OPEN YOUR HEART 2019: TEENS LIVING WITH AUTISM AND DOWN SYNDROME
As always, Open Your Heart Camp never ceases to leave me breathless and elated! On Saturday 20th July, 2019, we held the third camp for teens living with Autism and Down Syndrome with inclusive of neurotypical teens. We were hosted by Kids Beach Garden at Elegushi in Lagos. This year, we had 32 teens and about 30 volunteers. It was a big community, compared to last year’s!
ACTIVITIES AT THE BEACH
Our organizing team, resource partners and volunteers led 32 teens on a day of exploration, beach cleanup, trash-to-treasure recycling, tyre-painting, puzzles, beach soccer, beach volleyball, horse riding, leadership exercises and even a water-side photo shoot.
BEACH CLEAN-UP SESSION
Our first activity was cleaning the beach. It was handled by our camp host, the Kids Beach Garden team who provided all the necessary tools for the session. The teens and volunteers were divided into groups and were allocated different sections of the beach to commence cleaning. The session lasted for about 1 hour.
After the beach clean-up, we had an ice-breaker session which was coordinated by yours truly. I asked both teens and volunteers to introduce themselves by telling us their names and favorite color. It was an exciting session.
EDUCATIVE SESSION ON BEACH AND WATER CONSERVATION
After the beach clean-up session, Tolani Kadiri, our Kids Beach Garden Coordinator, gave a brief education on the importance of preserving and protecting beach shores and coastal lines. He spoke on why it is important to ensure proper conservation of sea-animals by giving an example of sea-turtles which are endangered species, that is animals that have become rare because of constant poaching. He explained how sea creatures are important to our ecosystem.
TRASH TO TREASURE RECYCLING: ARTS AND CRAFT
Trash collected during the beach clean up session, such as empty plastic bottles and bottle caps were used to make some crafts which the teens had fun doing.
While some where doing the arts and craft, some set of teens participated in tyre painting.
For the puzzle competition, the teens were divided into four groups. The group that finished first was declared the winner.
BEACH PLAY TIME!
Both teens and volunteers had the opportunity to play beach soccer, beach volley ball and go on horse rides. Some even had a great time on the dance floor!
WATER WADDLING AND PHOTO SHOOT
What’s a beach without splashes? This was everyone’s favorite time. Both teens and volunteers had fun exploring the beach shorelines, waddling and splashing each other. Some even had special photo shoot sessions!
A “HEART-IFUL SHOUT OUT
First up, a BIG shout out to God! There was a point we started feeling drops of rain. But after some special prayers, the weather was back to being bright and sunny. Thank God for answered prayers. It was beautiful watching the teens having loads of fun under the beautiful weather.
I love how immersive Open Your Heart Camp (OYHC) program always is and how every time all the participants leave inspired and fulfilled. This year the camp was really focused on creating an inclusive learning community for teens living with Autism and Down Syndrome as well as neurotypical teens. And we didn’t fall short in doing so. As always we ensured the teens went back home with something to show their parents and guidance.
A special shout out to our professional handlers, Adelola Edema, Chinyere Azike and Oladeji Asse. I watched how they personally took specially attention on our teens living with autism and down syndrome and I must say I was very impressed. It takes people with big hearts to do what they do.
A huge shout out to all the volunteers! As always, you guys are the real MVPs! *raises hands in the air*
As the Camp Program Coordinator, I want to give a special shout out to my “Personal Assistant” and our Camp DJ, Debo Falode…you were really my ‘ride and die’ that day. Thanks a bunches! *wink*
A huge thank you to Doyinsola Ogunye, the Founder of Kids Beach Garden and her team for hosting us at their beautiful beach. Do keep up the good work *thumps up*
Then this exclusive shout out goes to my one and only Wahamba Sisters, Funmi Oyatogun (Mami Water), Priscilla Adeboye (Pri-lalalalala) and Toyeke Adedipe (Toye-baby). Working with you ladies for the second time is “heart-filling” (if there is any word like that!). Thank you for making me part of this beautiful initiative. Looking forward to working with you for many many more years to come *blows kisses*
A ‘heart-iful’ thank you to our amazing teens, their parents/guardians and our wonderful sponsors. Without you Open Your Heart Camp will not be what it is today. So ‘THANK YOU’!
As always, I am so looking forward to OYHC 2020!!!
ALL PHOTO CREDITS: Uzor Blaze Photography, Okhai Okojie, Shola Olaleye and Tobi Adeosun