'I like giving back'

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A THREE-week-long social inclusion summer camp in the Jobstown Community Centre came to a close on Friday (July 26), with the camp’s children being treated to an awards ceremony and also getting the opportunity to take part in a talent show.

The camp is the brainchild of Jobstown woman Yemi Ojo, who moved to Ireland from Nigeria 20 years ago. The mother-of-three decided to set up the camp 15 years ago with her husband Elder Tius Ojo, in a bid to offer an affordable alternative to mainstream summer camps, and to promote social inclusion in the area.

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Project Co-ordinator, Yemi Ojo (centre) with Deputy Mayor Trevor Gilligan and the project volunteers

Yemi, who is affectionately known as Aunty Yemi by the parents and participants of the summer camp, told The Echo: “In 2003, my children were three, seven and ten, and I wanted them to go to a summer camp, but the mainstream summer camps were too expensive.

“We decided to set one up for the integration of African children in Ireland, but now it’s for all children in Ireland.”

Additionally, Yemi said she struggled to find a summer camp that would take children of the varying ages of her three children, and so they didn’t meet her childcare needs at the time.

The social inclusion summer camp, which costs €20 per child each week, has been a runaway success, more than doubling the number of children who attended in the first year of the summer camp in 2004, which totalled 30, to over 60 children in this year’s camp.

Yemi said: “I didn’t even have to advertise it, it spread by word of mouth.

“I brought a sliver of Africa to each child – we don’t call adults by their first name, so they call me Aunty Yemi – and I cook African food for them.

“I couldn’t do it without my volunteers, they’re lovely people. My husband, my children, and the community centre have given me so much support, and so have the parents, the children, the guards and Tusla.

“It’s been a wonderful 15 years [of running the camp] and I’m very grateful. I like giving back to my community.”

The camp, which this year catered for children between the ages of four and 12 inclusive, is also, for some of the children, the only holiday that they will get during the summer break, according to Yemi.

The children are also brought out on trips as part of the camp’s varied activities.

Yemi added: “The summer camp is about integration. The children make friends and they develop cultural awareness.

“They make connections with each other. We also have teenage volunteers who help, and the camp makes sure that they aren’t just roaming around – they have somewhere to go.

“The camp brings about togetherness, and you get to know the people in your community.”

The camp finished this year with a celebratory awards ceremony and talent show, while Yemi got numerous gifts from the grateful parents and children who look forward to the social inclusion summer camp every year.

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