A Day in the life of a Camp NexGen™ Camper

Idara Otu
6 min readOct 6, 2022


To the campers and many of our first-time volunteers, Camp NexGen™ was a mystery. Sure, everyone knew it was a charity camp — there was talk of combining sports and a STEAM project, and we knew we were serving vulnerable children, but what did it all really mean?

By design, our aim with Camp NexGen™ has always been to engage with the next generation of African students through both sport and education, emphasizing that they can, and should, pursue the path of a student + something else (in our case, sport). To us, the benefit of participating in both sport and pursuing the hard STEAM subjects were both rewarding, and complimentary. I know this because it is my lived experience.

When choosing the cohort for our camp, we always aim to maximize our impact with children who may never get a similar experience otherwise, so naturally, we knew all our students would come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some were orphans and many lived in poverty, but at Camp NexGen™ the focus is not on where the campers are from, but only about where they could go.

Tatenda leading our campers to the field!

The official start time each day was 7am — the time our chartered coach bus would depart from the central meeting point in the campers’ community to head to Eaglesvale School (our camp venue) in Harare, 50–60 minutes away. We would later learn at breakfast that for several of our campers, their day started much earlier, some having to walk 2-hours just to get to that central meeting point!

The first stop was registration. As soon as the bus was parked at Eaglesvale, the students poured out lining up into two parallel lines, chanting pre-rehearsed war cries as they marched onward to the basketball courts to sign-in, grab their gift bag, and take a camp portrait.

A collage of some of our camper portraits!

By design, we made sure to keep the campers happy and engaged with well-placed surprises–the first being a colorful gift bag (a huge thank you to our donors!) given to each camper chock full of essentials — including a pair of athletic shoes, a camp t-shirt, notebooks, pens, pencils, a ruler, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, biscuits, fruit snacks, and a sachet of hot chocolate. To make it extra special, we made sure to include personalized welcome card to let each camper know that there were strangers across the world who were invested in their camp experience.

Darshana reading helping to translate a camper’s welcome card

Once t-shirts were on and portraits were complete, it was time to eat! Breakfast was held in the cafeteria of the school where campers and volunteers enjoyed generous servings of eggs, muffins, toast, fresh vegetables and hot tea. For the volunteers, it was our first chance to get to know the campers, break bread with them, and learn a bit about their personal stories. It was a joy to watch the excitement going through their gift bags after hurriedly scarfing down breakfast to try on their new black tekkies (local name for the sporting canvas shoe), bright eyes when they saw the Haribo gummy bears, and bewilderment when pulling out a capsule of dental floss.

With hearts and bellies full, it was time to take our talents to the field. The next few hours were spent on the soccer (football) field. Led by stellar former pro players and coaches, we were blessed to have a 5-person coaching staff from ACES Youth Soccer Academy (a Harare-based academy.) Broken up into teams with a dedicated cheering squad of volunteers and camp staff, the campers went through drills, played scrimmages, and had a ton of fun. The on-the-field talent of one of our campers — Denzel — stood out from the rest and caught the eyes of the Academy Head who quickly took his information and is committed to investing in his talent. While scouting athletic talent isn’t a top priority for Camp NexGen™, when it happens, it is a pleasant surprise.

Denzel (orange jersey) in action!

The last few penalty kicks on the field marked both the winning team of the scrimmage, and time to replenish our energy stores. Back in the dining hall again for lunch, we chatted alongside the campers brimming with such life force brought over from the field. The sun beaming and all the running seemed to really bring the campers out of their shells as the room was definitely more than a few decibels higher than at breakfast. Chicken, beef, rice, stew, fruit and vegetables were on the lunch menu and we ALL were ready to dig in before gearing up for the last part of the day.

All smiles at lunchtime!

Staving off the après lunch zzz’s we sashayed from the dining hall to Beit Hall where Eno Umoh, Co-Founder of Global Drone Air Academy would take the group through the Build-A-Drone workshop. As I mentioned in my last post, most of the kids never saw or heard of a drone, so they were in for a real treat. Eno, a professional drone pilot and masterful teacher, gave a brilliant overview of the drone industry from past to present and sprinkled in his take on where the industry could go. With the help of Jimmy our volunteer and unofficial translator (most of the campers only spoke Shona, the local language), the campers broke up into groups that got to build their own drones and take test flights. After practicing on the baby drones the campers built, they graduated to the medium-sized (Tello) and professional-grade (DJI & Skydio) drones for further practice. There were a few crashes into the bushes and propellors lost in the trees, but in all, safe flights all around.

Eno Umoh instructing the students the ins and outs for the Skydio drone

Last up in our STEAM activity was my favorite part of the session. After learning about drones, building a drone, and flying 2 or 3 different drones, it was time to apply everything learned in the day into a business proposal. In the same drone building groups, they each had to devise a drone-based company that would solve a problem local to them. Included in this task was the directive to name this company, name the problem, solution, and decide on the type of drone that would be necessary for their proposed work. All of these component parts would eventually get presented back to everyone in the room. I loved how the campers really owned this part of the program, many of them going as far as giving each member in their team executive roles in this (maybe not so) fictitious company.

As my mom always says, all good things must come to an end, we at least tried to cap of the day with one last surprise. As the campers filed neatly into the line heading back to the bus, we gifted each one with a pair of school shoes to use as they start their new school term in a month’s time. Plenty of hugs, hi-fives and one last Let Girls Read, Run, Grow chant later, we said our goodbyes as the campers headed on the bus back home.

Wayne testing out his new school shoes

It was a day no camper will ever forget.



Idara Otu

Founder & Board Chair — Let Girls Read, Run, Grow