Costly summer camps bane for parents

ABU DHABI/DUBAI — With hardly two weeks left for the schools to close for summer vacation, parents are already worried about finding affordable summer activities for their kids.

By Anjana Sankar And Meraj Riz Vi (SPECIAL REPORT)

Published: Sat 18 Jun 2005, 10:37 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:03 PM

While the summer camps organised by hotels and other private organisations are beyond their reach, they say that even schools charge exorbitant rates to keep their students occupied during summer.

“Not all can afford to jet off to cooler climes when temperature soars to unbearable limits. There are many families that stay back in the country for financial or other work-related reasons. So we have to chalk out feasible options for our kids,” said Shakeel Qassim, a computer engineer.

“I enquired with some of the hotels and other private organisations that are organising summer activities, but I was surprised by their rates. One has to cough up thousands for sending two or three children, and how many can afford it?” asked Shakeel who recently settled in Abu Dhabi.

Echoing the same concern, Lusy D’Zousa, a secretary in a private firm, said that last year her three kids spent the summer at home. “We had no other option but to look at ways that kept them creatively occupied at home. My husband felt it would be too much on us to spare another one or two thousand on summer camps,” she said. “And this year too, we are going to do just the same. But we have our friends staying in the same building and hence children have company,” she added.

Many other parents like Sunithi Menon and Femin Issac noted that it is unfair on schools to charge unaffordable rates since they are the most reliable options for working parents. They also pointed out the short timings of many summer camps put both parents and children into inconvenience. “Almost all summer camps end by 12 or one in the afternoon. That means working parents have to think of alternative arrangements so that children, especially younger ones, are supervised for the rest of the day,” noted Sunithi.

According to many, during holidays summer idlers who loiter around with their friends are a nuisance to residents. “There is nobody to control them. They parents would be away at work and they take to undesirable activities that sometimes verge on vandalism. So it is the responsibility of the parents to see to it that their time and energy are chanellised into some creative or educational endeavours,” opined Joseph Stanley, a school teacher.

Saleem, watchman of a building, told this reporter that during summer holidays, they have to keep a watchful eye on children who go about damaging things. “There are gangs of older children who simply go about damaging the lift buttons, breaking the lights and disturbing the residents by ringing the doorbells while they are asleep. These people are a headache and we just cannot control them,” complained Salim.

Despite the growing popularity for summer camps and programmes among the UAE residents who stay back in the country during the summer months, numbers of good and reputed camps are on the decline, offering families very limited choice for selection.

Once a booming business, summer camp organisers say it is not easy to organise the camps efficiently in a safe environment and offer broad-range of activities to help make it as enjoyable and fun-based as possible. “The business is lucrative, but requires trained staff with right knowledge and skills to make the summer camp a desirable place for children,” they say.

“Several summer camp organisers came into the UAE to make quick money not realising that the camps can only be successful if they are unique in their own right and ensure to provide a safe environment for children and a whole range of activities to give children the opportunity to experience a broad-based range of activities,” explained organisers for the diminishing numbers today.

Rory Mcrae, Programme Director of the Kellogg’s Summer camp at Children City in Dubai which is running for the ninth year and for the fourth consecutive year at the Children City, says: “We have survived because their camp is unique and the location is the best for children.”

“Although we follow a fairly similar programme every year, we concentrate on a number of activities with the sole purpose of bringing children together to enjoy the activities,” he adds

Fiona Wahid, General Manager of Sky 24 Summer Camp 2005 which has been running successfully for three years, says: “A lot of effort goes into planning the camp so that we can cater to all ages of children from 4 to 15 years. Apart from the safe environment, at the end of the day, parents should get their money’s worth . Our camp is very successful that this year we expect up to 70 per cent of our children having attended the camp in the previous years to return.”

Most summer camps have started registration of children, with many slated to start next week.

The Kellogg’s summer camp looking at enrolling about 300 children this year is also offering online registration facility. The Kellogg’s Summer Camp will run from Saturday to Wednesday, 8am to 1pm, at Children’s City, Creek Park, between June 25 and August 31. The camp is open to both boys and girls aged 3-12 years of age.

“We are not a dedicated sport camp nor are we an educational institution — in fact our programmes are designed to give children the opportunity to experience a broadbased range of activities from theatre (dance, music games, quizzes, talent shows, live entertainment) through to excursions, sport, educational trips, edutainment (children’s city), computers, movies, arts/craft and many other activities. This is a school holiday’s programme and we aim to make it as enjoyable and fun-based as possible,” said Mcrae, adding, “We take this part of our Summer camp very seriously.”

Children will also have an opportunity to explore the eight interactive and educational galleries at Children’s City, Mcrae added.

Sky 24 Summer Camp in Sharjah will offer a four-week programme from June 18, five days a week Saturday to Wednesday from 9am to 1pm. Swimming, ice-skating, bowling, karate, computer games, aerobics, billiards, arts and craft, story telling and movies are some of the activities to be offered for a fee of Dh600 for members and Dh650 for non-members. Transport will be available for an additional fee, Fiona points out.

Another popular camp, and probably the oldest in Dubai, The Al Nasr Leisureland Summer camp at the Al Nasr Leisureland premises once again is expecting a huge crowd of over 1,000 children. We have a large swimming pool and an ice skating rink which can take up to 1,000 children at a time, Anjum Zia, Camp coordinator said.

For a period of one month, children can join any time for a fee of Dh350 plus transport. Already we have over 200 children at the camp which kicked off on May 21, said Zia who disclosed that registration is open and the camp will conclude on August 31.

A prominent and popular summer camp which has survived over the years is the Marbella Resort Summer camp at the Marbella Resort and Hotel in Sharjah. Michael T. Malicsi, Recreation Manager at the hotel said the camp will be divided into three age groups and will begin on June 18 until August 31. The two and half month camp will be available only for Dh650 for non-members, and Dh600 for members. The camp apart from swimming and other sport and arts and craft activities, will this year, incorporate karate, kung fu, muscle and fitness programme, quiz, public speaking and aptitude tests. The fee is inclusive of lunch, Malisci said.

Summer programmes for children and youth will also be organised by Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Foundation for Human Resource Development in Ajman. Dr. Amnah Khalifa, Director of the Foundation said that the summer programme which will begin on July 2 and conclude on August 31 will feature cultural, heritage, scientific, religious and entertaining activities for the children between 10 to 16 years old. “Several sport Championships including foot balls and volley balls which will be organised with coordination with Ajman chess club, Ajman cultural and sports club are also main part of the activities,” Dr Khalifa said.

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