Heni is currently our Communication and Branding coordinator. She joined in 2016, and already partook in 5 camps (2016 Litke, 2016 Agárd, 2017 Litke, 2017 Lácacséke, 2017 Dunabogdány). She recently finished doing Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews and currently studies International Relations at CEU. When she is not working for us, she plays music, draws and is the editor of the CEU student newspaper.
Many of my friends can see that I work on Knapsack Camps very much, some even say, maybe even too much. As outsiders, I understand their concerns, to me, however, this organization is currently one of the best things in my life. I have to admit, the main reasons I joined in the first place in the summer of 2016 is because I had literally nothing better to do (I didn’t get any cool internships) and because I wanted to spend some time with my very good friend Tom who was about to move to Atlanta after the camps. On the top of that, frankly, I am afraid of kids (or so I thought), and I am all in for some political activism and volunteering but I used to be super disinterested in education in practice (unlike using its importance in every political debate). I did expect that I would meet so many like-minded people who would then become my best friends – which of course happened – but what surprised me the most is that I also found many new friends amongst the children in the camps.
My most inspiring Knapsack Camp story is actually about the strength of these friendships. One of the programs I organized in the 2017 sleep-away camp was about critical thinking, source evaluation, and most importantly about the status of various marginalized groups in Hungary. The campers had to read 5 texts supposedly from newspapers about groups such as LGBT+ people, immigrants, emigrants, feminists, etc. In the first round, the kids had to discuss what they thought of the articles that were all saying terrible (and untrue) things about these groups. After they read the articles and discussed them, they could revisit the stations, where they got to know that the volunteers they were talking to were actually part of these groups.
My friend Andris and I were the LGBT+ station. Our “article” was about the 2017 Budapest Pride and how disgusting it is that all these gay people parade through the city. In the first round we heard both positive comments about gay people and very negative ones. But surprisingly, they also had some great discussion about the topic. One of the best experiences I had in my Knapsack career so far was when we “came out” to the kids, and some actually changed their minds about what they originally thought of gay people. And yes, coming out as gay to a bunch of kids over and over again wasn’t easy. Especially, because we did not have time for all 5 groups to go over all of the 5 stations, so there were children who only got to know the “news” from the others. Yet, this situation gave me one of the best gifts. Brenda, a girl from Litke, who wasn’t in any of the groups that visited our station, came up to me and said “You are very brave Heni, and we love you the way you are!” and hugged me. Then many others followed.