Aug 21, 2018

Report from a residential camp for kids in foster care

During the first two weeks of July, volunteers from across the globe came together to meet children whose needs were not met by their biological parents. Situated in the beautiful mountainside of Harghita country, there are many views to be appreciated while staying at the camp. The summer camp is a very interactive program where volunteers learn to work together and children are provided with activities that encourage learning in a safe environment. The program first starts in the Care2Travel office with Peter helping the volunteers gather all the supplies needed to make activities possible. Then with only a fifteen minute drive to Csaracsó village, we all arrived at the camp, ready to set up for the week. The day of arrival to the camp is on a Monday, which means that we took that day to set up the materials that are necessary for living in the camp. Once we finished dinner, it was about 7pm and it was time to make a planned schedule of what the next day would consist of, start to finish. This is a critical task because it is critical to have set times for each activity to ensure that the children get what they need each day, and so that the volunteers are able to plan ahead to prepare for the next task at hand. The planning for the day ahead is also an interactive effort on the volunteers part which gathers all the volunteers together to come to an agreement on what activities should happen and when.

Once the children get there, the volunteers guide them to their room in which they will be staying in. The next thing was to separate them in groups so that they could get to know one another as well as the volunteers better. We split them into two teams and each team created a name such as the “Green Dancing Bears,” and created a team flag for each group. Another reason for creating these groups was to give each team a point when they won an activity.  A big part of the plan for the children was to facilitate activities which would give the kids exercise as well as help teach them some English. The volunteers created an alphabet as well as drawings of animals to help them identify the animals with the English words for each. One activity which helped the most with this was the English class which the children of all ages would partake in. Since some of the other volunteers that come to Romania to volunteer are from other countries, this provides another opportunity for growth for the children at the camp. Being able to share different cultures helps the kids widen their understanding of other individuals. 

Since the weather outside was nice enough to be out, outdoor activities were played. Sometimes during the day, we would have a break time where the volunteers could have a short break and the children could go outside and do as they wanted to. Soccer was a very big sport for mostly the boys, who took the game seriously. They played quite well by creating their own teams and played by the rules. While partaking in outdoor activities made by the volunteers, the children learned English numbers.

One activity that we included in the schedule that was a great success was the water balloon shaving. This activity consists of making water balloons and covering them with shaving cream so that then the kids would have to use a plastic shaving razor to shave off the shaving cream without cutting the balloon. Of course after this activity, the kids had a shaving cream fight, which was a lot of fun!

After dinner, there is usually free time which the children would play outside and the volunteers would help clean things up to get and then sit down to plan out the next day as a team. At 9pm, it was time for all the children to get showers. What you’re probably thinking is how do you shower forty children and put have them in bed by 10 pm? Well, we made the task of showering into a game, and the goal was to see who can shower in the shortest time. By 10pm, all the kids would be in their rooms and settling down for the night. Sometimes, volunteers would read to the children to help calm them down for the night. 

These are just some of the many examples of activities that were used in Csaracsó Summer Camp in July of 2018. It is normal to feel a little drained or overwhelmed. Since Friday is the last full day with the children, we have a party which includes activities such as, making wristbands, loom-bands, playing dress up, hair styling, eating ice-cream, followed by pizza and a movie! We also have our “Summer Olympics” where the children can partake in outdoor activities like dodgeball, limbo dancing, and other various ball games. However, you have to remind yourself that you are providing a very influential service to these kids. Sticking to the plan and being patient with the children is the key to a successful time at the camp. The goal of these camps are fundamentally not really to teach them English, but to teach them life skills, team work, social awareness, show them the cultural differences. This is the hardest camp for the coordinators but one of the most rewarding as you can see the kids grow and develop. Some of the kids from the fist camps even became coordinators and volunteers themselves and you can call that the greatest success. 

May 25, 2018

Summer camp for the kids in Szentegyhaza village

Time is ticking and we are getting close to "100 days vacation" as kids call the summer vacation here in Csikszereda. Care2Travel is busy with planning the camps, arranging the placements, recruiting local volunteers to translate on the camps and purchasing all the stock needed to make the best memories possible for the children. It is nice to look back to last summer, relive the atmosphere and get into the mood. Last year one of our NGO Support volunteers, Alexandria accompanied our teacher volunteers for a day on camp and wrote a beautiful report about how the day went. Enjoy!

"Transylvania is beautiful no matter where you look with lush green fields, seemingly endless forests, valleys and mountains, and picturesque villages. But there is more than meets the eye. To anyone just travelling through, life would seem idyllic with a slower and more traditional way of life apparent from even the use of horse-drawn carts that farmers use for transport but the lack of tractors and large agricultural machines is far from a choice. Poverty is rife in some areas of the country and children, especially, often miss out if someone doesn’t step in and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed. This is what Care2Travel aims to do.

