Funding for the National Summer Camp Programme has been slashed, with the programme getting only a quarter of its usual budget this year. This means not only will the number of camps be reduced and their duration cut, but there will be no free meals.
But Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, Stephen Lashley has offered the assurance that there will be no compromise in providing “a quality camp experience”.
He announced at a Press conference this morning at his ministry’s Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall headquarters, that Government’s 2014 National Summer Camp Programme which has been under scrutiny, has taken a 80 per cent budget cut, getting only $700,000 this time around, compared to the $3.5 million which was allocated in 2013.
As a result, there will be 46 camps, down from 64 last year, all opening their doors for five weeks, and not six weeks as was the case in 2013.
“The provision of meals, which would have been provided through the caterers employed under the National Summer Camp Programme, represents that largest element of expenditure . . . and unfortunately, this year, we are not in a position to provide those meals. That is a major change,” Lashley said.
He however pointed out that if there was a demand for prepared meals, arrangements would be made for campers to purchase their lunches.
“Based on the results of the registration process, we would then allocate an approved caterer . . . and, of course, we intend to manage the process where the meals, once there are required, will be produced at a reasonable rate,” Lashley explained.
Meantime he has assured more direct involvement in the camps by the staff of the Division of Youth in his ministry.
To this end, a committee, headed by the Director of Youth Affairs Cleviston Hunte, has been established and will be responsible for the management of the camps.
“All persons who are working in the Division of Youth will be deployed in very central ways in terms of ensuring the management and integrity of our camps,” Lashley stressed, adding that the hiring of camp directors and camp assistants had not been impacted by the budget constraints and persons recruited to work within the camps would be trained and required to adhere to the camp manual.
“There will be no compromise to the quality of our camps this year; we intend to provide a camp experience that is at a very high level. We have focused a lot of attention in previous years to exposing our young people to educational tours; this year that will still be a major component,” he added.
The minister said the majority of camps would accommodate children ages four to 12 and offer a variety of activities such as sports, culture, science and technology, personal development and social education in areas such as HIV awareness and drug abuse.
Specialised camps will also be offered again this year for children ages 13 to 15.
The camps will run from July 14 to August 15. (BGIS/RG)