Camp Joyful Catholic
August 10, 2023
Catholic Social Justice and Local Government Reform
August 10, 2023

Bethesda camp

Two events to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and their families were hosted by the Bethesda Catholic community.  A stakeholder fair and fun day took place at Holy Faith Convent, Couva on July 29, then from July 31 to August 4, a respite camp for PWDs ages 5-18 was held at the same venue. This year is the second year for both events.

The stakeholder event was an opportunity for the public to learn about various disabilities and the support given by various non-governmental organisations like: WeCare Deaf Support Network, Down Syndrome Family Network and Persons Associated with Visual Impairment. Vision and hearing screening were offered. Saira Joseph-La Foucade, Bethesda founder and coordinator said August 1: “Many families of persons with disabilities are struggling partly because of not having the right support in terms of physical therapy, speech therapy and so on but a lot of it is lack of knowledge of where they can get support”.

The respite camp set a target of 40 campers maximum; there were 35 PWDs and five siblings. Eight of the PWDs were sent by the State with five caregivers. Creating the environment for campers to have an enjoyable experience were: ten special education teachers, a music therapist, a camp counsellor and 10 auxiliary staff.  The aim of the camp is to provide temporary care for caregivers/family to get a break. “We plan our activities with as limited ability of each camper in mind to the highest level of course, so we have a wide variety of resources to accommodate all the different abilities,” said Joseph-La Foucade. Each day began with group time, music and dancing then campers go into daily activities such as jewellery making, cookie decorating, outdoor activities: hopscotch, moral and water balloon fights.

Forty students mainly from Holy Faith Convent, Couva and Presentation College, Chaguanas (PCC) assisted as volunteers.

She said the support Bethesda received was amazing. “We are seeing we have the right group of people, volunteers, schools have been excited to send their children and to be able to learn some social responsibility and it really has been a blessing how Bethesda has been making an impact with our children with disabilities.”

Joseph-La Foucade mentioned the camp had participants from other faiths. “Disability has no bias and God has no favourites; it really has been a wonderful experience.”

Bethesda was established in 2015 to assist families and PWDs to worship together as a family. It piloted sensory friendly Masses in the Archdiocese and has provided training to prepare PWDs to receive First Communion and Confirmation.