Let me start by saying that the work of Join for Joy is simply incredibly good, full stop. It is all about giving children who have difficult lives a good time for a few days, thereby offering them an alternative perspective to life in general. Without imposing any Western values. As a volunteer it was particularly nice to see the children open up as the camps progressed. When arriving at the camps the children have a lot to process. Being far away from home for the first time, being with children they have never met before, being offered new clothes and shoes, being able to play all day long, paying relatively much attention to personal hygiene, being offered three good meals a day and last but certainly not least: being handed over to the mercy of a bunch of white people who – to make matters worse – speak English instead of Swahili. In those circumstances it is only natural to be (very) shy. It was through sports, play, dancing, singing and joyfulness that the children opened up and learned that the summer camps are all about having a good time and feeling good about yourself. Thinking of the timidity of the children during the first hours and comparing this to the boundless enthusiasm of the children during the last hours still brings a BIG SMILE to my face.
In addition there were lots of small moments that I will remember for the rest of my days. Hearing the girls giggle while enjoying a hot shower, the boy who entrusted me that his ten year old brother had never said a word (yet), the invitation for Christmas at the home of a little girl, the way the children laughed at the way we danced, the awesome dance-moves of the children themselves, the joy of a piece of chicken… and many more.
Another aspect of the summer camps that I would like to highlight is the reciprocal character. The summer camps may be primarily aimed at giving Kenyan children who live in challenging circumstances the opportunity to experience the joys of childhood, but the volunteers have an equally valuable experience. Leading the summer camps provides the volunteers with the opportunity to learn about a totally different culture, to work in a team with (Kenyan and Dutch) people that they have only just met, to be jointly responsible for a group of vulnerable children, to get to know tiny though incredibly strong individuals, to experience the value of self-evident luxuriousness in the Western world and to make friends for life. In this way Join for Joy also contributes to the personal growth and tolerance of young adults in the Netherlands. The latter being most welcome in a society that is slowly growing less and less tolerant.
Long story short: the funds that are being donated to Join for Joy are particularly well spent and truly contribute to a better world. Both in Africa and in the Netherlands.
Elvira de Jong
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