New Generation Camp was founded by Petronella ‘Nel’ Blanken, a Dutch nurse who came to Jamaica in 1974 to help with a children’s ministry in Braeton, St. Catherine and work in her profession. When her scheduled time was up in Jamaica she felt that her work was not yet done, and so she entered training as a social worker in order to do more to impact the lives of the impoverished and neglected children she was encountering as a nurse.
She further sought to address the problem by fostering 2 young boys and then by helping to found a Christian early childhood school in the early 80s. This soon led to the formation of a Christian children’s organization called Circle Square Jamaica, under the auspices of Covenant Community Church. The name was changed to New Generation in 1992, and it became a national non-profit children’s organization, running clubs, rallies, TV programs and camps.
Camps soon became the main focus of the organization and it initially ran camps every summer for children and teens at various campsites across Jamaica. This eventually became untenable and Nel began to dream of New Generation’s own campsite. She connected with Faith and Ivan Linton who had been involved in camp ministry for many years. They were the owners of the Cranbrook Estate in Laughlands, St. Ann, and they and their children wished to make some land available for a campsite. They agreed to lease 6.5 acres of their property to New Generation to build an adventure campsite.
The vision was to create an outdoor adventure for young people where they could encounter God through teachable moments brought about through nature, through adventure and through the lives of Christian counselors living out New Generation’s Motto: “One generation declaring God’s mighty acts to another” (Psalm 145:4). The site was therefore called Happy Hills, combining the surrounding hills, the Laughlands River and Psalm 65 which declares that the hills rejoiced together.
It was bushy, hilly, un-cleared land which had originally been a pimento plantation. With much volunteer support, the land was cleared in stages and in 1996 the first summer camps were held at the site. Campers slept in tents, which became New Generation’s signature. Over the years however, New Generation began to build guest cottages, primarily to meet the needs of the adult retreat groups, which has seen a steady increase in demand. The camping ministry continued to grow, adding a Leadership Camp and a Family Camp, as well as an A Cappella Choir Camp each Easter, and TRUS’ Camps for inner-city children as requested throughout the year.
The campsite has been built in phases as additional acreage has been added. The first camps were held in tents with a pit toilet and a temporary kitchen. Over the years New Generation has added various buildings including a multi-purpose hall with kitchen facilities, environmentally friendly sanitary facilities with a bio-digester, a manager’s cottage as well as guest cottages and a gazebo. Much of this was done through grants from funding agencies but also through work teams from overseas.
New Generation continued its emphasis on learning through nature and adventure by building a tree house, a nature trail, an outdoor amphi-theatre under a cluster of bamboo, a Children’ Adventure Course and a Challenge Course among other things.
Teambuilding and Leadership Development training on the Challenge Course and through Group Initiatives took on a life of its own and has developed into a major arm of New Generation. With Facilitators trained by overseas groups such as Signature Research and through its own in-house training, New Generation has developed training courses for students, staff, companies, churches and other non-profit groups. Since 2002 it has trained scores of groups across Jamaica, and even in the Caribbean and the USA.
New Generation continues to run camps, host camps, rent its campsite and run teambuilding and leadership courses, all with the goal of seeing a new generation transformed through Christ, impacting Jamaica and the world.