It has meanwhile become a tradition: the annual summer camp for needy children - organised by Caritas Salzburg/Austria in co-operation with local partners in the Middle East - focused on international understanding. After Syria in 1999, Lebanon in 2000 and Egypt in 2001, this year Caritas Jordan was the host of this unique summer camp, which took place from August 4th to 25th, 2002, in Amman, capital of Jordan. Accommodation was provided at Schneller school, the German school on the outskirts of Amman.
The 88 children participating came from Lebanon (20), Syria (15), Egypt (12), Palestine (10), Jordan (21) as well as Iraq (10). Iraqi children had joined the camp for the first time, whereas they were not from Iraq directly, but have been chosen by Caritas Jordan from Iraqi refugee families living in Jordan. It was again impossible due to the political situation to have children directly from Palestine at the camp; instead kids from several Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon were invited to participate.
The children aged 9 to13 have been chosen by local project partners of Caritas Salzburg in the various countries according to strict criteria: orphans and refugee children, disabled, hardship cases, and they were belonging to 13 different Christian and Muslim denominations! In addition, there was a multi-national team of camp counsellors who had been particularly prepared for this task through special training seminars; above all 10 motivated youngsters (7 from Lebanon, 2 from Egypt, 1 from Jordan), who were each looking after a group of 8 - 9 children during the camp. Moreover, there were also six Sisters of four different religious congregations joining the camp. All together there were 11 nationalities living under the same roof…!
The aims of the camp have always remained the same and have even gained in importance since the incident of 11th of September 2001:
The programme was designed according to these aims: On the one hand there were numerous excursions in order to get to know the host country, such as the sights of Amman (as for example the Roman theatre), Petra - Jordan’s sight par excellence - and Aqaba (swimming on the private beach of a Jordanian prince). Other highlights were Madaba, mount Nebo as well as the Roman ruins of Umm Quais and Jerash in the North of the country. The German and the Austrian ambassador to Jordan have invited the whole group (120 persons after all) for lunch respectively for dinner to a restaurant, which was a first time experience for many children. The group was invited to the SOS Children’s Village in Amman and they had the chance to visit Princess Rajwa’s farm with various playful and educative features.
Many activities were also offered in Schneller school: competition games, group work, singing and handicrafts and much more. The preparation of the various national evenings where the children could present their home countries by singing songs, performing traditional dances in national costumes and by providing visual information (posters, brochures, presentation boards…) had top priority. At every national evening people could also try the national dishes of the respective country, which came close to a culinary trip throughout the entire Middle East. Towards the end of the camp there was - another premiere - an "international” evening where the best pieces of the various national evenings were performed in front of audience - sponsors, representatives of Caritas Jordan and family members of the camp counsellors. The Jordanian press reported on the camp as well as Austrian TV.
I would like to thank all Caritas organisations of the international Caritas network who have - through their financial support - enabled the realisation of this unique camp and who gain in number every year: Caritas Salzburg, Caritas Germany, Caritas Sweden, Caritas Belgium, Caritas Luxemburg, CORDAID (= Caritas Netherlands), Secours Catholique (= Caritas France), CRS (Catholic Relief Services = Caritas USA, financing of the training seminars), Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Iraq.