Interviewer: Alison Smith, Camp Sonshine SA Mentor
I first met Chelsea when she was just 5 years old; she attended the first ever Camp Sonshine South Africa camp. There was something about her that made her stand out to me and right from day one Chelsea had a very special place in my heart. When our pen-pal program started (and I was still living in the USA at the time) Chelsea and I became pen-pals. At first she drew me pictures and I wrote to her about my life in the USA.
In 2006 I moved back to South Africa and started up the after school program in Maitland Garden Village. Chelsea attended this program and I got to know her parents as well. One day while visiting Chelsea’s house I saw some applications to schools on the table, I asked her mom if Chelsea was going to be changing schools, she looked at me and with a feeling of sadness and desperation told me that she would love to be able to afford for Chelsea to go to a good school, but that there was just no way that she could afford it. Sadly this is the story of far too many South African families. Something inside me stirred and while I could not change the education system in South Africa I believed that I could change Chelsea’s educational experience. Through many phone calls, prayers, interviews and fundraising Chelsea became our very first Camp Sonshine Africa scholarship kid. Chelsea attended Pinelands North Primary from grade 4-7 and we were then able to help Chelsea in getting a full scholarship to attend Pinelands High School where she is currently in grade 10.
Neither of Chealse’s parents completed high school, so already Chelsea is setting a new legacy for her family and her family to come. We are incredibly proud of Chelsea and all her hard work. 11 years after meeting Chelsea I still see her on a daily basis as I get to take her to school every morning. She is an incredibly caring, mature and enthusiastic teenager whose stories I love to listen to. I feel incredibly privileged be a small part of Chelsea’s story and I look forward to being part of what is still to come.
Alison: How did you first get involved in Camp Sonshine Africa? After school program / camp / scholarship program?
Chelsea: I attended the first ever Camp Sonshine South Africa in 2004. Then my parents learnt about the after school program for the children from our community and decided to send me there. I attended all the annual camps.
I was then fortunate enough to be the first Camp Sonshine scholarship kid and I was given a scholarship to attend Pinelands North Primary from grade 4 – grade 7.
Alison: How old were you when you first participated in a Camp Sonshine Africa event?
Chelsea: I was 5 years old.
Alison: How do you think Camp Sonshine Africa has changed your life?
Chelsea: Camp Sonshine has contributed hugely to my life, from the beginning the camps and after school program were a fun place to be and a place to learn. The annual camps were a fun environment for me to make friends and to learn valuable life lessons.
Then, as if Camp Sonshine had not done enough for me, they awarded a scholarship to me! I believe that there is no greater gift than an education and Camp Sonshine Africa has given that to me!
Alison: What do you think would be different in your life if it were not for Camp Sonshine Africa?
Chelsea: If it were not for Camp Sonshine Africa I would not have been afforded the same opportunities. During the time that I was a Camp Sonshine Africa scholar I was exposed to plenty of new things that I would never have otherwise experienced. My mom always says: “You can be stripped of everything you have, but no one can ever take away the knowledge you have. Camp Sonshine Africa has given me great knowledge!
Alison: Do you think Camp Sonshine Africa has made a difference in Maitland Garden Village? If yes, what difference do you think it has made?
Chelsea: YES! It provides a place for the youth of Maitland Garden Village to come and engage in a fun, learning environment, keeping them off the streets. They have done amazing things for families and for the community as a whole.
Camp Sonshine Africa is Maitland Garden Village’s special angel!
Alison: If you could say something to all the people who give money to Camp Sonshine Africa to make the after school program, camp and our scholarships possible, what would you say?
Chelsea: A huge, massive, tremendous THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! Your contribution big or small matters to every single child at Camp Sonshine Africa! I hope to be just like you one day and make a difference too! I hope God blesses you abundantly!
Alison: Do you plan to study after high school? If yes, do you know what would you like to study?
Chelsea: I haven’t fully made up my mind yet, but I am hoping to study literature or teaching.
Alison: What job would you like to do one day?
Chelsea: One day I would like to become a journalist, social worker of an English teacher.
Alison: If you had R10 000 (approx $1000) what would you do with it?
Chelsea: I would use the money to help organizations like Camp Sonshine Africa who are trying to equip our youth.