CISV: 1st National Camp in Seinäjoki
Helsinki, Porvoo, Naantali and Tampere. These were the delegations that participated in the first national camp of CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages). Twenty one kids, two junior counselors, three group leaders and three staff members were together in Seinäjoki, in Hyllykallio School, playing activities and introducing the CISV program for ten days. Children were mainly ten years old but also some eleven and twelve years old came to experience the CISV spirit.
From a role of four main annual themes, diversity, human rights, conflict and resolution and sustainable development, diversity was the chosen one for 2018. Although this camp was a national one and all the participants were Finland, the diversity was still present, whether because of the staff members, Portuguese and Iranian, whether because of different parts of Finland.
The main goal of this first national camp was to introduce CISV to new people and to reunite Finnish kids instead of other nationalities. The daily schedule was intense, with several activities, mainly games, due to the small time of the camp. Usually camps lengthen longer than ten days.
The days started early in the morning. At 7h30 the music was playing so everyone would wake up. As a member of the staff, my task was preparing breakfast. After doing this it was flag time. In every morning and evening people gather around the CISV flag and, while raising it up, they sing a song.
Mornings were usually full schedule with cleaning activities and games. Lunch was served at 12h00 and after this it was delegations time, leaders and staff meetings. Discussing about the kids behaviors and how to manage a conflict that may arise are the main concerns of these meetings. Planning the next day is also a task for these meetings.
Shower time happened at 15h30 and diner at 16h00. Finnish people have diner really early. Activities continued and at 20h00 it was snack time. Next we had again the flag time and, before going to bed, 30 minutes of lullabies.
After all of this intense program and after the children went to sleep it was time for new meetings. I may say that the most challenging part of this project was the sleeping hours. People can tell me everything they want to but sometimes it’s good to understand that in everyone’s differences there are always some different habits and contexts.
I am a person that really needs good sleeping hours to be productive. Due to some health issues I also need to control my sleeping hours in a very demanding way. During this camp the working hours exceed 17h a day and in the middle of the week there was one day when we were worked 22 hours in a row. This should not sound as a complaining speech but as a challenging and hard time that required a lot of my strength and self-control.
By my side, in the staff team, I had Antti and Sara, from Lappeenranta. Antti was the director of the camp and he was the only staff member with CISV experience. Me and Sara, we were both new to this project. We had trainings before this national camp; however there is nothing like experience and “a lot of years turning chickens” (Portuguese saying for when you have a lot of experience on something).
Both of them were an anchor to me. Antti is a very patient person and diplomatic one. Sara is a kind and sweet heart woman. With both of them by my side I managed to handle the hard times.
The kids themselves were really challenging as well. They didn’t speak English and the language gap can be defiant. Once they started to have more confidence with the staff, because apparently we are the ‘bad cops’, they tried to speak with me and Sara and they even taught me some Finnish. All of them were truly sweet children and heartwarming.
In the end of the camp everyone was exhausted, even the kids, who could sell some energy to the grown-ups. During ten days we were each other’s family and if we didn’t have much time to know each other, bonds are always there somehow. Some of them wrote me some very cute English letters. I cannot forget to mention as well their happiness and my excitement about the Portuguese world cup match against Spain. A few kids conspired against me and some became my best friends by supporting my team.
In the end, we were all friends again!
This was my first experience with CISV. It started in Seinäjoki, as a working task and it ended up with my will to give more to the world. This innovative project wants to educate children through peace and build global friendship. If we can make the difference in our communities and become more active citizens we should not turn our back to these opportunities.
Life with no challenges is not worth it. CISV was, so far, my biggest one in Finland and I couldn’t be more thankful.