Roaaaawr! The call of the wild.
Summer therapeutic camp for bereaved children and adolescents, 2016
Plamienok Grief Counselling Centre has been organizing therapeutic summer camps for bereaved children from all over Slovakia for 6 years. This year, 57 children aged 7 to 18, 2 psychologists, doctors and play therapists from Plamienok staff, as well as 11 trained volunteers, all under supervision of the Centre´s director, psychotherapist Ivan, attended the camp and spent a week together. They played, contemplated, had fun, discussed serious matters, laughed and cried, created, did sports, relaxed and enriched each other.
We thank all companies and individuals who suppported our camp. Children did not pay for the camp, which allowed us to accept also children from socially challenged families and orphanages.
Hereby we offer you words from the notebook of our colleague, play therapist Lucia. This is what it really was like in this year´s camp...
The bus is ready, direction Vrutky, and I can see a variety of emotions ont the faces of the children – on some of them worries, in some of them sadness. Despite their doubts they enter the bus, it seems their inner call of the wild wins over fear and sceptisism, their luggage already in the trunk. Luckily there are children among us who have been to our Plamienok camp before, and with them the atmosphere in the bus changes, the air becomes lighter, we feel the expectations of something new, something that is awaiting us like a journey, like the one our bus is heading on. And here we are, on the spot, with more children waiting for us, the cottage full to its limits, the dividing into rooms, the first getting to know each other.
Day one – Unknown territory
Symbolically we are entering the unknown territory, stepping on the new land. The indigenous people, the savages, accompanied by the sounds of drums, come to greet us. One of them holds up his didgeridoo, the massive sound comes out and the chief of the tribe starts reading from an ancient roll of paper: Now you are in the skin of the explorer, new to the new land. Your bare feet will enter on a road which takes you to a new land, to the center of the wilderness. Go slowly, be careful, explore the road and at its end, you will find the entering gate – and you will enter the new, the unknown land and become its inhabitant.
Children walk through the path which resembles our journey through life – how it changes, how we face different things on it, from pleasant soft leaves to prickly pine needles. Each child discovers a notebook, empty on the first day, but with a promise to become full during the next seven days with their insights, experiences, messages – like Robinson Crusoe on the deserted island. It will be theirs only, about them, about their stay in this wilderness of ours.
Children write their expectations on the first pages and then share them with others: football, fun, friends.
Weather: raining, hopefully tomorrow the sun comes out.
Day two – Meeting my animal
Dear notebook, today we were creating our own movie about the wild, then we were running around in the rain and later, in the group, we searched for our inner animal. We were divided into four groups according to ages. What animal would I choose to be? What do I like about it and why? Dear notebook, you know what, ok..I choose the bat. The bat because, just like it I sometimes avoid people. Then these people have different prejudices about me, just like about bats, because they do not know me, and they believe their prejudices. But they are wrong.
The first group meeting was strong, suddently we feel closer, we know our animals. Another child writes in its diary: ...my animal is a horse, because just like the horse, I do not give up in spite of what happened to me,...silence,...my mom died.
It keeps raining, but we believe the sun is hidden there just behind the clouds.
Day three – We are not alone
Dear notebook, it keeps raining, it is really wild, and we still have so much to do. We play the Activity, we prepare ourselves for the Oscar movie awards in the night - for the movies we created yesterday, we play in the meadows and in the rain. Because rain belongs to life. In the afternoon we share our rainy moments with the group. Whom we lost and how we feel about it. Some feel a bit better, some are still deeply sorrowed. But we have discovered that we are really not alone, that there are more of us with similar fate, friends, who do not need explanations, whom we can talk to straight. We can simply share and feel this rain together, then laugh like wild animals watching the movies we created, such as The Hard Life of a Sloth.
Day four – Animal power
Dear notebook, it´s not raining! The sun came out! We are in the forest, finally. There we meet animals, they tell us about their lives and we try to emphatize with them. Like when we meet the snake, we try to shed our skin (well, fortunately, we only try to shed our socks without our hands), the lion shows us how to gain courage with an immense roaring, the monkey teaches us curiosity and how to mimic others. When meeting the penguin we realize how precious life is, and the wolf explains that family and hierarchy is fundamental and we also train our sense of smell. And the butterfly reveals to us that life is change and transformation into something new.
In the evening we listen to four stories of animals. Of the frightened mouse, the angry bear, the sad elephant and the jolly hummingbird. We try to print each emotion into clay, we create our fear, anger, sadness and joy. The clay keeps changing in our hands just like the emotions within us. It is normal to feel different emotions, we realize that everyone can fear something different. Like someone fears loneliness and someone fears having many people around. How strange.
Day five – Blueberry trip
Dear notebook, a great challenge for today – all day trip. The weather seems fine, but they say there is a bear wandering around...well hopefully we avoid each other. We walk the steep hill – over 1000 m above sea level. We believe we can make it, we already know we have the inner strength. It was worth trying – up there, we find a reward – endless fields of blueberries. Yummy! We have purple lipsticks on our lips, purple prints on our hands, and maybe even our hearts turned purple. We pick blueberries for the younger ones, who did not walk this far. We ascend the hill with a wooden cross on top, where we get an amazing view, with the world at our glance. And we see everything as if from a bird's-eye view.
In the group we are making our own necklace of strength, either the strength of our animal, or something that empowers us. The necklaces are so varied, just as we are. And with these necklaces, we are ready to face the following day and life.
Day six – Festival of colors
Dear notebook, the final day in the wild has come, the final wild thing – a shower of colors. We are on the meadow and the adults keep throwing colors on us, for pure joy. We join them after a while and all of a sudden, the dailiness is gone and we are on the meadow shining with colors, looking like someone from another land, or even another planet. Click and click on the camera, trying to capture this joyous moment for ever, or at least for a memory. In the group we say goodbyes, we write messages of honest and courageous words to each other, we leave our prints and the prints of the other ones, how we saw each other. It is interesting to read how I was special to someone, that he could laugh a lot with me, that he will not forget how I spilled water on him during lunch, maybe a banality in the eyes of an adult, but something very precious for me.
Day seven - Goodbye
Dear notebook, we are packing, we hug, some of us cry. The final fullstop, the end of the wild. But we surely carry something of it with us, not just written in the notebooks, but especially deep within. We are not the same as before. We take our notebooks with us back home, to the place where we hope to bring something of this experience with us.
The sun is shining on our way home.
And gives us warmth.