This year, we have added a new camp, Sajokaza. This is a very unique place, as different organisations are already present, for example the Salvation Army, and even a film was made about the village, in 2015, called the angry Buddha. However, it looks like there is also a need for our activities.
For our day camp, the Dr. Ambedkar school gave us space. Apart from the novelty, this week differs from our other camps in other ways as well. First of all, it was different because at the same time, there was another camp for primary school children and they were looked after by French scouts. The language difficulties and the fact that there were twice as many children resulted in very exciting situations. Second of all, our location was also very different to what we are used to, as Ambedkar has a history of buddhism, and in the building you can find many symbols, statues and signs of this. Our volunteers slept on mattresses which were placed in a smaller sanctuary.
We prepared a lot for the new camp, so we decided to put together the programme from our previous three summer camps, in particular we chose the ones we thought the kids liked the most and achieved the most results. For our cover story, we chose time travelling.
Usually, we start every day with some kind of sports, and in between the most demanding learning activities, we also play games that involve moving. Unfortunately, the children of Sajokaza were not exactly enthusiastic about the idea. The sport activities went ahead with the volunteers dressed up in their costumes for the cover stories, with their fake eyeliner mustaches on, playing sports, whilst the children were sitting in the shadows of the building and watching. They enjoyed this very much, but they didn’t think of joining us. We had ideas to play different team games, but these were also voted down, as according to them these were ‘childish’. Of course, this is not surprising, since with every single camp, we have different age groups. In this instance, the younger children were occupied at the other camp, so we only had children between the ages of 13 and 15. They got bored of all our hand-picked activities within half an hour.
The project would have been to create a board game, but I have to confess, only one of the teams completed it during the week. This was done, by a group of boys between the ages of 13 and 14, who really fancied one of the French girls. So they decided to make the objective of the game, to take the girl on a date, of course strictly on the board game. It was a difficult road to travel, which led them on different lucky and unlucky cards and through a pink coloured meadow. During the weekend, we told Zoe, what the boys worked on and she thought that was very flattering.
Our experience during the first two days, was that unfortunately things didn’t exactly worked out the way we wanted them. Obviously, it was never a realistic expectation that on the first day they would trust us and work with us without any hurdles, especially that they already had experience with people visiting like this. We tried to figure out how we could do things differently. As a first step, we tried to shorten our activities, instead of the usual 45-60 minutes, our aim was half an hour. The breakthrough came on Wednesday, when we played ‘Rubbish sculpturing’. The question was whether Michelangelo or Botticeli deserves that they study with the polymath, da Vinci. To do this, we divided the teams: one of the tasks was to form the rubbish (for example, yoghurt pot, plastic bottles and toilet paper roll) into a decoration which they can put on the tree, of course making sure the tree wasn’t damaged. This was the first task that actually succeeded, which meant we had the children sitting in two teams in the shadows of the bigger trees, painting and then decorating the tree. Just to keep the calm atmosphere, we didn’t declare a winner, but instead congratulated everyone on their contribution. The other activity that worked well was the car building one, the 3 teams did an excellent job with balloon driven cars made out of milk cartons. During the race, everyone enthusiastically cheered on their finished cars.
By the end, we gave up on the projects and instead gave the children more space to do what they wanted, this way they had a chance to get to know each other. They were singing and played music, told us about the village, about Solyom telep and about themselves and their plans. The boys were very happy they were able to play football – and we also joined them, whilst the girls were talking, they also braided each other’s hairs.
The moral of the story for us was that this group of children are very happy to do handcrafts and enjoy creating things. In the future, we will plan to focus on this, whilst also not neglecting our aim of teaching them. However, we were happy to succeed in one thing: by the second half of the camp, they understood how our camps work: they didn’t walk out of sessions and arrived on time on most mornings.
We would like to thank everything to Gabor, staff of Ambedkar, who was with us every single day of the week and helped us a lot. He knows the kids very well and the village and cares a lot about them.