Brimming with enthusiasm, it was a joyful sight as some 60 primary school students arrived early Saturday morning on the 25th of May for the Church of Divine Mercy’s (Penang) first Primary School Catechism Camp.
After registration and light morning refreshments, the students were welcomed by Fr. Martin Arlando who also led them in prayer. An energetic praise and worship session followed as the children sang, danced, jumped and moved around in high spirits.
The main facilitator for the camp Amy Stephen observed; “The theme of the CDM CEC Primary camp "Faith – The Amazing Grace" was chosen in conjunction with The Year of Faith, and this camp focussed on building a strong foundation and deepening of faith among the CEC primary school children through the various videos/talk sessions, sharing of real-life school experiences & learning to appreciate God's creation.”
“It was overwhelming to see the parents, volunteers and CEC teachers came forward to support and work together in making the camp a wonderful and memorable one for the children. Indeed, we are truly blessed and I thank everyone for their efforts” she added.
The children were divided into two groups, the lower primary and the upper, to allow for ease of movement and to cater to the different needs of the different age groups. The lower primary children were treated to stories focusing on the creation of God, Jonah and the fish and this was followed by animal origami, craft-work and a recycling project. Eight –year old Bernard Nathan said he enjoyed the sessions “especially the origami and making the whale and frog.”
The older children had a slightly different programme beginning with a short video entitled “Who touched you?” It focused on the story of the hemorrhaging woman who was cured after 12 years. Children were taught the impact of the woman’s faith which led to her healing.
Mindful of the need to reinforce the belief-system of the children during this the Year of Faith, the next session discussed faith and the recitation of the creed. A short video clip was shown which discussed how the creed is often recited mechanically making us “robots” when praying this prayer. The creed was then broken down into parts to show how it covered basic principles of our Catholic faith. This session hoped to make students see the need to say the creed mindfully and with deep conviction.
Yet another session for the morning covered the growing issue of bullying, especially in schools. In a reversal of roles, female teachers decked in school pinafores acted out a typical bullying scene while a group of male teachers played out a common scene of extortion among the boys. While the children were initially tickled to see their teachers acting like young boys and girls they were able to appreciate the message behind the skit. Later during small-group discussion, they talked about the different kinds of bullying they experienced themselves.
A discussion on common types of bullying including physical and verbal bullying, extortion, cyber-bullying and hate-groups followed. Later every student took the golden pledge “I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated” based on the teaching from Luke 6:31 to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” After explaining different techniques to handle bullying, students were also given prayer cards invoking their guardian angel to protect and guide them especially when they felt afraid.
The highlight of the camp for the older children was the “Amazing Grace” challenge which was a group challenge fashioned after the popular television- reality show ; The Amazing Race. It saw 5 student-groups running, putting on their thinking caps and figuring out clues to complete a series of challenges. Questions were based on the concepts learnt in the earlier sessions. Tasks included, piecing together a jigsaw puzzle and hunting down “treasures”. Jarod Nathan found the Race “amazing” and he also enjoyed making new friends.
After a wholesome lunch, the children came back together and were taught to celebrate all of God’s creations with a symbolic planting-session. Each child was provided a small plant to pot in a cup which they had earlier decorated creatively.
Angelli Raj summed the feelings of many of the students present when she said “It was fun and I learnt new things. I look forward to the next camp.”