The International Caritas Peace Camp for unprivileged children from all over the Middle East was held in Alexandria from 14th July to 4th August. This peace project took place for the 10th time and, therefore, it was a very special anniversary.
The camp was organised and conducted with close collaboration offered by Caritas Egypt, who hosted this unique project for the fourth time. The participants were, as in the previous years, very friendly and comfortably accommodated at the Daughters of Charity's "Tito" Convent, in the midst of a splendid big garden.
While some camps in the previous years had been either cancelled due to the political situation or overshadowed by the threatening war incidents, this year nothing suchlike luckily happened and the holiday for those deprived children could take place without any troubles.
98 children aged between 10 to 14 years old arrived in Alexandria on 14th July. They were coming from eight different countries of the region (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and Egypt) and were all chosen according to strict social criteria and parameters by the local partners of Caritas (national Caritas, NGO’s and other religious congregations). Two thirds of the children had to be girls in order to counteract the preference of boys which is still widely spread in the region. For the first time more than half of the children were Muslims, while in the previous camps they had been represented by only one third.
Among the participants there were orphans such as the entire Yemeni group as well as the children from Jordan who all came from the three SOS Children's Villages in the country, street children (four boys from different Street Children Caritas Projects in Cairo and Alexandria), refugee children such as the Palestinian, Iraqi and Sudanese children and children from a slum near Cairo. All the children had one thing in common and that was the fact that they would have never been able to spend three interesting weeks of fun and joy if it was not for Caritas assistance.
More than 30 counsellors cared for the children, among them there were five religious sisters from four different congregations in addition to one young volunteer from Austria. All in all they were approximately 130 people coming from 10 nations and belonging to 10 different religious denominations.
The programme was very interesting and varieties of activities such as handcrafts, learning new songs, a talent show, many sport activities and contests with awards and medals for the children at the end of the camp were offered at Tito Convent. There also was group work conducted on a regular basis and concerning various subjects such as hygiene, children’s rights etc. In addition, there were several peace-related workshops such as respect, tolerance etc. with a professional trainer from CRS (= Catholic Relief Services) which the kids enthusiastically joined.
On top of that, the various national evenings needed to be well prepared and the kids represented their countries with dances, songs, and national costumes. The best performances of these national evenings were presented during an "international evening" in front of an audience at the end of the camp. Dishes from the respective countries were also served and everyone tasted the culinary variety of Arabic cooking.
Getting acquainted with the host country was also an important element and, therefore, many outings were organised to the Citadel, the famous Library of Alexandria and the Former Royal Palace. Special "thanks" to the Swiss Ambassador as due to his assistance we could offer a two-day interesting programme to Cairo which included visits to the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Egyptian National Museum as well as a boat trip on the Nile and a visit to a fun park. And, of course, we won't forget the Austrian Ambassador who invited the children for swimming and a lunch at a water park. For many of them, swimming in a pool and eating in a restaurant were first-time experiences.
The camp objectives, such as initiating border-crossing friendships, dismantling prejudice, promoting tolerance and arousing interests in other nationalities, cultures and religions were certainly achieved and for that I thank the commitment of the camp staff as well as the active participation of the children themselves.
Caritas Salzburg would also like to thank Caritas Germany, Caritas Holland, Caritas Italy, Caritas Luxemburg, Caritas Sweden and CRS (Caritas of the USA) for their financial funding which was essential for the success of this project.
"On 14/7/2010 we went to Alexandria to participate in the International Caritas Peace Camp, which is organized every year and brings together children from different Arab countries.
When we arrived there we were welcomed very warmly and were very happy at the Peace Camp. But we were sad because we left our parents. We met new friends at the camp. There were few problems because of the different dialects we spoke. But we overcame these problems by becoming closer to each other. At the Camp we learned lots of games and also learned how to swim. We also learned that difference between people do not have to lead to conflict. We were introduced to new cultures and traditions from other countries and were happy because we were sharing this experience in this camp. We visited the Pharaonic village, the National Museum, the citadel and the library in Alexandria, Dream Park, a Circus and the Pyramids. The last night, all the responsible people that helped us during the camp gave us a farewell party.
I thank every person who helped us in this camp, especially Mr. Stephan and Mr. Magdy, Mrs. Amal from Caritas Alexandria and thanks also to the Swiss Ambassador. A special thanks to the country of Austria for this interesting program.
I wish to come again to this wonderful camp. I wish all the prosperity and continuity for all those who participated in making this program and I wish they continue helping all the children from all over the world that are war victims. Also, I should not forget to thank all the Sisters that opened their places for us, especially Sister Kawkab and Sister Myrna and all the others.
The greatest thanks and many thanks to Mr. Stephan, God be with you always in this mission.
"I came to this summer camp in order to know the dialects of the other countries and their traditions. I also came to have new friends. Egypt is a nice country. I am here at the International Caritas Peace Camp. In this camp, I have been taught that although we came from different countries, we are like brothers. We should be as one person. We should work for peace all over the world. There must be no difference between different peoples in the world. We must help each others.
