On Friday 23rd February at 4.30pm, 47 people boarded two coach buses – including 3 staff members, 9 mothers 1 father 2 elders and their collective 32 children aged between 6months to 13 years of age. The Blue Light Maldon camp hosted the first Walk Beside Me Family Camp.
Walk Beside Me is a program that holds the vision ‘to Support, Guide and Uplift the South Sudanese youth of Yarra – Learning and Growing together as a Community’. After two terms of the weekly Group Mentoring program running in 2017, the importance of the mentees parent’s ongoing involvement, contribution and commitment were identified as key factors for program sustainability.
Working with the community, a weekend camp was organised for the program participants and their families. The weekend was filled with a variety of sports games and team activities.
On Saturday afternoon, while the children were enjoying navigating the obstacle course, mini golf and arts and crafts, the parents and program staff gathered in the conference room for a three hour forum. Groupwork Institute facilitators Nancy and Che lead an open inclusive non-judgmental discussion where as a collective we spoke of the Walk Beside Me program – its original intentions and what we achieved; what was good and not so good about the program; and what as a community they would like to see/work towards for their children and themselves. Some great discussions were had in small groups and as a whole.
A key insight gained from the forum was that they would like more family oriented activities. The parents expressed how they would like a place to exchange culture with their children. It is very important to them that they can pass on their language and traditional dance. Not only is this leading by example, but it bridges the relationship between parents and children, and offers a platform for healthy communication to be learnt and practiced between all involved. The parents present made a commitment to gather again after the camp and work with the Walk Beside Me staff team to develop what a continuation of the program would look like. The next family camp is planned for July where the parents will be key in the organisation of and even facilitation of a cultural exchange through dance with their children.
The program is supported by Yarra Blue Light