Words by Shane Knights, Merricks Lodge Site Manager
During early January, Edmund Rice Camps (ERC) ran their summer kids program at Merricks Lodge. ERC provides camps, day programs and other recreational activities for children (aged 8 – 15 years) and families, who are socially or financially disadvantaged. This provides a break from a home life that is often extremely stressful, it provides a positive and safe place to have fun, and introduces positive role models that can demonstrate friendship, patience, trust and perhaps a different way of relating.
The ERC model of providing one volunteer to each child has proven to empower and put a smile on the faces of these kids. Having a positive role model who will play and often just listen to the child brings out the best in them. The ERC summer program sees the kids taking in the environment of the Mornington Peninsula and encouraging the kids through active play. The summer camp has the kids enjoying Point Leo beach, exploring the rock pools of Cape Schanck, arts and craft, overnight camp out and meeting some farmyard friends at the local children’s farm.
UC Camping and ERC goals are closely aligned and therefore we supported their camp. UC Camping provided in kind support in the way of free of charge accommodation for all kids. The significant savings has enabled ERC to return to Merricks Lodge in 2014 and continue to offer an effective program to Victorian children and families. The Executive Officer of ERC Mr Mark Monahan provided me with some feedback from the camp, which is detailed below. Merricks Lodge staff are committed to supporting programs that encourages kids to be active and engage them with the environment. In the years after their camping experience, we hope the kids choose to protect the environment and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
ERC Merricks Summer Kids Camp
by Mark Monahan (Executive Officer ERC)
This year we had four boys return for their third (fourth for one boy) Edmund Rice Camp. They experience significant disadvantage, find school environments very difficult and hostile, have little recreational outputs, very limited role models and certainly wouldn’t have much else to share with their class mates, when they return from holidays. Their week on Edmund Rice Camp helps fill this void. The memories of camp prove to be crucial to building something they can look back on when their days are tough. Or when having to make choices, the influence of the volunteers’ role modelling shines through.
The Merricks Lodge campsite is crucial for this to happen. The safe environment allows these boys to run free and experience ‘just being a kid’ rather than, when at home having to bear many family issues that only adults should have to worry about. The pools allow the boys to experience the fun of swimming on hot days and the great atmosphere that comes with that like lots of screaming and laughing, splashing, joking around and again just being a kid having fun. This may seem trivial but these boys don’t often get to experience these simple pleasures.
This year one of the boys did the overnight camp out for the first time in three years. All previous years he resisted with lots of difficult behaviours. This year he participated in the activity and the next day felt so proud of himself for sleeping in a tent, and felt just like all the other kids by joining in and completing the activity.
Lastly one girl that returned for her second camp this year has had a very difficult life and especially in 2012. She has witnessed death, violence, and other traumas. Her mum told me that her daughter occasionally says to her that she wishes she wouldn’t wake up sometimes. She is regularly depressed. However her mum says the Edmund Rice Camps gives her motivation to keep strong during those tough days. The encouragement and support she gets during camp is what she holds onto for the coming year.
Because we have so many kids return to us, especially the more kids in need, it is crucial to have a campsite they know and love to return to. The kids thrive on consistency and having a campsite that they know is another important element to our success.