Despite of the ongoing violence in the region (Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq) the 94 participating children from 7 different nationalities demonstrated that a peaceful living together is possible.
Like every year since 1999 (with the exception of 2003 due to the Iraq war) Caritas Austria has organised an International Peace Camp for needy children from the MONA-region in summer 2006, in close cooperation with various project partners from all over the Middle East. This camp takes place in a different country each year and in 2006 it was held in Jordan for the second time.
The goals have remained the same in the course of the years:
94 needy children (orphans, refugees, street children...) aged 10 to 13 from 7 different countries of the Middle East were taking part: Lebanon - Syria - Palestine - Jordan - Iraq - Egypt and Yemen. In order to counteract the widespread preference of boys in the region, 2/3 of the children were girls and only 1/3 boys. The children belonged to approximately a dozen different Christian and Muslim denominations.
The camp was organised in close cooperation with SOS children’s villages Association Jordan and with the support of Caritas Jordan. The children and their counsellors (all together more than 130 people) were accommodated at the Theodor Schneller School (the former German school) at the outskirts of Amman - as it was already the case in 2002 - where they were very hospitably received. The camp goals (peace/tolerance) were communicated and demonstrated through the various activities that took place during the camp: Group works, competition games, sports, handicrafts and singing. The group works also included age-based workshops with professional trainers on topics such as non-violent conflict solution.
Special focus was put on the preparation and organisation of national evenings of all nations involved: the different delegations had the chance to present their home country through the preparation of typical dishes as well as by presenting folkloristic performances. At the end of the camp there was an international evening where the best performances were presented in front of a big audience.
Besides, various excursions were organised to the most important sites of the country, as for example to Amman (Roman theatre, the Royal automobile museum,…), to the Roman ruins of Jerash in the North of the country, to Madaba, to mount Nebo and to the Dead Sea. There were moreover visits to two SOS children villages in Amman and Irbid and common activities with the children living there.
For all children joining the camp it was the first time ever to leave their country, for many of them swimming in a swimming pool or eating in a restaurant was also a first time experience. The parents of the six children from Yemen for example are leprosy patients, and the kids had for the first time ever left the leprosy centre of Taiz (North of Yemen) and only slowly were losing their timidness - in their home country they don’t have any contact with children of their age, since they are stigmatised due to their parents’ disease and are therefore avoided by everyone.
Caritas Austria initiates and organises this unique project in the Middle East, however, numerous other organisations of the Caritas Internationalis network contribute financially to this project. The 2006 camp was financed by Caritas Internationalis (Vatican) such as the Caritas organisations of Austria, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Luxemburg and the US.
The completely surprising outbreak of the war in Lebanon was heavily burdening the organisation of the camp; in particular the tragic incidents were extremely disturbing for the team members from Lebanon. After intensive considerations it was decided to inform the children only shortly before the end of the camp about the situation in Lebanon, so that they would have at least a few careless holidays before their return to the war zone. The team actually succeeded in keeping the terrible news away from the children, which was in particular difficult for the Lebanese counsellors. During the day they had to be cheerful and joke and laugh with the kids of their group, and in the evenings they gathered in front of the TV to witness the destruction of their home country. Their commitment cannot be praised enough, since they have thus contributed to the success of the camp despite of the complicated conditions.
Shortly before the end of the camp the children coming from Lebanon (the Lebanese as well as the Palestinians living in different refugee camps in Lebanon) were finally prepared in an age-based way, with the support of an experienced psychologist, for the situation in their country. To the astonishment of many external observers the news were accepted much better by the children than expected (Lebanese children are obviously used to bad news due to the permanent tensions and crises in their country), and the fact that we could enable a telephone contact with all the parents helped a lot to calm the children, as well.
On July 31st all other participants departed for their respective home countries after a tearful good-bye, while Lebanese and Palestinians travelled first to Tartus in Syria (near the Lebanese boarder), where they spent one night at a centre run by a partner organisation of Caritas Salzburg (Kfarseta, a holiday resort for handicapped children of Terre des Hommes Syria). The following day they were taken to the boarder, from where they were collected by mini vans from the different schools that had selected the children for the camp (on that day there was a temporary cease fire).
