GEORGETOWN – The Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) of the Ministry of Labour Human Services and Social Security and the Peace Corps organized the first annual Camp STOMP (Supportive Teamwork Opening Minds Positively) from August 4 to 24, 2013. STOMP was a pilot summer camp that provided 30 adolescent boys between 14 to 17 years old living in residential care with an opportunity to develop good leadership skills, positive decision making abilities, healthy life skills, and short and long term goal projection.
Peace Corps Response Volunteer (PCRV) Melissa Trainor worked closely with CPA staff and the STOMP coordinating team in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the STOMP camp. In addition to the PCRV support, Peace Corps supported the camp by providing President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funds through the Volunteer Activity Support and Training (VAST) grant mechanism. To ensure the objectives were met successfully, the CPA collaborated with the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport, the Guyana Defense Force, the Guyana Police Force, Habitat for Humanity, the Guyana Scouts Association, and the Burrowes School of Art.
The three-week camp had a number of objectives to support, empower, and educate adolescent boys. One of the objectives was to educate the adolescent boys engaged in risky behavior (drug use & unsafe sex) on HIV/AIDS & prevention, through Life Skills training. Campers participated in empowerment activities, such as a session on Facing Facts about HIV/AIDS, and training in communication skills, decision-making skills, and relationship skills. Camp facilitators used skill-building techniques to help the boys develop HIV/AIDS awareness materials.
Camp STOMP also used physical fitness exercises to teach the boys about the importance of maintaining healthy bodies. They participated in physical fitness activities such as military drills, sporting activities, swimming, and gym. Another objective of the Camp was to foster relationships between the 30 adolescent boys and 10 male role models, to encourage healthy lifestyles choices. Through this mentorship program, the boys had an opportunity to connect with a male role model offering the chance for the boys to dream and plan for a life beyond their current circumstances. Mentors allowed for male bonding, offloading their fears, examining their risky behaviors, discussing their past experiences, and working towards finding a healthy and realistic solution with someone who has walked the path before.
Camp STOMP provided the adolescents an opportunity to work on arts and crafts such as leather craft, painting, and tie dye. Campers also enjoyed some quality STOMP Time, with a movie, a bonfire, storytelling, and skits. The Camp came to a close with the Day of Challenge, or Hero Day, where campers participated in a drill display, a physical fitness challenge, an exhibition of the HIV/AIDS awareness materials, and a talent show.
The boys got to keep the items they created throughout the camp and each boy received a certificate of completion and a backpack donated by the U.S. Embassy to Guyana. CPA will continue to support the boys to ensure that the work facilitated over the three weeks will be sustained. It is hoped that another group of vulnerable boys will be able to benefit from the STOMP experience in 2014. The project may expand to include boys with similar backgrounds and experiences from the remaining 20 residential care facilities and potentially at risk boys from secondary schools. CPA will also continue to request services and resources from external stakeholders including services, equipment, clothing, and food.