naturally. Our job at DIODE is to show them how to flip the right switches.
2. People are the best part of the programme
Each of our camps has at least 30% of participants who are sponsored to come for free, which we term as sponsored participants. These youths come from homes, orphanages, refugee centres and social organisations, who would otherwise not have the opportunity to join paying camp programmes such as these.
Then we have the rest of the 70%, which we term as the public participants, who enrol for camps through online registration.
We call it integration because both parties get the opportunity to live with each other for the duration of the camp.
Campers will learn from each other – what it means to live with a family tied by blood and the blessings that come with it, and what it means to live with a community of people who are family by choice, and the blessings that come with that too.
Instead of having reality explained to them, campers are impacted more effectively when they get to talk to someone with first-hand experience, and make new friends in the process. Magic happens when two worlds collide.
3. Camp doesn’t change who you are, it changes what you choose to do
One of the toughest questions that I get from parents is: “Will camp change my child for the better?”
I usually tell parents that while I cannot promise that the camp will turn their children into Obamas or Mother Teresas, I can safely say that each of them will be given the opportunity to change for the better. The decision to make any change at all, has to come from the internal, and supported by the external.
I have, however, had many experiences of powerful change that happen to participants who join us in our camps.
For some, their parents would call us the week after camp with statements such as “What did you do to my child?” or “Wow, he’s changed so much!”
You can imagine how thankful and redeemed I feel to hear those testimonies, because I know that while I cannot guarantee that any child will return home a new person, I can guarantee an opportunity for change in their worldview, whether it is through the sessions, through the outdoor games, or even through that understanding a young person needs to know, that he or she is important.
4. It’s not over. It’s never over.
Learning should be regarded as a lifelong pursuit, and not just confined to what you’ve picked up at camp.
Each participant above the age of 15 has the option of becoming a camp facilitator. A large number of participants have come back for selection, training and a chance to put those learnings and skills to test.
At the end of the selection, each of them will receive a feedback report on how they did and areas that they can improve on.
The opportunity for growth here is endless, because upon qualifying, they can join any of our Leaderonomics programmes, be it a camp or a weekend programme (for free!).
As a longtime camp facilitator, I often assure parents that my role is not merely as a guide or “babysitter” but as an older buddy the kids can relate to, and maybe even ask the questions they never knew how or who to ask.
Building trust in relationships is a very important element at DIODE camps. Without it, a big part of our camp will fall through the cracks.
As a facilitator, I bring up the learnings at the end of each day, monitor and moderate discussions, and share the journey of success and failure.
I am never 100% sure I have done the best I could, until the last day of camp. A queer mix of emotions are present during the closing moments of every DIODE camp – of sadness because it is ending, and of excitement of things to come.
Each time, I have witnessed moments where the campers will try to stay together with the facilitator as long as they can, with some refusing to get on the bus, or ‘bribing’ us to extend the camp much longer!
Their reactions mean the world to me.
To parents, I hope this article has helped you learn more about DIODE camps. For those who have signed up for our year-end camps, we look forward to having you join us!
Visit www.diodecamps.com to find out more.