Each year during the winter school break, approximately 120 campers from Grade Three to Year Nine gather on the Mornington Peninsula for worship, games, Bible study, singing, food, craft, and the always memorable end-of-camp concert.
Year 10 students also get a chance to participate as part of a crack team of ‘slushies’, who help with various background tasks to keep the camp running, while there are also 40 positions as volunteer leader open to those in Year 11 and older.
‘Camp Mum’ Rev Claire Dawe, who is a minister with Chelsea Parish, said those attending Somers commonly describe it as being like “home”.
‘They mean they can be themselves and be loved and respected for that,” Ms Dawe said.
“It also means they are returning to a place they feel safe and comfortable.”
Lauren, a previous camper turned leader, said Somers Camp has had a profound effect on her.
“Somers has helped nurture my spiritual growth, producing a curiosity in me that led me to join my University’s Christian club in which I’ve further grown in faith becoming a Christian this year,” Lauren said.
“As well as this, being part of the Somers community has helped me grow and develop my communication skills, working in a team, and caring for children in a safe and fun environment.”
Somers, which is run by Port Phillip East Presbytery, is one of the largest Uniting Church children and youth camps in Australia with campers and leaders converging from far and wide.
This year the camp is expanding the training provided to young leaders by putting on a “leadership conference” beforehand.
There will be expert tuition in areas such as working with children with special or particular needs, child and teenage psychology and development, first aid, marketing and public speaking.
Richmond Uniting Church has financially supported the leadership conference for this year but the plan is for it to be self-funded in 2018 with places offered to other organisations wanting to train young adults in leadership.
Churches and individuals donate each year to ensure that campers without the financial means can still attend.
“The generosity of churches last year enabled many more kids to attend and gave hope to more families,” Ms Dawe said.
“We are eternally grateful for their continued support. One congregation has already made a donation for 2017.”
For more details, go to the Somers Camp website www.somerscamp.com.au or phone Claire on 0410 827 597.