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It was a delight during March 22-24 to see 47 students aged between 14 and 17 from 23 secondary schools bonding and having their boundaries stretched at the RYPEN camp at Weekaway near Lancefield.

Our club had 13 members taking part, including Allan Driver, Tom Callander, Kevin Walklate, Michael Wells, George Mackey, Tony Thomas, Tom Boyle, Robin and Kay Stevens, Gerard Hogan, Marjorie and Bernie Gerlinger, and Neville John in his District capacity.

We sponsored four students from Mt Alexander College, Flemington. They were   Hiba Abdikadir, Fartun Ibrahim,  and Shi (“Samantha”) Ming Bong (females), and Maslah Gore (male).

The twice-yearly Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment camps have been running for more than 25 years. Our club previously handled a RYPEN camp a decade ago.

The March camp was run by a dozen youth leaders from Rotaract and RYLA with help during meals from RCCMS. Three District New Generations committee members also attended full-time.

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One challenge was the registration process which generated numerous glitches and last-minute applications, all capably handled by the committee.

Of the twelve team leaders, which included a contingent from Tullamarine Rotaract and two medical students from Monash University,  five were doing their first RYPEN camp but impressed all – especially the kids! – with their energy, enthusiasm and know-how.

Our Melbourne Sunrise club was fortunate to have the volunteered service of two chefs. One was from a large Melbourne venue. With his wife, they made a formidable team. The meals even extended to fillet steak for the Saturday dinner, served by RCCMS members in dinner suits.

This will be the last self-catered camp at Weekaway as the site owner wishes in future to provide both the site facilities and catering.

District New Generations committee chair Neville John says that negotiations are proceeding.

The students were mostly 16-17 year olds, three-quarters of them girls. The goal is the communication of a series of ideas, problems and social experiences, which will assist the youngsters in forming their own values and moral standards. The camp also features activities designed to facilitate trust building, working in groups, self esteem building and content and process skills for young people. Full use of time was evident as even the evenings to midnight were used for activities and/or the opportunity to chat and make friends.

The individual students are generally identified by the school and sponsored by a Rotary Club. They were from a wide variety of national backgrounds and educational level. This diversity is an important factor in getting adolescents out of their comfort zones. Another help is that Weekaway has no mobile phone or internet coverage.

Among the students were eight from Bendigo Strathdale, Eaglehawk, Echuca and Rochester Rotary clubs.

Friday evening involved ‘ice-breaking’ activities such as students donating one shoe to a pool and other students then trying to find a matching owner and ask them a challenging question.

Outdoor activities throughout Saturday were undertaken by students grouped in ‘colour’ teams, with a focus on communication, goal setting, and physical challenges. Evening guest speaker was Ms Demet Divaroren, who used her problems establishing a writer’s career as an inspiration towards tenacity and self-confidence. 

Sunday’s activity was largely a mock auction of “values” such as Peace, Good Looks, Trust,  and Intelligence. District Governor Dennis Shore provided a closing address urging students to remember and possibly take part in Rotary life as they grow older.

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