Not known to many, the MA (psychology) students of St Xavier’s College, Mapusa have been preparing themselves over the past three days for a day’s camp to be held today. Many might be wondering as to what’s the big deal in organising a day camp. Well, unlike other camps, this camp is specially organised for children living with HIV between the ages 5 to 18.
Camp Rainbow is an Indian partnership initiative with YRG Care and Serious Fun founded by Paul Newman. It is a Regional Capacity Building Workshop and Day Camp on psychosocial interventions for children living with HIV.
Started in 2016, Camp Rainbow has now become a much awaited event among students. “This is the second year that we are organising this camp. The seniors teach the juniors what they have learnt from their seniors and the learning and teaching process is carried forward. This is my final year and from next year onwards my juniors will take the lead role in training and sensitising their juniors for this camp,” says second year student, Anuvea Fernandes.
All activities that have been lined up for the day are intended at entertaining and informing. “During our three-day training programme we are taught about organising entertaining activities that will bring out the best from these children. Sessions on life skills, queries relating to HIV will be answered and art and craft session where the children will be encouraged to showcase their artistic side will be conducted by the volunteers,” says Anuvea.
Mentored by an experienced bunch of faculty members, around 28 student volunteers have agreed to be a part of Camp Rainbow this year and nearly 40 children living with HIV will participate in the camp. “This is an opportunity for the students to be sensitised, trained and equipped on this topic before they meet and interact with children. The students have tried to pass on the skills they hold and bring out the best in the children through new ways and activities,” says assistant professor, Tina D’Cunha. Adding to this, assistant professor Vijay Viegas feels that at Camp Rainbow the students are able to cater to the psychological needs of the children. “These children will get to come out of their secluded atmosphere and showcase their skills. Besides, they also get to think and learn something out of the box,” says Vijay.
Camp Rainbow also deals with being empathetic towards children living with HIV. “The volunteers over the three-day training programme are taught about how to make a good impression through body language, eye contact, differentiate between a good and bad touch and moreover are equipped with dealing with these children,” says Anuvea.
For many students being a part of Camp Rainbow has been a learning experience. “Despite living with HIV these children have a smile on their faces which serves as a motivation for me. Every day is a struggle for them but they face it bravely,” says second year student, Larissa Pinho of the coordinating committee.
Being a part of Camp Rainbow has had a significant impact on the lives of the many students. “I did not know much about HIV before I joined this group. In the long run I wish to volunteer for any organisation that is trying to improve the lives of children living with HIV,” says first year student, Beverly Monteiro. Agreeing with her Larissa says: “I did not know much about such children but now that I am aware, I am determined to do something to improve their condition and to eradicate the stigma and discrimination they face in society.”
Author: SHERAS FERNANDES