Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year our organization had to cancel practically all camp programmes. The children were not going to school and neither could they participate in a camp where they would be reunited with children and adults other than those in their family. These were the rules we needed to follow and to demonstrate leadership through our example!
And even though the world is still not “back to normal”, it was with enormous relief that we are seeing that the restrictions are easing and that it was possible for CISV to organize some purposeful activities during summer. Of course the idea of having international camps is still suspended, but this initiative to do a national and initiation camp for younger children was a very welcome idea!
Something new, yet something familiar
Based on this idea, in June this year, in the city of Kaarina, the “First Step” camp was organised by CISV Naantali, designed for children between 10 and 12 years old, following a similar model to the “Village” camps, regarding the day’s agenda and activities, but lasting only 1 week and without the presence of international delegations.
It was a very simple and easy camp to organize. The Naantali chapter supported us, the Leaders and Staff, at the campsite, assisting us with logistics and meals for the day. And distance and safety measures could be followed accordingly, as at the campsite we were held inside our own “bubble”.
The theme of the year is diversity and even though we couldn’t count on international delegations, two of the 3 leaders present were immigrants, which helped us with creating “the international vibe” at the camp. One of the leaders being Russian (even though she was raised and educated in Finland) and I am Brazilian.
As leaders we decided to follow the same planning outline that is used in larger camps like the Village and the Step up. And bearing in mind that this camp would be the first contact of many of those kids with our organization, we were committed to make present important elements of the organizational culture of CISV. Elements such as having flagtimes with the CISV song, “the delegation of the day”, activities’ routine with energizers and debriefings, Lullabies and “Kiitos” right after each meal were introduced and, in addition to bringing the theme of the year to as many activities as possible, we made a playful activity to explain the purpose of organization and what steps within the organization to follow, each of them could decide to take from that camp.
Connecting and learning together
It didn’t take the children long to be fully immersed in the experience of that camp, to follow the routine naturally, to engage in the discussions of the themes and in the debriefing of the activities, as well as to build friendships and “bridges across the years”.
From my perspective, this camp was not only a success, it was also an excellent CISV Finland initiative! After such a difficult year, by envisioning a short-term experience with an introductory purpose, we gave these children an opportunity to connect with the organization and its aim, but to also make new friends for themselves.
On the last day, when we had the activity that talked about “what are the next steps within the organization”, it was clear how much the children would like to remain engaged, participating in the other activities that will follow! Upon arrival of parents to pick up the kids at the camp, you could hear them telling about the activities they found impactful, while they mentioned to the parents that they would like to be part of the “Village” next year and said “bye ” to each other as if to say “see you soon!”.
The “First Step” was a very rewarding experience for me as a leader! Seeing the children develop, learn together and connect with each other through the activities and important conversations they were having filled my heart with hope! It was without a doubt a “first step” for the planting of several seeds that I believe we will see growing in our organization in the coming years!
Text and photos: Isabella Saraceni
About the writer: Hello there! My name is Isabella Saraceni. I’m 32 years old and I’m Brazilian. Even though I graduated in law and worked as an attorney for 7 years of my life I found out that it is with people’s development that I truly find joy. I have been working in Finland for a year now as the President of another NGO that works on developing youth leadership. And besides this, I have been a member of CISV Lappeenranta since 2018, when I had my first experience with CISV as the international staff member of the Step Up 2018 camp. This “First step” was my second experience with a CISV camp and the first as a Leader.