Camping with my dad

Reem Leila , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

Father-child awareness camps in Egypt are seeking to strengthen family bonds, reports Reem Leila

  Me and My Dad
Me and My Dad


This year, the National Council for Women (NCW) is organising several three-day camps called “Me and My Dad” aimed at strengthening family bonds between fathers and their children. 

Each camp will include the participation of 160 imams and priests, along with their children, in the Governorates of Giza, Beheira, Minya, Assiut, and Sohag, with a target of 1,000 by the end of this year. The camps are part of the national project for the development of the Egyptian family and in collaboration with the WellSpring Foundation.

According to Isis Mahmoud, head of NCW training and development, the camps are divided into two groups: one for fathers with children under 12, and another for those with children aged 13 to 18. 

The fathers and their children are invited to attend the camps to enhance family and social bonds, encourage constructive dialogue, and promote mutual understanding, ultimately fostering healthy family relationships and providing a better upbringing for children. 

“These children represent the future of Egypt,” Mahmoud emphasised.

Mahmoud also highlighted the importance of empowering religious leaders in particular at the camps, as they play an active role in community development and promoting positive values. “We are trying to influence the influencers. It is essential to create a new generation that understands the significance of teamwork and family development and values and possesses the ability to lead positive change in society,” she explained.

The camps feature a range of activities, such as swimming, football, and Lego building, which encourage creativity and teamwork between fathers and their children. “These activities enhance paternal relationships as parents help their children understand how things work,” Mahmoud added.

The fathers are fully responsible for their children during the camp, including feeding, dressing, combing their hair, and bathing them after swimming. This responsibility, particularly for fathers with younger children, is often a new experience and one of the biggest challenges, according to Mahmoud.

Behavioural experts at the camps provide guidance for fathers on dealing with their children’s issues, boosting mutual relationships and improving manners and behaviour. “Experts listen to the problems fathers may have with their children and teach them how to deal with them to boost their mutual relationship and rectify manners and behaviour,” said Mahmoud, adding that children go through the same process. 

“The children also learn how to express themselves and interact positively with their fathers.” 

Some young children complain about the absence of their fathers and not spending enough time together. Children from the older group complain mainly about misunderstandings between them and their fathers. Teenagers complain about how their fathers do not understand them and do not know how to treat them.

A highlight of the three-day camp is the exchange of letters between fathers and children, expressing their feelings and acknowledging the traits they appreciate in each other. “The letters are written separately and read collectively aloud. This is the best day in the whole programme and is usually full of warm emotions,” Mahmoud said.

By the end of the camp, fathers and children often develop a stronger relationship due to the closeness they experienced throughout the time they spent together.

Bishop Bishoy from Sohag shared his experience of the programme. “I was excited at being able to attend this camp as I rarely spend time with my children due to my work. Fortunately, the camp allowed me to spend quality time with my children, something I rarely get to do otherwise,” he said.

“It has strengthened our bond and helped me understand my children better. Taking care of my children during the camp was a real eye-opener. I realised how much I’ve been missing out on and how important it is to be involved in their daily lives.”

“Writing and reading the letters at the end of the camp was an emotional experience. It helped me express feelings I hadn’t shared before and brought me closer to my kids,” he added.  

Similarly, Sheikh Youssef Metwalli noted that participating in activities like swimming, football, and building Lego structures with his children was a fantastic experience. “It brought us closer together and created lasting memories,” he said.

All the participants said that the behavioural experts at the camp had provided valuable insights into how to communicate better with children. They felt more equipped to handle their problems and support them afterwards, they said.

Ismail, 16, appreciated the quality time with his father at the camp. “I loved spending so much time with my father. We usually don’t get to hang out like this at home,” he said.

“The camp helped my father understand me better. Now he listens to me more and knows what I like and don’t like. Writing a letter to my father and hearing him read his letter to me made me feel really special. I didn’t know he felt that way about me,” he added. 

“After the camp, I feel closer to my dad. We talk more and do more things together now, as it helped me learn how to tell my dad what I’m feeling. I think he understands me better now.”

Mariam, 11, enjoyed building Lego structures and playing football with her father at the camp she attended. “It was the best time I’ve had with my father in a long time. We laughed a lot and worked together as a team,” she said.

“I hope we can come to the camp again. It was funny seeing my father braid my hair and help me get dressed. It showed me how much he cares about me.”

At the end of the three-day camp, the participants expressed a desire for more frequent camps, recognising their positive impact on their relationships. The camps had successfully fostered closer bonds and better understanding between fathers and their children, they said, making a lasting impact on family dynamics in Egypt.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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