"In The Name Of The Most Gracious And Merciful God, Salutation On The Most Honorable Prophets and Missionaries.
I will tell you about the things I liked in the International Caritas Peace Camp. I appreciated the trips we made to many beautiful places. We went out to Irbid and to the Dead Sea. This camp was great, because we visited Jerash, the roman stadium in Amman and a car exposition. We also met new friends who came from different Islamic Arabic countries. We went to the swimming pool, to Mount Nebo, the SOS children villages in Irbid and Amman and St. Georges Church. I liked the bedrooms, the delicious food and the songs every team had to sing before activities and meals. For me, this Caritas Camp is the only camp I ever took part in. Thank you!"
"It could have been a nightmare or a dream come true. Well, this year I have done a new experience in a different country. I went to a camp I have been thinking about for two months:
I found myself in front of four walls wondering and searching for answers, but I had to wait and discover by myself. My heart was beating as a down when I first put my foot on Jordanian soil. We came from seven different countries: everyone in his different shape, everyone with his own dialect.
On the first two days, I felt very lonely and I wanted to go home but I changed my mind as the program progressed day by day. After lunch, sometimes, we went for a swim for two hours. There we had lots of fun, I felt home. As for the trips, we went to: Jerash, the Dead Sea and SOS…. Everything was new, mysterious, wonderful and interesting. I took some information other than always having fun and laughing. My camera served me very well: from every place, I took a picture as a souvenir for my family and my friends. What I liked most was the big game. We had to run to win. We had ten levels to solve, hard questions, funny ones and easy of course.
On another day, in the afternoon, we played many games. We had to put all our energy to win the tickets with which we could buy teddy bears, juice…. I won 3 teddy bears by playing. All the moments were unforgettable. I had bad and rough times but the fun and entertainment filled my days with happiness. And I never thought I would be the "star of the day”, but thanks to my miss and my friends (Donna, Sarah….) I did it.
The children from every country prepared their national evenings. The kids presented their country with traditional dances and typical food.
In conclusion, I felt like in heaven: friends as angels, my group leader as mother and sisters, which I don’t have. Now, I have a new family making peace together in the world."
"I liked the atmosphere in the camp and the way children were treated as well as the program. What I liked most was meeting new friends from different countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq and Syria. We also went to the roman theatre, the city of Jerash and the Royal car exposition. I was honored to see this exposition because I know that not all people have the chance to do that. We went to restaurants, swimming pools, the Dead Sea, the SOS children’s villages in Amman and Irbid. I met these children and saw where they lived.
I appreciated how we were divided into groups and each one had its song and we sang it before every meal. We went to parks with lots of games, but what I liked most was the kermes, because it was a sort of adventure and a game for children.
I got to know the culture and traditions of Arabic countries in addition to their main dishes. Our camp was about peace and we came from seven different Arab countries and several religions. We tried to live together in peace and love. I learned how to use nice words thanks to the subjects treated by Miss Suzanne and what is the concept of justice and privacy with doctor Ismail. I just want to say finally that this was the best camp I ever took part in and I want to thank every one who helped for its success."
"The first day when I came to the camp, I thought that there is nothing nice in this camp. Yet, I changed my mind and I was very happy when I met new friends and the persons in charge. The best thing was that I discovered the culture of the other participating countries.
I didn’t like two things: The rest time because it annoyed me and the silent king game because it aimed at helping us to sleep.
I liked the visit we made to the SOS children’s villages and to archeological places (as Jerash, the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, Irbid, Amman and different restaurants). I liked the subjects we worked on with Miss Suzan about peace and with Dr. Ismail about justice.
I also liked mostly the organized program that ordered my life because it was in a mess. I learned how to respect time. I liked my team a lot, the surprises and the big game. It is true that we were in the last rank but I learned about how to be cooperative.
Food was excellent, especially during the last days, because traditional dishes of every country were prepared. Now, I have lots of close friends and I thank the persons in charge of this camp because they made my life more beautiful."
