MYSC Summer Youth Programs: Giving youth a sense of hope

By Kevanté A. C. Cash

Summer Youth Programs, Public Relations Coordinator

Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture

Emma pushed the curtains back to play make believe with her friend Jessica whom she hadn’t seen all summer. She was busy playing make believe elsewhere. This elsewhere place? A theatre and performance arts camp facilitated by none other than Lynn Terez Davis-Nixon, otherwise known as Miss Daisy, a Bahamian icon, family comedian and the Cultural Affairs Officer at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC).

“Youth development through the arts summer camp has been an initiative of the Ministry [of Youth, Sports and Culture] for about six years now. I’m passionate about this programme because it’s important we teach creative kids that the arts are lucrative; that you don’t have to be a doctor or lawyer to make money; that doing what you love is enough to make a living,” Davis-Nixon says with enthusiasm.

In this camp, the kids learn the ins and outs of acting, stage building, performance through dance and singing, creative marketing and the power of responding to social issues through the arts.

The end-of-camp play, “Thief of Love”, written and directed by Davis-Nixon, is a call-to-action by the camp’s students to their peers to “put the gun down and work out [their] issues through conflict resolution”.

Students of Camp Lit: Big Pond gather for play time during lunch session on the jungle gym.

Devin McKenzie, a student of the camp and the play’s lead actor says, “It’s important that people know this is not just an opportunity of the summer, but an opportunity of a lifetime to come on a stage and perform a play written by one of the best, to make the connections I’ve made with these crazy talented people and be able to tell a story of a message that is so prevalent today. That it doesn’t have to resort to violence but that you can put the gun down.

The play scheduled to hit Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29, is a Haitian-Bahamian love story with overarching themes and issues that take up space in awkward moments of conversation, and more often than not, bring out the true nature of our beings.

Davis-Nixon says this play is challenging the parts of our culture we so easily accept and hide away until it’s time to play make believe again, only to discover the issue hasn’t really been resolved.

Over at the sports camps, kids learn the techniques of self-defense, self-respect, good sportsmanship, discipline and of course the all-around skill of how to play the game.

Director of Sports, Timothy Munnings, made says he made it his mission this summer to “keep busybodies busy positively” while developing skills through a sporting activity.

“There are about 45 sports camps this year both in New Providence and the Family Islands. The Ministry [of Youth, Sports and Culture] has been one of the first camps and programmes to include the Family Islands in their strategy for outreach, and that’s important because sometimes we think only the kids running around in Nassau need something to do, but these kids on the islands are so passionate and talented. Giving them a discipline through which they can develop a skill is important. We just wanted to find ways to keep busybodies busy positively.”

The four-week program has built up strength and endurance in some of its summer students. Judo and jujitsu camp instructor Cynthia Rahming is proud of how far the campers have come in developing their skill, and can see the future of sports in the faces of the little ones.

“I’d have to say, as an instructor, I’m proud. The kids have demonstrated true sportsmanship and a love for learning the sport I can’t entirely explain. Learning self-defense through physical contact is a lot of work but they showed dedication from day one and that made facilitating the classes a lot easier for me.”

Rahming says if there’s one thing she hopes the campers can take away from the four-week program, it’s the skill of self-control – to channel their emotions, feelings and impulses through acts of respect, loyalty and discipline, as judo teaches and most literally means “the way of gentleness”.

Likewise, students of the Apprenticeship Programme not only learned the ways of gentleness but of perseverance, honourability and job-readiness.

The Division of Youth hosted both taught disciplinary camps and business and entrepreneurial development programmes that sought to engage the country’s youth by targeting personal interests and harnessing skills in a safe space that allowed for healthy social interactions with peers, leaders and supervisors.

Youth Officer Kelli Brathwaite says, “The main objective was to give them [the students] the tools they needed to enter the real world. By the end of the apprenticeship programme, we wanted students to know how to prepare their own resumé, conduct and present themselves in a professional manner and make their skills and talents marketable to the workforce.”

This particular element of the Division of Youth’s summer programming was designed for youth ages 15-18 interested in: upholstery, cosmetology, culinary arts, agriculture, videography, carpentry, artisan crafts and the arts, in collaboration with the Division of Culture.

At Camp Lit: Big Pond, a taught disciplinary camp of the Youth Division, students got a taste of sports through volleyball, tennis and basketball and culture through theatre and dramatic writing, while learning about the elements of nature of the Bahamian ecosystem.

“For the first half of the day, they [the students] warm up in theatre class and get to express those silly and dramatic sides of themselves, then later, they cool down to learn about nature and the environment with our different camp instructors, even some from the Bahamas National Trust.

“So, at this camp, we’re all inclusive. We really strive to make the most of the experience for the kids and have experts of the field come in to teach the respective disciplines,” says Kelli Brathwaite, chief camp facilitator at Camp Lit: Big Pond.

Through the Summer Youth Programmes, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture give kids a sense of hope and belonging in a safe space created for growing, learning, skill and talent development, and even make believe.

Emma puts the curtains over her head in an attempt to scare Jessica. “Boo, I’m a ghost!” she says. “I’m coming to get you.”

Students of Camp Lit: Big Pond gather for play time during lunch session on the jungle gym.