I was very happy to visit Egypt. Through this camp, it became possible for me to know the dialects and the traditions of all the other countries.
Here I am in lovely Egypt. I know now more about old Egypt. I know more about old traditions and some archaeological places. I visited the citadel. I am very interested in the way our fathers and grandfathers used to live. The old Egyptians have made houses and temples from big stones. We are nowadays unable to fulfil the work they used to do.
We have visited the pyramids. They are fantastic. Then we moved to visit the museum. I visited the museum in which I saw some statues that you can not imagine in your dreams.
I visited the library, the Pharanoic village, the river Nile and the sea. Every-thing was extraordinary. I want to say "thank you” to everyone who grew the happi-ness and the joy in us. They put us on the road of love and happiness. Words can’t express my respect for Mr. Stephan. I also thank Miss Kawkab with her unforgettable smile.
Also I say thank you to all people who did everything in order to give us all the happiness. I thank "Al Basher” association for choosing me. Thank you Miss Jalila.
Thanks to all of you
"Caritas International Peace Camp was my first time ever participating in a Camp. I stayed there for 21 days. In the beginning I cried all the time, but after a while I got used to the place. I felt happy to know that I was going to travel to Egypt, to meet new friends, and to visit new places. I met the Swiss Ambassador. We went to the old castle, the pyramids, the restaurant, the museum, the Pharaonic Village, the pool, the beach, and the library.
Everything was wonderful, I felt relaxed and safe at the camp. I learned new things: we shouldn’t lie and should live in brotherhood with nothing to separate us, even though we are from different nationalities.
At last, I’d like to thank Mr. Stefan, the Swiss Ambassador, and all the persons that took care of us.
"When we first began our camp, I didn’t know anyone of the people. But of course I was very happy because I wanted to visit new places in a country which I didn’t know till now: Egypt.
We have visited many places such as Dream Park and the pyramids. We also have gone to the sea. Before I didn’t know that there are three pyramids. Now I know that one of them is called "Khofo”. We have gone to the museum and to "Abou El Hol” (the sphinx). Then we have visited the library of Alexandria. Then we went to visit the Tombs. We also visited the Pharaonic village, where we had a trip on a boat. Now we know more about the life of the old Egyptians.
It was a dream for me to be in such a camp and to introduce myself and to be introduced to many new friends from the neighbouring countries. I say to everyone: "I love you so much” and I’d like to see you all one day in Jordan.
I didn’t know that Egypt is such a nice place to visit. We enjoyed our time in Cairo. It was my first time to be in the Caritas Peace Camp. At the end, we danced Jordanian dances.
All our responsible were professional. Big thanks to them, especially to Mr. Stephan, the camp director."
"I have been chosen among the children from the social & educational club, in which I am a member and participate in all activities. What I mostly liked at the camp is meeting new friends from 8 different countries and getting to know other cultures. We all became one heart.
I also loved handcrafts and the visits to the Pyramids, the museum, the Library of Alexandria and Dream Park. I liked sports and the varied national food we tried as well as the new songs we learned about Childhood.
It was a peaceful camp where I lived 21 lovely days."
Children are the Key" is a title of an information paragraph on the International Caritas Peace Camp website. I first came across this title after meeting with Mr. Stefan Maier, the Initiator and Director of the Peace Camp, in 2009. At the time, I was very eager to volunteering and especially volunteering in a place, somehow, located in Africa. I had also been looking for the kind of opportunity that could give me the sincere meaning of real humanitarian work.
Throughout my conversation with Mr. Maier, he came to mention his "Peace Camp" project. He talked about how it had been organized, when and where the events had taken place and other closely related details. All these topics were of great importance to listen to as they gave me quite an idea on how the work had been conducted and improved throughout the years.
However, what really grabbed my attention was the explanation related to the criteria of choosing participating children, why children and the basic aim of the project. Mr. Maier carried on with his explanation and I was listening with widely open ears: "Children must come from very poor environments; they have to be the poorest of the poor" he said, adding: "and have never had the chance of seeing a different country from their own. These are the strictest criteria". He finished firmly. And, of course, I did not need much explanation on why children had been the targeted category as most of my work passion had been focused on the poorest of the poor of children knowing that this particular group of generation plays a key role in determining any country's future and the general mentality that controls the publics' ways of thinking, approaching and communicating with the wide open world!
Children with such harsh-life conditions are usually spread on a wide extent throughout the Middle East countries. Everyone knows what kind of an important role the Middle Eastern people play in improving the World Peace future. Thus, focusing on the oncoming generations can be very critical and of enormous importance in achieving such a target keeping in mind that children from poor backgrounds have never had the means of receiving proper education or fair attention to how their ways of thinking are usually built up and arisen. That's why giving children, with such conditions, an opportunity of spending a "never-forgettable" three-week holiday in another country conducted with lots of fun, activities and close focus on spreading "Peace Principles" among them was the kind of project that really suited my passionate volunteering desires!
