19 January 2016: Yale-NUS students organise Camp Chartwell, an arts camp for children

Written by Clare Isabel Ee | Images provided by Camp Chartwell

Over the semester break in December 2015, seven Yale-NUS students came together to run Camp Chartwell: Voyage, an arts camp for children aged six to nine. Through the camp, participants are exposed to different forms of arts in a fun and creative manner, deepening their understanding of the arts and also helping them grow in confidence and self-expression.

Founded in 2008 by Mariel Chee (Class of 2017) and her friend, Nicole Ng, from School of the Arts (SOTA), Camp Chartwell has grown from a small workshop-style camp held at Mariel’s residence, to a full-fledged experiential arts camp held at the Little Arts Academy.

“It started off as a holiday project. We were 14 years old at that point and wanted something to do during the holidays,” explained Mariel. “We ‘hired’ some of our friends from the different arts courses [in SOTA] and ran a four-day arts camp for girls. We had music, dance, theatre and art students.”

Camp Chartwell Dance

Participants enjoying a dance session at the camp.

Founded upon a deep conviction in the importance of nurturing an interest and appreciation for the arts from a young age, this was the fifth instalment of Camp Chartwell. Themed ‘Voyage’, the camp saw 17 boys and girls participating, a number that has remained quite steady over the years.

“Some of them come back for every camp because they like it so much!” said Mariel. “Some parents may have also heard of us from online blogs or e-magazines on the arts, and so on.”

Camp Chartwell Group photo

Group photo of the Camp Chartwell participants and facilitators.

As Mariel’s fellow founder, Nicole, is currently studying abroad, Mariel tapped on some of her artistically inclined friends at Yale-NUS, who each specialises in a different art form.

For instance, Jevon Chandra (Class of 2017) came up with creative music lessons for the students, which aimed to impart two critical skills – appreciation and creation.

“As the children had different skill levels, we avoided using classical musical notation. Instead, we used our customised form of notation to even the playing field, and condensed elements of the traditional score down to its most crucial and accessible elements,” Jevon shared.

“That allowed everyone, regardless of skill level, to have a hand in creating through composition, and to listen and appreciate everyone else’s contributions thereafter,” he added.

Working together with her schoolmates, who live on the same campus, also facilitated the overall process.

Mariel highlighted: “Because the team all knew each other, it was easy for us to collaborate.”

Jevon Camp Chartwell

Jevon conducting a music session with participants. 

The three-day camp costs S$300 per child and includes meals, art materials and a Camp Chartwell T-shirt. It was previously held at the Goodman Arts Centre, before migrating to the Little Arts Academy, which aspires to be the leading arts academy for young people regardless of their personal circumstances.

“We’re holding it there because we feel that the Academy’s vision is quite aligned to ours – for example, the cost of the venue goes directly into supporting financially disadvantaged children to receive an arts education,” Mariel said.

Brought together by the common love for arts and an interest in helping to develop children in this area, Mariel and Nicole have plans to grow Camp Chartwell more strategically in the years to come.

For more on Camp Chartwell, check out their website!