The way children are engaged at summer camps today could help determine their productive contribution to society tomorrow.
In fact, said Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, providing avenues for campers to participate in areas such as dance, theatre, science, technology and entrepreneurship helps to foster skills that will benefit the economy later.
“This is a very central and critical programme of the Government of Barbados,” he said while touring four Government run summer camps yesterday.
“We’ll be ensuring and certainly pushing to engage more with the private sector, because there is a huge cost attached to the National Summer Camps programme…
“But, it is an investment that I believe is critical for our young people… You can look at the investment that goes into the National Summer Camps Programme; but look at what would probably obtain if you did not have that investment. What would our young kids do during the summer? We may end up spending more dealing with the potential damage that is caused.”
Lauding the contribution of sponsors who had helped to make the camps a reality, Lashley noted that “there has been a good response to my call last year for more private sector companies to come on board”.
“As we speak, there is a programme which is run here at [St. Judes] camp which focusses on the development of interest in draughts, and that is sponsored by Pine Hill Dairy. There are other entities, … that have come on board … this year to focus on areas that fall in line with our National Development Goals, within our National Youth Policy,” he said, acknowledging that these contributions had allowed the summer camps programme to cater to 12,000 children in more than 60 camps.
Although the programme has experienced some challenges, including operating with a reduced budget and ensuring counsellors were paid on time, the minister stressed that efforts continued to improve its efficiency, an endeavour which was aided by both ministry staff and contributions from the private sector.
“It is really myopic to imagine that a Government, in rather trying economic times, can continue to increase spend on a number of social programmes without looking at the implications.
“We welcome not only the involvement of the private sector, … but volunteers … who give of their time and effort, and sometimes their money, to help with ensuring that this programme can continue at a level and a quality that we would want,” he said.