They lived, laughed and worked together for 14 days; now the summer camp, which five young people from C AMPUS 15 in Lohmar also attended, has come to an end. The camp in Staszów in southern Poland was held under the motto “Youth gives, everybody gains” and united participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro, Poland and Serbia for the second time from 6 to 20 July 2015.
The 36 participants aged between 15 and 18 and their carers from the six countries had already met last year for the summer camp at the Malteserhof in Königswinter. Now came the “reunion”, the return encounter. The young people had been looking forward to the big reunion for months. The venue was Wisniowa, a village with 200 inhabitants that belongs to Staszów in southern Poland. The historical meeting place of the group was the castle of Hugo Kollataj, the author of the first Polish constitution. The participants’ flat was in an outbuilding in the beautiful park of the grounds.
Last year, the Lohmar-based association C AMPUS 15, which has been working for reconciliation in the Balkans for years, had organised the summer camp. While at that time, besides the topics “Human Rights” and “European Union”, the focus was on getting to know each other and group dynamics, this year the big topic was “Volunteering”. This was approached in many different ways: Besides workshops on theoretical aspects such as “What is volunteering?”, there was also a lot of concrete information,
for example about the European Voluntary Service (EVS). A meeting with former EVS volunteers also conributed to this.
In general, the participants took a lot of initiative and had the chance to change their surroundings with their own hands. For example, the castle park was beautified and replanted on two days; rubbish was collected and rooms in the castle were cleaned and repainted. In addition, the young people organised a children’s afternoon in the castle park for the families from Staszów,
which was very popular.
The Polish partner organisation of C AMPUS 15, Fundacja Aktywizacji i Rozwoju M?odzie?y (FARMa), which had been in charge of organising the return encounter, regularly organises cinema and dance evenings for the local population in Staszów. During the summer camp, these activities were taken over by the young people, who used the opportunity to introduce the audience to the culture of their home countries. They showed funny films and traditional dances from their home countries. The presentation of the German group, which performed “The Red Horse” in the style of the Rhenish carnival tradition, was enthusiastically applauded.
One of the purposes of all these activities was to encourage the young people to remain active after their return to their home countries. Cosmopolitan, motivated and full of ideas as well as the aspiration to make a difference, these young people met for the second time now.
Before they were selected to take part in the summer camp last year, they had to go through a demanding selection process which, among other things, also placed great emphasis on social commitment, so that many of the young people have already been active for a long time in organisations such as educational or cultural institutions, the Red Cross or the Boy Scouts. In order to intensify their commitment, many of the workshops dealt with the reduction of prejudices, the approach to social problems and the question of how these can best be solved. Topics such as discrimination against minorities and the still tense situation in large parts of the Balkans came up. The fact that this delicate
The fact that this delicate topic could be dealt with so openly was only made possible by the great openness of the participants. The friendships made by the young people from countries that are still partly hostile to each other will probably succeed in improving the situation, at least on a small scale.
In addition to all these challenging political topics, there was also the opportunity to engage in artistic and creative activities. In project groups, the young people worked on two plays on the topics of corruption and the brain drain from the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as on the topics of underage pregnancy and family violence and mobbing. Through the work results of the project groups, the participants all had wonderful memories in digital and printed form to take home at the end.
Overall, the return encounter showed in an impressive way how much young people in particular can move and change when they are networked, motivated and well prepared. For a region like the Balkans
In addition to all these challenging political topics, however, there was also the opportunity to engage in artistic and creative activities. In project groups, the young people developed two plays on the topics of corruption and the brain drain from the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as on the topics of underage pregnancy and family violence and bullying. Through the work results of the project groups, the participants all had wonderful memories in digital and printed form to take home at the end.
Overall, the return encounter showed in an impressive way how much young people in particular can move and change when they are networked, motivated and well prepared. For a region like the Balkans, from which bad news has famously predominated lately, these young people and the work of CAMPUS 15 are a sign of true hope.
(Henri Weindel in September 2015