Over the last eighteen months we have all had to be flexible. Our summer camp for teenagers didn't quite work out as usual, but we still had a great time. We had hoped to take twelve young people to our log cabin for the camp. Unfortunately, in the end only five were able to take part. The others weren't able to come for reasons out of their control, some had difficulty getting time off work, others were sent on the camp run by their children's home, and others were hit by illness at the last minute. Because the preparation is such a vital part of the project, we didn't want to take others in their place.
The other change was venue. We expect our young people to travel independently to the camp on public transport after carefully planning their route together. This year several of the participants were new to independent travelling, so we changed the venue to one closer to St Petersburg to make the journey less daunting. In addition to planning their travel, the group were also involved in setting the menu and budgeting for the trip. Ira said, "We went on camp with our children's home, but no-one let us anywhere near the food or the organisation. No-one discussed with us what we were going to eat or where we were going to go. We just played and swam. I felt grown up this time, and understood how much you have to be able to do." We hope this experience of planning will help them organise their own independent trips in future.
The theme for the camp was the different roles we take in life. We talked about the roles they take at camp and in their everyday life: employee, neighbour, friend, partner etc. We were able to identify which roles presented particular difficulties, and to discuss how we can overcome these. Vlad said, "I love helping, but I would like to understand what it means to be a leader, to try it out here and then everyday life". During the camp everyone had a chance to be the leader, tackling challenges which were totally new to them.
Of course everyone also learnt practical skills. Kostya, who has been on camp before, taught the newbies how to put up a tent. The forest environment also played a vital part. It presented us with challenges, like a stream to be crossed during our hike (the group came up with a great solution - see photo). The natural surroundings are also in themselves fantastic for the group's mental health. It put everyone in a calmer mood, giving us space to think more deeply than usual and to grow in understanding and confidence.
Thank you to everyone who has donated over the last year to make this camp a success. We will report soon on the fantastic camp we held for our families with younger children.
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