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Togo: Centre Espérance Loyola

The Centre Espérance Loyola (CEL – Loyola Hope Centre) in Togo presented as its best practice a summer camp that teaches youth the values of solidarity and mutual respect.

Set up by the West African Jesuit Province in 2006, the CEL is based in Agoè-Nyivé, a suburb of Lomé. The CEL, together with its sister centre the Loyola Educational Centre, works hard to foster an informed and compassionate response to the pandemic in Togo. It does so in word – through education – and in deed by reaching out to those affected.

Each year, since 2007, the CEL has organised a summer activity called the G-Djéayé educational camp, which gathers some 50 young people aged between 12 and 22 years to spend several days together in ‘families’ of 10 each. Their time together is a real opportunity for the youth to discover themselves as unique individuals and to learn how to accept others and to live together despite their differences.

The camp is formative, using religion, culture and educational games to impart life-skills and elements of peer education. Individual counselling is also available. The aim is to form a group of dynamic youth who are equipped to reach out in their turn to other young people. Several workshops are organised, covering a range of themes including the rights and obligations of children; future careers, relationships between parents and their children and what we need to know about HIV.

This sounds like a lot of hard work but it’s not. The camp is fun for the young people who attend, with plenty of visits to touristic and educational sites on the itinerary.

Solidarity is lived in the daily activities of each ‘family’ in the camp. The older are at the service of the younger, the stronger at the disposal of the weaker. As the days pass, the participants feel their confidence and sense of belonging grow, they learn how to respect one another, how to love and serve their neighbours.