"Yes," I said to myself "this is one of the missions that is really worthy to trigger my eagerness for!" And thus I started the trip of gathering as much information as possible about such an outstanding project, in addition to the journey of convincing Mr. Maier of my abilities of handling any kind of hard work I might face.
So, Egypt 2010 was my first station of joining the International Caritas Peace Camp. It was my first experience and I was assigned to handle a group of ten wonderful children coming from different nationalities, religion backgrounds and, obviously, mentalities.
The camp experience, as if it was a never-ended colorful journey in the "Wonder Land", gave all the participating children wide opportunities of expressing their identities, feelings and thoughts through the creative hand-crafts, sport, singing and national evenings activities. And, of course, I will never forget to mention that such poor children had the chance of having a balanced and healthy diet for, maybe, the first time in their lives.
Being a "group leader" was much of a rewarding experience. It made me feel the real meaning of being a responsible parent of ten children. I had to pay attention and care for all their life details as if they were of my own. I and the children from my group, in addition to my wonderful responsibility partner "Annerose from Austria" lived as one family during the camp period. We laughed together, ate together and shared all the exciting and challenging sport competitions moments.
Children were going ahead and improving in no time. And in spite of all the different religion, dialect and nationality barriers, they achieved a great success in communicating with each other, making new friendships and, precisely, living in "peace". However, what was, in my opinion, the most outstanding result of this camp is the fact that there were several peace training sessions conducted by a professional trainer. Such training sessions played a key role in planting the "peace spirit" among this oncoming generation of children. This result makes us hope a lot on the fact that children are always able to spread such spirit and pass it on to their friends who have not had the chance of experiencing coming to the camp. We also should not forget that this camp experience is and will always be the children's most precious and unforgettable adventure that will be carried in their hearts and, in return, will carry the "peace principles" along with it and, hopefully, will affect their ways of teaching their children the real meaning of "living in peace" with all human beings regardless of their colors, nationalities, religions or any other kinds of discriminations.
International Caritas Peace Camp
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the concept and values of the International Peace camp , which cared mainly during this year about 98 children from 8 countries " Lebanon , Syria , Jordan , Egypt , Iraq , Palestine , Sudan and Yemen " . This is my second participation in this camp, the 1st one was in Lebanon 2009.
Caritas International Peace camp gives us a module in which how can people come together under the umbrella of peace , it included a package of intervention programs helped the children to work , play , eat , sing , dance and share everything together. During the first day of the camp the children were separated into 10 groups, each group consisted of 10 children form different nationalities, I was responsible of a group. Regarding my comments in the camp:
The camp accommodation
Tito convent is a very suitable place for gathering all the children and leaders, it designed to help the discipline and commitment.
The daily schedule of the camp
At least 98% from the planned programs were implemented during the camp duration; this is due to the commitment of the participants as well as the leaders. The distribution of the children was very good and adopting the child needs. Specific topics were discussed with the children such as; the child rights, their self hygiene, how to deal with others, how they know themselves, building peace, helping others and dealing with anger.
Each group had a daily specific charge, this component helped the children to get the team work spirit and to feel that there is the something called gender equality "the boy and the girl are equal in everything", and they should help their mothers.
The star of the dayevery day of the camp a child was selected to be a star of the day , this depending on a selection criteria , I think it was a good opportunity for the kids to feel the loyalty and belonging to the camp, and also showed the spirit of fair competition among the children .
The cultural visits
The children were motivated and very happy during the cultural visits to the citadel, El Montaza palace, Alexandria bibliotheca, the Alexandria museum, the pyramids, the Pharaonic village and the Cairo museum ….etc. Through these visits the children got a lot of information about Egypt. My recommendation is that the duration of the trip to Cairo needs to be 3 days.
The entertainment visits
We had a tour in a boat in the Nile and we went to Taverna Aqua Park, Sporting club, we went to Bianchi beach also we went twice to amusement park (Karamentas in Alexandria and Dream Park in Cairo ". It was good opportunity for the children to swim and play together.
The sport and games
It was a good component for making the children play together and win in sportsmanship, but what I am recommended that we have to explore new games especially for girls in order to make them like to play and participate.
Songs and dancing
It was excellent program, which helps the children to overcome their diversities "color, religion and traditions", also we spend a good day in Monastery of St. Catherine in dancing together the children and the leaders.
The children of each country had the possibility one evening to represent their country "culture, tradition, food, dance and songs" in front of all the camp participants. Through these evenings the children got some knowledge about the traditions and heritage of different countries.
The international evening
During the second last day of the camp an international evening was held inside the convent, in which all the camp participants present their countries in front of all the event attendees. It was a good opportunity for the children to be self-confident and have a closer relationship with their colleagues in the camp.
Finally the international peace camp gives me a good experience and I learned from it how to deal with the children and how to solve the faced problems. I got a lot of benefits from every second in the camp, also I learned a lot from everyone participated in the camp "The camp responsible, the nuns, the old and the new leaders", I really appreciate their efforts and support.
Mary Ramzy Farag
Caritas - Egypt, Alexandria