In 2019, we are proudly celebrating a decade of Sivivane Camp—a SeriousFun Partner Program operated in collaboration with Young Heroes, a non-profit organization in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). During our 10-year partnership, over 12,000 camp and outreach experiences have been provided across the country. Milestones such as these give occasion to pause, reflect, and celebrate the incredible impact this program has had on children and families affected by serious illness in Eswatini.
A Partnership of Common Values
In Swazi culture, a ‘sivivane’ is a carefully stacked pile of stones which indicates a place of safety or a refuge on a long journey. In 2009, when SeriousFun initiated the partnership with Young Heroes, former Camp Director and current Young Heroes Executive Director Khulekani Magongo chose to name the camp after the nation’s symbol of safety and refuge. This bridging of local culture and camp culture resulted in Sivivane Camp. Camp is one of many programs that Young Heroes has embedded into its programmatic footprint in order to benefit children and families living with HIV in Eswatini. Other programs include comprehensive healthcare, educational support, HIV prevention, and vocational training. Ultimately, Young Heroes helps vulnerable youth to grow successfully into self-sufficient, healthy adults. With our aligned visions, it’s no surprise that this partnership has been so successful over the past 10 years and that camp is one of Young Heroes’ most sought-after programs.
Phumzile Hlatshwayo, Sivivane Camp Director and Communications Officer at Young Heroes, recognizes the value of the partnership with SeriousFun. “Camp enables us to reach adolescents who are HIV positive and in great need of support. It is a fruitful partnership that has opened many doors for so many children. I have seen firsthand the life-changing impact.”
Phumzile explains that after a decade of programming, Sivivane Camp has become recognized as a critical intervention for children living with HIV in her country.
“Camp is a safe space where children who are going through similar life challenges have the chance to interact and learn from each other.”
“It allows them to see they are not the only ones with HIV. They see role models—older campers who are adhering to their meds and who share how they overcame their challenges. Yes, it boosts their confidence and self-esteem, but even more critically—it makes them realize they can live a full life too.”
Camp as a Critical Intervention
The way children learn about Sivivane Camp highlights just how integrated camp has become at Young Heroes, and as it relates to the treatment of children living with HIV in Eswatini. At Young Heroes, Family Days are held at clinics throughout the country. During a typical Family Day, children are examined by a medical practitioner and receive HIV/ AIDS education. They are offered HIV testing and TB screening. Those who are diagnosed as HIV positive receive free medication, follow-up visits, and are enrolled in monthly peer support groups called Teen Clubs. Once enrolled in Teen Clubs, children learn about Sivivane Camp, where they have the opportunity to have fun in a safe environment, surrounded by peers and positive adult role models.
Phumzile continues, “Children who attend camp come back to Teen Club and share what they have experienced with others. This is powerful, because campers have seen that there is hope; many of their peers have newfound confidence, their own self-esteem has increased, and they now believe a happy future is possible. Camp is powerful because it creates a ripple effect across children participating in other programs, from other communities, across the whole country.” The life-changing impact of camp for children in Eswatini is undeniable and as Phumzile describes, its positive effects do not end there. “For us individuals working in this sector—doctors, youth workers, donor relations managers—it is easy to get tired, demotivated and to wonder if progress is truly being made. In the day to day, it can be just ‘go go go’. But at camp, you are given the chance to stop and realize the impact. It makes you sit down and take it all in. One way or another, it changes you personally and professionally, and motivates you to keep fighting for this cause.”
Vision for the Future
Though a decade has passed, this is just the beginning for Sivivane. When asked about her hopes for the future, Phumzile talks of serving more children, reaching those in rural areas that have limited access to services, and diversifying the programmatic footprint to include family weekend programming. Together, we look forward to providing camp to even more children in need—offering life-changing support and serving as that place of refuge along their personal journeys for years to come.