Svenja spend two weeks in the small village in Jizbice in the Czech Republic in August. The 'Center for All' in Jibice is a center that organizes leisure activities and summer camps for children and young people in a reconstructed barn with a large garden. The task of the volunteers at the workcamp was to support the 'Center for All' in the preparation and implementation of an integration camp for children aged 6 to 13 years. In this camp, children with various disabilities and children without disabilities came together. The goal of the camp was quite simply that all children enjoy the camp, meet and learn, work and play together. