Afryea’s Advice: Parents and guardians, caution! Carnival church camp can corrupt your child

Carnival, the Greatest Show on Earth, was one of my favourite times of the year. Apart from the extra holidays we all received, it was a time when the church would go out to camp somewhere in the countryside to get away from the noise and the confusion and the carnality and the general evils of Carnival. It was a good time for church brethren to get far away from the madding crowd, engage in recreation and communion with one another and with God and just enjoy one another’s company for a few days.

Photo: Revellers enjoy themselves on the road during Carnival 2015. Carnival behaviour features a lot of the carnality which many parents strive to keep their children far away from.
(Copyright Loop TT)

Camp usually meant morning and evening devotions, hikes, beach visits and discussion of relevant topics affecting the youth of the world at that time. However, I came to realise as I grew older that, for some, Carnival was a time to seek to recreate as we Christians tended to do but to seek to procreate and engage in the same activities we as Christians were sworn to avoid.

And camp, I realised, was also a kind of dark laboratory where undercover social experiments could be conducted with impunity.

I remember once when I was trying to persuade my mother to allow me to go to a camp.  I protested that it was a church camp and, therefore, perfectly safe; she still did not share my enthusiasm about going. What she did share was a story of about a property owner, who had found numerous used condoms at a location which he had rented to some churchgoers for a youth camp. Vigorously, I tried to put up a defence against that “lie.” Alas, there were other stories which provided corroboration; it was no lie.

I remember being told a story about a child who went to camp for the entire weekend and never had a shower. He had happened onto some sexual activity in the bathroom between children of the same sex and he did not want to run the risk of contamination so he stayed as far away from the bathroom as he possibly could.

There was another time when I visited a church camp where they were hosting a “talent night.” A group of us had decided to practise a gospel song that we loved and we had hoped to showcase it on that occasion. However, the talent night turned out to be more of what I would call a Christian Ole Mas competition.

Photo: A children’s band in San Fernando makes a plea for better treatment for children. Would sending them to camp constitute better treatment? Perhaps not…

It featured contemporary Christian wild music, a genre whose existence befuddles me to this day. The ole mas depictions included the Grim Reaper, members of the LGBTQI community and some other questionable characters I cannot recall at this moment. The dress of the people present did not suggest solemnity; far from it. The mood was one of revelry and gaiety, closely replicating the Carnival atmosphere, the same Carnival, let me repeat, that we were supposedly there to avoid. Looking on, I told myself that the display would end on a strong, positive moral note. To my dismay, that strong, positive, moral moment never came.

Just recently a saw a WhatsApp video—well, I saw the thumbnail—which showed a man with his erect penis out of his trousers and a little girl with him engaged in an entirely inappropriate activity. Yes, no mistake, that’s what I saw. Her hair was well combed, complete with pretty clips attached to her plaits and she appeared to be comfortable. I am told that this is not the exception; this happens, I am assured, with alarming frequency.  I cannot confirm for sure that this occurred in a camp setting but I am sure the child was left in the hands of “trusted” guardians.

I had a mother who always looked after my best interests and for that I thank her. She had a set of strict demands that had to be met before she allowed me to do anything relating to social recreation. That is a good thing. What is not so good is that she had to take that same position when dealing with the church.

Parents and guardians, let me remind you that paedophiles and sexual predators deliberately put themselves in positions and places where they have free access to the vulnerable. Children and adults included. At Carnival time, when you want to have a couple days off when you can wine and jam without having to worry, you think, about where your children are, there will be many places where these one-track-minded predators will have tried to arrange to have free access to your children.

Photo: American evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who was exposed as a mis-leader from the I-don’t-practise-what-I-preach evangelical school.

If you think that church camp is NOT one of these places, please think again. There is a certain laissez-faire permitted in some church camps that would make even the ungodly cringe.

So if the reason you decide to send your children to church camp is that you want to keep them far away from the revelry, the idolatry, the carnality, the evil and the general ungodliness of Carnival, please do a through investigation of the camp you plan to send them to.

Parents and guardians, feel duty-bound to ask direct questions about the activities that the young people and the children will be engaged in. And to insist on clear, comprehensive answers.

Ask about a camp schedule, ask about how many adults will be attending and how many charges will be assigned to each adult. Ask about who are the adults in charge, ask searching questions about any adult(s) you don’t know, find out if there is someone you trust who knows him or her.

Ask about the sleeping arrangements, mindful that not all so-called adults are in fact adults, that not all people designated as pastors are pastors, and that some people deemed church leaders are in fact church mis-leaders and that not all Christians are true followers of Christ.

In fact, I strongly recommend that, instead of sending the children to church camp, you go with them and stay for a while to get a feel of the place.

Or, alternatively, you keep them at home with you and, with the children in tow, you turn up at the camp for a surprise visit. You may well be very surprised at what your visit turns up.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Photo: Children enjoy themselves playing open air games. Church camps promise a lot of this but a lot reportedly also goes on behind closed doors.
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About Afryea Charles

Afryea Charles is an inspired missionary who has renounced the pleasures of everyday living because she wants to save the world. As time passes, she is less and less certain that yes, she can. But she is not yet ready to concede that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    I am glad to read your article but sorry about the obvious bias undertones within. Long after casting aspersions over the church camping ideas, you seem to come to your senses albeit late, where you advise asking direct questions to the camp directors, dropping in on camp in progress or even attendance with the kids.
    The truth is that too many parents use the church’s activities to babysit their children. Including carnival camps. They need a babysitter while they palance and parede themselves in disgusting fashion.
    Next the same interest you would display in choosing a day care, can be used whenever uour children are to leave home for any reason. Its disgusting and under the belt to mention the recent child porn situation in the same sentence with a church camp. These inflammatory remarks doesn’t help any situation but proper advice to the parents without castigating the camp retreat system will help…

  2. I find the article to be very negative and more research should be done to see how many people have these issues in camps. Yes parents should know who they sending their kids with but to outline all these scare factors about camps is bothering. I have been camping and our church rubs a camp and i have never seen or heard about those activities taking place. Am sure that some might be able to say otherwise but the general consensus is a spiritual one. It seems the enemy is subtly trying to hinder our kid spiritual growth. Camp time is such a beautiful soul refreshing experience i truly enjoy it.

    • Earl Best

      What you mean, RSL, is that “Camp time can be such a beautiful soul-refreshing experience.” What the writer is saying, it seems to me, that it sometimes is not what it is supposed to be. I don’t think you can reasonably disagree with that; you concede the point tacitly with this sentence: “…more research should be done to see how many people have these issues in camps.” Note your “how many people have...””not whether there are in fact people who have..”

      I think you’re really on the same page but you would prefer the issue were not aired publicly until there is absolute certainty that the problem is widespread, which is a questionable position to take. Doesn’t the Bible say “So long as you have done it unto the least of my brethren…”?

  3. The church I attend held successful and incident free camps for many years, where they host lots of programs with the main intend to glorify God and to empowered the youths in a holistic environment.
    Many hidden gifts and talents emerge, they make life long friends, purpose revealed/driven, lots of trustworthy supervisors and superb matron.
    I have no hesitation recommending them with my eyes close also.
    It’s advisable to send your children to a camp that you are knowledgeable of, through reviews, testimonials, close friends recommendations, programs, venue, sleeping arrangements, etc…
    Also must be aware of the background of the church and the supervisors.

  4. Ummm why would you send your children to a church camp or any camp without personally knowing the camp committee and people affiliated to the church? Not saying that these things could never happen as there are teenagers and young adults involved who can have other intentions, but these things wouldnt be forced upon someone’s son or daughter. That would have to be a choice by them to break the rules of the camp.

  5. I trust very few when it comes to my child, this is the real world, not pretend, and i not pretending they don’t have psychos in Church too.

  6. while I agree for the most part the words of the writer I can say that having gone to church camp religiously for several years i I have never experienced those ungodly activities. i also agree that camp is not daycare. i use cues from my children as a general guide to their comfort. i don’t send them they have to express that interest. i am always one of the last to register so I can assess those who will be attending. i also do a spontaneous visit during their stay. i send them together never alone with strict instructions to call as often as they feel they need to. and if they complain I’ll be there guns blazing and my kids know it. as parents we need to be that superhero for our kids be willing to get there at anytime and slay all dragons. we must not fail them!

  7. Victory Heights sounds like it was the place to be. Lol. I went to a small church called Members of Christ then. Have no idea how different the thing might have been.
    We could barely get a good six a side football sweat going. Lol.
    Maybe there is a difference between big Camps and little ones.

  8. That place had the most watered down cocoa ‘tea’ in the country.

  9. I agree parents should be aware of where they are sending their children. However, i have been camping since 8 and i never had a bad experience. My relationship was always good and my relationship with Christ grew and got stronger after every camp, such is the experience of many young people. Many people come to know Christ and meet lifetime friends at camps. I know of a sexual incident that happened in which the parents and police service got involved were informed. I think maybe even counselling. The church did not leave the situation as is, but dealt with it so the parties could have gotten help. Yes there is ugly things that happen on camps, but please do not let that take away of the many lives that were that would not have been touched or saved if weren’t for a church camp. Church camp plays an unsound role of transforming the lives of young people for good. I am a second generation carnival camper and this year my four year old daughter would be attending her first camp.

  10. I also went to Victory heights,but nothing ontowards as described by the writer occurred.wonderful days long standing friends still.

  11. I remember doing two or three church camps between 13 to 15. That was at the church I attended so we weren’t strangers. The extra excitement for us was trying to outwit our elder guards at night for a lil moonlight stroll on the beach.
    Most action I remember is second or third hand information that a slightly elder girl was being liberal with the smooches. I wasn’t so lucky so I’d never know if it was true or not. Lol.
    The way these kids are so “adventurous” these days, I can easily see more than kisses being at stake.
    Point is it isn’t only about predatory adults. Kids at that age with hormones raging and a rare chance to be around the opposite sex in such a pleasant atmosphere… I don’t envy the adults. It is not an easy job supervising a dozen or so teenagers of opposite sex in such a scenario.

  12. Have seen where parents have dropped off child Sunday at babysitter and turn up Wednesday

  13. The danger to children lurks in every crease and crevice..
    In these times all kinds of schemes are made up to get children out of sight of parents/guardians Lord knows to what ends…If we really get down to some Church history we’ll very careful leaving our children with them unsupervised..

  14. While I do not deny that certain evils can and do exist in camps I question the writer’s need to include the WhatsApp video that was been circulated recently depicting a child being abused. The writer had given enough examples of nefarious dealings at camps without throwing in an incident that (s)he admits probably did not happen in a camp. I also question the description of the child looking “comfortable”. This is a young child who probably doesn’t even know that what she is doing is wrong, especially if she is being given rewards for her compliance. Please stick to the issue that you have chosen to write on in the future.

    • I want to give you some context as to why I included that comment about the child’s comfort level. The following is a statement given by actor Ashton Kutcher to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the US.

      “I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia.

      ‘And this child was so CONDITIONED by her ENVIRONMENT that she thought she was ENGAGING in PLAY.”

      Read the article and video here

      Children being groomed to think that sexual abuse is comfortable, nice and feels good is nothing new. A fellow missionary told me about a village that practices fondling the child’s genitals when they cry as a way to soothe and comfort them.

      I hope this gives you better perspective

  15. If I cannot go to camp, I do not send my grand children. As Melanie Kris has so aptly indicated Church camp should be a family activity. Some people send their children to camp to be watched by others. We should also note that not everyone who goes to camp are christian believers. Some are there from habit. This is what I did from a child and this is what I will continue to do.

  16. Church camp should be a family activity, not a babysitting club.

  17. Is this a church camp issue or a camp issue on the whole. I have never sent my daughter to a sleep over camp, Church or otherwise, and I am a Christian. I have never sent her to a sleepover…no matter whose house it was camp I thoroughly investigated and would drop by unannounced to assess the happenings myself. This is not a church issue, this is an I-have-the-responsibility-to-keep-my-child-safe issue.

  18. Lord have mercy…,have camp at your home…,if you decide to go to camps….. parents…. go with their children.

  19. How is it that the primary reason that Carnival camps exist goes unmentioned by this piece. Is it that the immorality in jouvert, Carnival and the attended fetes is sanctioned by the writer? Have we forgotten the Japanese lady’s demise did not occur at a carnival camp? Why do we question September to November children as to whether or not they were a carnival conception? Lets not be caught up in grand charging carnival camps while winking at the gyrating friends in skimpy costume putting down a criminal wine.

  20. All that being said, I have great memories of a handful of carnivals spent at Victory Heights.

    • I myself had wonderful camps with People of Praise, UWI Prayer Group and Youth 2000. As you pointed out this article seems to attack christian carnival camps. While I agree with vigilance. It is noteworthy that the primary reason the camps exist went unmentioned. Rampant unrepentant immorality in song, dance, costuming and activities related to Carnival. Seems the vigilance is missing when Jouvert Mas comes calling.

  21. This article is a bit of a mess, though it closes on surer footing. Somehow the idea has been presented that camps are a place for predators, despite the author not citing any facts in support. Truth is, there are predators everywhere, sexual and otherwise, and perhaps this was the intended point of the article. Or maybe the purpose was to show that people engage in sexual activity at camps? Not much of a point if so, given that sexual activity occurs everywhere… even, dare I say, in the home.

    The old-fashioned purist in me wishes that children would experience puberty at 20, but the realist in me recognizes that sexual curiosity is part of being human. We should be vigilant to situations where our children can be preyed upon, but we should spend no less time educating our children not only to those dangers, but also to the purpose of and responsibility that comes with sexual activity. Were I a parent sending my child to camp, I would be more concerned that I have taught them well in this regard, rather than being preoccupied by thoughts of others having sex at camp. I find it ridiculous that that young man was so ‘traumatized’ by witnessing others having sex that he refused to bathe out of fear that ‘sex’ would happen to him.

  22. I have been to church camps most of my young life I I was never molested. Children are being molested and bullied in school. Do we prevent them from going to school?

  23. Yep I know this long time! Surprised others don’t.

  24. WHAT????
    Young people having sex in here??

  25. what about “Princess Elizabeth home. they think because the children in these places are physically challenged. they don’t notice the injustice and wrong they do to them. but they do. and seeing and knowing that there really isn’t anyone to highlight their plight and call for someone to pay special attention to them goes unnoticed

  26. Any institution that holds large numbers of children in its care for an extended period away from their parents requires stringent supervision. Honestly, knowing TT, I doubt there are any regulations that cover these camps, also it’s hardly likely that anyone does research about the people running them. Contrary to popular belief, most sexual predators aren’t random strangers hiding in the bushes to grab your child, it’s usually the well dressed, respectable, church-going member of your community, whose dark world includes a hard drive filled with child pornography and a plan to get hold of some poor kid….

  27. I find it extremely difficult to trust anyone around my children whether be it boy or girl. I also feel very uneasy when my children leave my site for school.

  28. There are church camps and Church camps. A church following a pastor’s direction can be headed in any direction. The truth is since the reformation a plethora of new churches are out there. We know of pastors bedding secretaries, marrying them abd then divorcing to repeat process though not necessarily in that order. The leaders of the retreat themselves may appear as sheep but in reality they are wolves seeking easy prey. Even the Catholic Church has its share of wolves. Some with and a lot without frocks. Christianity however is not alone in this regard. Pundits, swamis, Imams, self proclaimed prophets and shamans have all shown the human capacity to use religion as a cover for exploiting those gullible among their flocks. Just as politicians do.
    I will however say that some groups are better disciplined and better followers of morality. I can name one such but my purpose is not to promote any group. I will say teach your children and prepare them for the many battles that they WILL face. Teach them to think, to train in swimming, running and martial arts. Teach them how to recognise who their friends are and to question authority when it contradicts truth and justice.

    • “Even” the catholic church has its share of wolves??? They’re brand leaders at the game. Frustrated “celibate” priests are the unique selling point.

    • Again its fine to speak of priests but since the topic is carnival camps, why are we so worried about camps when the fetes are worse. The entertainers, band leaders and others would love all to come carnival. Is our memory short? How did the Japanese girl die? Have they solved that murder? Tell me how many rapes occur in carnival? Can you say that our carnival is as clean as the carnival camps being denigrated?
      Now that you realize I’m not here to bash religious establishments. I am here to make the discourse intelligent. Any criticism of religion better add politicians and entertainers to the list. There are no sacred cows with me. So make a post but dont try steering this discourse into an anti religious rant because i will pick up dat stone you pelting and buss your glass carnival menagerie.

    • Chris, children don’t fete. At least 95 percent of them don’t I am sure. So it is not that the children are choosing between fete and carnival camps.
      I’ve played jouvert and done many carnival parties in my time and I haven’t seen children between the ages of eight and 15 which are the camp ages generally.

  29. Keri Elize Jurawan Kristy-Ann Maharaj Josh T. Jurawan whats your views on this opinion

  30. The good and bad of carnival camps. I suggest parents go with their children or send someone who will keep an the kids. Not everyone who goes to church camp interested in the rules and purpose of the camp

  31. It’s circumstantial evidence though quite damning. I have been to a Carnival camp (many times) but not one run by just anyone. I would recommend parents go to camp with your child (volunteer to be a helper or whatever if you don’t know who the people are that are running it), or pick one that is run by people you trust, (really have a relationship with the people) and most of all, teach your child boundaries…because no matter who runs the camp, if a child wants to be “adventurous” they can usually find ways around the rules set by adults – they can’t be everyone or see everything that goes on in some instances. It’s always necessary to be cautious no matter where you choose to allow your child to be for Carnival – I would want to see the numbers that say statistically (and significantly so) camps are riskier than other Carnival activities where unsupervised (or under-supervised) children/teens/young adults are gathering.

    • I’ve been hearing stories of both experimentation and assault at church camps since I was growing up,long before the advent of social media

    • The purpose of the article is to draw light to the fact that inappropriate behaviour, sexual and otherwise occurs at camps. This is based on my experience and the experience of others. Hey, it even happens on the physical church ground.I just received a short testimony on the matter.

      However, I cannot say if these incidents occur at a higher rate at church camps than anywhere else. That was not the point of the article. Having said that, I wouldnt be surprised (maybe) if a study was done and the results indicated such. Our churches have lost their direction.

      I think it is horrendous that I have ‘to write this article at all. After all, it is the church we are talking about.

    • To be honest I would love to do some research on this and some other matters of the crimes ( sexual and otherwise) that occur within our churches in T&T.

    • “The purpose of the article is to draw light to the fact that inappropriate behaviour, sexual and otherwise occur at camps.”

      Imagine that. There’s a certain kind of naivete to this article, well-intended though it may be. Christian camps draw from a cross-section of society, as such attendees arrive with all manners of intention, this should be a surprise to no one.

  32. Timely warning, but to THAT video referenced, a friendly reminder:
    or share
    pornographic images or videos involving children.

    You’d be breaking the law. If someone sends you any such, delete it, and delete them. You could both be prosecuted.

  33. I might be raising a ‘jep’ nest here, but has anyone else noticed the strange similarities between stray dogs’ behaviour and the Carnival ‘wine and chook’ behaviour?

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