The evidence suggests the short answer is yes.
Each year we have undertaken thorough evaluations of the young people’s experiences at camp, as well as the experiences of the volunteers and camp leaders. You can read the evaluations here: 2016 (full evaluation) 2016 (summary) 2015 (full), 2015 (summary), 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011. The initial camp Freedom to Be evaluation (2010) is here. Our pilot camp in 2010 was evaluated by Sigma research who looked at our model’s impact on the young people who attended. In short, even three months on from the event, the overwhelming majority of those who attended were full of praise and gratitude for a life-changing experience, or at the very least, a beneficial intervention. In the same year we undertook a survey of healthcare professionals and interviewed parents to see if they had noticed any changes in the young people after camp. Again, the difference noted by both groups demonstrates how effective camp is at making a difference to these young people’s lives. You can read this report here.
We believe this model is so successful as it takes the best from peer support services through the workshops and activities and puts them into a critical mass of around 80 young people in a residential setting. The ethos is about supporting the young people to engage with their peers, build support networks, learn about HIV and within all of this have a lot of fun. The residential experience allows for a greater level of sharing, such as taking medicine openly in an environment where most other people are also taking some, of being able to talk openly about HIV with anyone else at camp, and late night talks in dorms where the young people can share their experiences in life and build lasting bonds.