"I come from Egypt and this is the 1st time I take a plane and leave my country. This is also the 1st time I play with friends from outside Egypt and I see new things I’ve never seen before. The camp title was peace and we understood that we have to spread peace among people and countries. We did lots of new activities and learned to respect regulations. We used to go outside the camp to visit SOS where I made new friendships and Mount Nebo where you can see Moses cane. We were able to see a part of Palestine. We went to the Dead Sea, to a museum and to Jerash. We went to cultural sites and we learned to do handcrafts like scoubidou and other things one can offer as a gift or use for decoration. We also learned how to keep things and to fulfill tasks like cleaning and taking care of some places. This was the 1st time I take part in house work. As for the Kermes, we learned to be fast and we received some gifts we can use to decorate the house. I liked the silent king game which prepared us to go to sleep. I also liked the evening games which were new and without conditions. We learned then how to play with our friends. In the swimming pool, I learned how to swim. We talked about lots of subjects related to justice, privacy and politeness. We met new people from inside and outside the camp at the SOS villages and I knew that they lived a different kind of life. I liked all people in charge and our chieftains. I enjoyed the siesta because we were able to rest and put down all the fatigue. I was able to taste new dishes I’ve never known. We used to go to the library and I liked it a lot since I was able to draw, color and read. Every time we went out the camp, the chieftains and we had to wear a costume. It was very nice to see all the flags of the participating countries in the peace camp."
In The Name Of The Most Gracious And Merciful God
My impressions about the International Caritas Peace Camp 2006 in Jordan
First, I want to congratulate all people in charge for organizing an international camp. Congratulation to all organizers, executives and donators for the success of the International Caritas Peace Camp 2006 which took place in Jordan. This camp was successful and it was obvious on the children’s faces and through the love and friendship we saw among participants coming from 7 different countries.
Congratulation to everyone who worked for the success of this camp and especially to Mr. Stefan who worked hard all year for this camp leading to very good results.
The Caritas Camp looked this year like other camps, but with more qualities and new aspects, which made it very special. Yet, the most important bright side in the Caritas Camp 2006 was the participation of a group coming from Yemen for the 1st time in its history. This was a dream come true, which I thought about since my 1st participation in the International Caritas Peace Camp 2001 in Egypt.
Every time I took part in the Caritas camp, I dreamt to see the flag of my country among the other participating countries. I also wished that Yemeni children in need had the opportunity to be involved and benefit from the camp like the rest of the kids. I wanted to take the chance and introduce my country through the national evenings organized by Caritas Austria in its camp showing the folklore and traditions of each country.
Thanks God, all my dreams and wishes came true during the International Caritas Peace Camp in Jordan 2006 after I received an invitation from Caritas Austria to form a group of 6 Yemeni children, a chieftain and a person in charge of this group. I was very happy when Mr. Stefan revealed his desire to add Yemen to the participating countries for the 1st time in International Caritas Peace Camp 5 years after my first participation. Once I received this invitation, I didn’t waste any time and deployed all my efforts and energy to form this group respecting all the required criteria.
Thanks God, the Yemeni group took part in the camp and its participation was very benefic and had a huge impact on the children. It caused a serious change in their lives. This was the 1st time they leave their small town to another or get on a plane. This opportunity helped them to mix with people who treat them nicely and respect them as human beings. They were not rejected nor mistreated like they were used to be. They gained self-confidence and were motivated to integrate into society. This was very obvious through the phone calls I had before and after leaving to make sure children were fine.
At last, I want to thank all organizers of this camp and I want to mention Mr. Stefan Maier for all his efforts in order to have a successful camp. It had a very positive influence on the children, especially the ones from Yemen who benefited more than the others as they were living in very bad social circumstances, caused by their isolation. I was very happy to work for a Yemeni participation in the Caritas Camp 2006 and I am more than willing in coordinating for another camp.
Saleh Yassin Abed Al Alim Al-Qubati
Volunteer and responsible of the Yemeni group participating in the International Caritas Peace Camp 2006