Camp Rainbow

Camp Rainbow is a Psychosocial Intervention delivered through the vehicle of a Camp for Children living with HIV.

Mission: To create positive life experiences for children with serious illnesses by providing a chance to experience a fun-filled program that promotes healthy well-being and encourages them to build a positive approach towards themselves and others, all free of charge.

Camp Rainbow helps children to recover their childhood, restore their hope and renew their sense of possibility. We encourage children and adolescents to expand their HIV knowledge, develop life altering friendships and become confident leaders in their homes and communities.

Camp Rainbow, an initiative by the YR Gaitonde Medical, Educations and Research Foundation, is a residential and day camp for children living with HIV.

History

In 1988, the Hollywood actor and philanthropist Paul Newman founded the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps (AHITWC). Based in Connecticut, USA, the organization’s aim was to enable children with serious illnesses and life-threatening conditions to experience some of the joy of childhood. Since 2001, AHITWC has worked successfully with partners in Southern Africa to bring the camp programme to HIV and AIDS affected children in Namibia, Malawi, Botswana, South African and Lesotho. Eventually, AHITWC changed its name to Serious Fun Children’s Network. https://www.seriousfunnetwork.org/

In 2010, Steve Nagler, Director of Global Partnerships of the Serious Fun Children’s Network, met Dr. Suniti Solomon, YRG CARE’s director Dr. P.K. Manorama, director of Community Health Education (CHES) with a view to starting a similar global partnership for HIV affected children in Southern India. This led to starting Camp Rainbow in Chennai jointly led by YRGCARE and CHES. The first camp was held in May 2011, with 71 campers. The programme has since been held every year in Chennai, with an annual residential camp in Chennai and day camps on weekends in the 12 districts in Tamilnadu that YRG CARE covers for this programme.

Aadhira’s Story

“Hi, I’m 11 years old. I love to paint & enjoy the sunshine & play with friends! But sometimes I feel very sad and lonely because I don’t have many friends and people avoid me. I went to Camp Rainbow- for free! I felt so happy! I feel so happy I made new friends, I learnt so many new things, I take my medicines and I no longer feel ashamed of myself. I know how to take care of myself now. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher, just like the teachers I met at Camp Rainbow…”

Camp Rainbow rebuilds confidence and promotes individuality through laughter, exploration and friendship, transforms children from patients to fun-loving, capable, thriving kids!

Each camp season, we see many Aadhira’s who step into the bus to go backhome with their hearts filled with wonder, more confident through the experience of a stigma free environment, one that has helped them learn and grow and make new friends and with hope!

Philosophy

Better healthcare has raised the life expectancy for children with serious illnesses. However, such children face many challenges; clinically as well as psychosocially.

Children living with HIV are often vulnerable to opportunistic infections and hence medication adherence, viral resistance are persistent issues. Further, the growth and well-being of these children can be affected by a variety of factors: disclosure of their status to family, friends, schoolmates and neighbours; depression and anxiety over their future; social isolation, marginalization, and discrimination due to stigma. All of these can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.

Camps such as those that we conduct help children learn about the importance of taking their tablets the way their doctor wants them to, develop self-confidence, and empowerment in their everyday lives. Camps also break down stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS by making the children realize that they are not alone, that there are many others like them, and through the capacity building of caring adult volunteers.

Future Plans

At present Camp Rainbow India serves children with HIV infection. However, the success of the program has encouraged us to consider including children with other serious illnesses like cancer, diabetes, thalassemia, etc.. Serious Fun Children’s Network has experience serving children with several kinds of serious illnesses through their year-round camps in the US and Europe, and we plan on drawing on their expertise when the time comes for us to move into these areas.

Core Expectations & Values

To gain HOPE, CONFIDENCE, SELF-ESTEEM, POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS, RESILIENCE, LIFE SKILLS through SAFETY, LOVE and RESPECT

Get Involved

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh (painter, artist)
At Camp Rainbow, we immensely believe in the above saying and have witnessed the smallest of contribution brings the biggest of smiles on the faces of the children.

INDIA PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE

The pilot season of May 2011 laid the foundation for the further expansion of the program through future camps and follow up programs within India. Thus YRG CARE initiated Camp Rainbow camps in other places in South India in conjunction with local organizations: in Mysore with Asha Kirana (since 2012), in Bangalore with the Action Service Hope for AIDS [ASHA] Foundation (since 2014), and in Batlagundu with Reaching the Unreached (since 2015). All the camps are based on the guidelines of the Serious Fun Children’s Network. YRG CARE is engaged in the India Partnership Initiative, a strategic partnership with Serious Fun to build new camps and expand the reach of current camps in Southern India.

Our Camps In the 5-day residential camps, campers participate in lifeskills training and fun-filled activities. These include activities based on arts and crafts, enjoying nature, using the performing arts, and developing life skills. For example, children design pretty mehndi patters on their palms on Culture Night, sing the ‘Dosa Song’ before each meal, receive the Super Chutti or Minchuva Nakashatra awards, play cricket, and interwoven in all these, they learn how to live positively with HIV. Their spirit of joy and curiosity is re-awakened, their self-esteem and social connectedness enhanced.

The camp environment fosters the core values of safety, love, and respect. And each night after dinner there are evening programs that include Campfire, Carnival, Stage Night, and Awards Night. Campers are aware of their HIV positive status, and therefore a critical component of the program includes Life Skills sessions that address topics such as HIV transmission, medication, adherence, discrimination, stigma, nutrition, hygiene, and reproductive health and body changes.

At camp, we create a non-competitive environment as a means to ensure each child leaves our programs feeling empowered and with a renewed sense of confidence. But there is always room for healthy competition and positive reinforcement. Additionally, all programs encourage a “challenge by choice” approach which allows campers to control how they participate in our programs without pressure to conform.

Capacity Building Workshops

The aim of the Capacity building workshops is to prepare adults for better serving children with serious illness. Workshop participants are staff or volunteers associated with organizations that help such children, or volunteers from colleges or companies interested in offering their services for such activities. Over the past two years, local organisations and college volunteers have received a 3-day training on psychosocial aspects of working with children using child centric approaches with an additional day camp experience directly working with children with illness in Bangalore, Thrissur, Tiruchirapalli, Pune, Goa and Kolhapur.

Camp Rainbow Outcomes Evaluation
  • 80-90% increase in positive attitudes towards HIV & taking ART medications
  • 55% improved adherence
  • 39% improvement on health & hygiene
  • 33% improved coping with HIV
  • Social connectivity increased 3-fold
Volunteer with us!

Volunteers are the back bone of our program. They are the meaningful adults, creating magic moments in the lives of campers. We plan and structure activities at Camp Rainbow. You can volunteer in a field of your interest.

Arts & Crafts | Music | Dance | Outdoor Games Board Games | Yoga | Creativity | Photography You will need to participate in Train the Volunteer model before you go to the camps. Ask us for more details!

If you would like to help us with a cash donation or if you are interested in donating in kind, please click here