One of flagship activities which responds to number two of Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) in journeying with young people is the “Educational Camp” which the Loyola Social Centres / Loyola Hope Center (CEL) in Lomé, Togo offers.
Each year, Centre Espérance Loyola (CEL) grants vulnerable young people an opportunity to experience a favourable atmosphere in learning. It is indeed the educational camp which brings together young people coming from varying background.
In April 2021, 40 young people comprising 20 boys and 20 girls took part in this 10-day camp in the city of kpalimé, a locality 120 km away from the capital, Lomé. A team of Loyola Social Centres made up of supervisors and trainers, and with the support of a priest chaplain from the diocese, accompanied the young people during their stay in the camp.
Eucharistic celebrations, confessions and spiritual exercises were the themes of each day. The participants were aged between 11 and 24 and at 6th grade. It was an exceptional and fruitful camp especially considering the period we are in- COVID-19. Starting April 10 through 20, 2021, Bishop Seshie Centre hosted the camp and welcomed young campers from the seven deaneries of the diocese.
The camp can be considered educational because, not only does it strengthen the skills of young people for “a careful generation” on several dimensions in record time, but also offers young people a platform to share ideas, showcase talents, enjoy mutual company and appreciate, and share virtues. They had fun after months of schooling.
The group had moments of silence, meditation, and of evaluating their lives for more responsible commitments and for a positive change in their behaviour. By the design of the program, at the end of the camp each young person becomes a leader, a peer educator, and a champion for his peers, in their families and neighbourhoods in their various establishments and in their parishes. Their personal development is boosted by the reinforcement of skills.
The modules covered are about human dimensions such as Spirituality, youth entrepreneurship, Sexually Transmitted Infections (HIV, Hepatitis), COVID-19, Violence and Sexual Abuse, Early Pregnancies, Vulnerabilities of young people, Friendship and Love Relationships, and getting to know your body better.
Finally, trainers dissected the subject of Values and Virtues who used the AHAPPY (AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Program for Youth) as reference. The supporting videos enable young people to know themselves better, and to better discern the consequences of the addiction to alcohol and drugs, rape, lack of respect for parents, superficial lifestyle, multi-partner sexual relations which promote the transmission of STIs like HIV.
In the camp, the young also engage in such as cooking, production of liquid soap and bleach and such activities to help develop an entrepreneurial culture among them. Sports and fun activities; dance around the fire, performances by young people through skits, poems, classical and traditional dance. Board games (scrabble, lady, cards, awale) were the highlights of the latest camp and this facilitated socialization unveiling hidden talents of the youngsters. These opportunities help to overcome fearfulness in some young people.
In the camp normally there is a visit to the bishop’s house, and moments of convivial meal sharing which help to reveal a better vision of family and build team spirit among participants, and this happened this time as well. All camp activities, took place in strict compliance with preventive measures against Covid-19 in Togo.
Festus (not his real name)- I am 11 years old, and in 6th grade. I live with my grandmother. Normally, I hang out with some young people in the neighbourhood, and we use alcohol and drugs. With this camp, I have become more aware about bad company and behaviour. The trainings on: “values and virtues” and the “difference between a normal friendship and a romantic relationship”, revealed to me my bad choices, and how much I have been damaging my health and my studies. I make a firm resolution to avoid alcohol, drugs, multi-partnership and to educate friends.
Faith (not her real name) is 16 years old. When I was 12, I was raped, and this affected my dignity greatly. Since that time, I have had crises. AHAPPY themes: “I am a beloved creature of God”, “My body and I”, the Listening and Counselling sessions, the Eucharist celebrations, and the camp atmosphere allowed me to break the silence and get out of this situation that haunted me.
John (not his real name) is 18 years old- What impressed me the most at the camp is the sure training “How to prepare for marriage or a consecrated life” in addition to the theme on “who are Jesuits?”, I understood how to develop the spiritual dimension since I aspire to pursue a religious life.
Caren (not her real name) is 24 years old- I am in training in office automation. I got my BAC 2 years ago. Unfortunately, I got pregnant while I was in secondary school. Thanks to my mother, I returned to school after giving birth. I was in total ignorance. The camp made me realize the risks I took by getting pregnant at a very young age and my exposure to STIs / HIV AIDS / HEPATITIS, even death. I pledge to educate my siblings who are sexually active about second abstinence before marriage. I appreciate CEL for the camp.
I am Father Gabriel Epham, chaplain of the 2021 educational camp. After 10 days spent with the young people and trainers of the Loyola Social Centres / Loyola Hope Center, we found out that AHAPPY is a comprehensive capacity building program (spiritual dimension, physical, social, emotional and intelligence) for the personal development of all participants. As chaplaincy, we have boosted Ignatian spirituality among young people. This is the place to promote “AHAPPY”, a rich document that has been used in several areas to strengthen the skills of our young people. Each young person received AHAPPY which will be used to train other young people who have not had the privilege of participating in this camp. I take this opportunity to salute the dynamism of the whole team.