For the kids, summer camps are a mixture of fun and games, but for the staff at Care2Travel, they are carefully organised programmes to cater specifically to the needs of the children who are being served.

The summer camp in Szentegyháza (Vlahita) serves children living in low socio-economic circumstances and sometimes even from families broken by alcoholism and abuse. Often, families are large and parents can’t provide the attention and support each individual child needs to reach their potential. During the school term, an after-school programme provides these children with a safe place to do homework and have a hot meal that may be their only hot meal of the day. When summer holidays come around, summer camps fill the void.

For the volunteers, the day starts with a winding drive from Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) up into the mountains. A daily debrief is held to make sure everyone is on the same page and any changes are made while local volunteers prepare a breakfast of salami and cheese sandwiches on potato bread. Then, the children appear from across the field and the day begins.

The food disappears at an alarming pace and the next activity begins. The local pool has allowed the children to come and use the natural mineral water pool for an hour each morning and the children love it. Games and splashing abound with both local and international volunteers looking on to make sure everyone is safe. An hour is by no means enough for the children but the next activity awaits.

After a quick dry off, change and a snack, the children are separated into groups to have their English lesson. Games and puzzles help the children learn and the beautiful setting of a rural field helps the volunteers maintain a relaxed and fun learning environment. Drawing and coloring whilst listening to instructions was also a winner with some artistic talent becoming evident.

All the while, some of our local volunteers prepare a delicious hot lunch with potatoes, cabbage and salami cooked together in a giant outdoor, fire-powered vat known as a bogrács. Potatoes may sound boring but when a culture thrives on them, creativity shines with their being no room to get bored of the plethora of preparation techniques available.

Again, the food is consumed quickly but every last drop is mopped up with the local potato bread that is in no short supply. However, with the seasons changing from summer to autumn, the weather is changing too and rain puts a damper on some activities.

Nonetheless, the camp goes on and the ever-adaptable team keeps the kids busy under the tent that provides just enough shelter for everyone. When the sun comes out and there is a break in the weather, a game of football is back on the cards and volunteers and children of all ages get involved to find out who is the winner!"

Feb 26, 2018

Volunteering in Csikbankfalva, Transylvania

Summer camp in Bankfalva
Summer camp in Bankfalva

On a crisp, white winter day the Care2Travel team and 4 volunteers paid a visit to the Márton Ferenc Elementary School in Csíkbánkfalva. As one of the favorite schools we work with, it is always a pleasure to go there. The kids gather around us, happy to see the familiar faces of our team and excited about the new international volunteers they will get the chance to meet and talk with in English. Last year Care2Travel held 3 successful camps for the children of this school, with the participation of 90 students, 15 international volunteers, and 12 local volunteers. We are already preparing for our camps this upcoming summer and while we are visiting we mention it to the children and they are all already looking forward to it.

Today we came with two new teaching volunteers who will assist the English teachers for 3 weeks. Kristine and Julie arrived in Transylvania only a couple of days prior, and they started their first day in the placement, still overwhelmed by all the new knowledge they gained about the region and culture the previous day. The first class is with the 6th graders, and they get the chance to talk about their hometown in Canada, about their family, and about jobs as that is the topic for today. Eva, the teacher a bit unconventional but probably because of that very popular among the children, puts on an Ed Sheeran song and everyone is happy to sing along. She really knows how to address these children on their own level.

Eva is always happy to welcome the international volunteers into her classroom or into the summer camps. As she says during a break, she likes meeting new people and finding out about other cultures. She says that it is terrific also for her because, "I can use English on a daily level, not just with the kids, but another kind of language as well." We ask what she thinks about the summer camps and what the benefits of the volunteers are, "I think that kids find it very entertaining and I notice that they learn a lot of new words, and they have a richer vocabulary since the summer camps have taken place. Our holidays are quite long, and sometimes they get bored. These summer camps are beneficial for them, the volunteers not only teach them but they also play with them and entertain them. The kids have to use their English to communicate with the volunteers. So the summer camp is good for vocabulary and communication between the students and the volunteers."

We hope that we can continue to support this school for many years to come and entertain these curious and excited students who are always eager to learn new things about the world so far from their little village in the Transylvanian mountains. We are grateful to all our donors who make it possible our summer camps to be a great experience.

New words
New words
Camp games
Camp games
Kristine and Julie with the 1st graders
Kristine and Julie with the 1st graders


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