Bristol mum and daughter set up ‘Dream Camp’ to inspire African Caribbean girls

Black mum and daughter taking a picture together
Black mum and daughter taking a picture together
Plans see 'Dream Camp' as a 10-day intensive using dance, writing and coaching to spark imagination and hope

Local mother-daughter duo, Jeanette Burnet and her eight year old daughter Rachel, have plans to kickstart a pioneering initiative with Black British girls in Bristol aged 8-11, exploring leadership, creativity and community. They have plans for their brainchild ‘Dream Camp’ to be a 10-day intensive project using dance, writing and coaching to spark imagination and hope.

The workshop will be working towards International Day of the Girl this October, which is an international observance day declared by the United Nations. The first phase of Dream Camp aims to be a one-week intensive with 10 girls, taking place this August.

“Each day will start with an energising Afrofusion dance workshop led by Bristol-based Kenzi Ireland, followed by creative writing led by Millie Dok, a Kenyan artist based in London. We’ll end each day with a relaxed art session which may be poster-making, collage or mindful colouring,” Jeanette told Bristol Live.

“The writing and art sessions will focus on exploring dreams and goals using coaching techniques. At the end of the week, we’ll select the bits we’d like to share as part of our digital zine and poster collection.

“We’ll work with participants to understand their ambitions for the future of the programme. In October we’ll come together for a celebration of what we’ve learned and to share our vision for next steps.”

Jeanette shared that the motivation to work with young girls is inspired by 2017 NHS statistics which revealed that 1 in 10 girls aged 14-17 are being referred for specialist mental health support. She said: “Girlguiding UK’s annual survey showed that 80 per cent of girls aged 11-21 have thought about changing their appearance. Reasons cited – to feel better about themselves, feel more confident and to fit in.

“Depression, eating disorders and self-harm affect girls disproportionately. The programme seeks to intervene in the formative ‘tween’ years”.

Rachel and Jeanette have both used their own experiences to inform their initiative. Jeanette told Bristol Live: “As a parent, I’ve become more sensitive to the lack of joyful, positive narratives about Black communities that are available to my children.

“Rachel and I were thinking about summer activities and I realised there was nothing that I wanted to book her in for that would challenge and inspire her to grow as a leader. As we reflected and talked, the idea emerged for a summer project focusing on the things she loves to do – African/Caribbean dance, writing and visual art combined with the things I love to do – participation, coaching, and leadership development.”

And so, they decided to start their own. The things that Jeanette has seen her daughter experience have also inspired the starting of Dream Camp.

“When Rachel was three years old, she came home from nursery and told me that to be beautiful, a girl needed to have ‘blue eyes, blonde hair and peach skin’. I was shocked to realise how early our narratives about what’s acceptable are established.” Jeanette told Bristol Live.

“That moment was a turning point for us and since then strengthening both my children’s sense of pride in their cultural identity has been a focal point for me. Most of this has happened in our close family circle through exploring African and Caribbean culture, building strong family ties and having open conversations about current issues like ‘Black Lives Matter’ but we’re ready now to share our journey with others.”