Every camp we have, we are reminded of why we need to continue building our programs. We are reminded by the boys’ actions and by their stories. The biggest ‘pat on the back’ we get is that the majority of boys that attend our camps are now returning as ‘regulars’.
Let me point out that the majority of the boys that have come along on our camps have limited connection to anything… Family, School, Teams etc. So when we hear that they are re-booking for the next camp or that they are staying in contact with boys from our camps it gives us a great thrill to know that we are creating that connection for them. They now have something that they ‘belong’ to, The Boys To The Bush family.
So as I sit in my parked car, on the side of the road with that lump in my throat you get when trying to hold back emotions, I realise that what we are doing is far greater than just giving a group of boys an experience on a farm.
Let me rewind 2 hours… I am driving one of the boys to the airport to catch an early morning flight back home. The young fella had a great week with us and was a very likable kid. He did have those eyes that you could see had lived a life of pain and he was always on the lookout for conflict.
We were able to have a good yarn and hearing some of the things he shared with me absolutely broke my heart. No human being let alone a twelve year old kid should have been subjected to the abuse and neglect he had.
He was returning ‘home.’ Home to this twelve year old for the past 8 months has been a motel room. His supervision was based on a roster of staff from FACS.
So when we reached the airport and he started pleading with me to stay another week and state that he didn’t want to go ‘home’, I could feel nothing but guilty for having to send him back. It felt as I was contributing to his sense of abandonment that had obviously plagued his life to date.
As I began driving back to the camp to pick up our next lot of departures I found myself battling to get rid of the lump in my throat to the point where I had to pull over and have a bit of a cry.
After a few minutes composing myself I got back on the road. I could not help but think about how unfair life has been for this kid it also got me thinking about all the other boys that have shared similar stories with us… This young bloke unfortunately is not unique… He is one of around 500 kids in NSW who find themselves in a motel room with strangers looking after them every night. We have had over 180 kids camp with us in just over 12 months. We have not had a single one get homesick… That’s great for us but surely some must miss all that home has to offer?
Yesterday I took a call from this kid’s case manager telling me how he had not shut up about his time with us. She asked if we could have him back next holidays and any other upcoming camps. Not that I needed any reminding but this call reiterated again, how much Boys To The Bush means to these kids.
We have only just started our journey as Boys To The Bush but we already feel an obligation to these kids. What we are doing is so simple, yet so important. We are spending time with these kids, building a rapport with them and ultimately making them feel a part of something.
Boys To The Bush has changed my future direction and it is certainly changing the lives of our participants.
How lucky are we…?
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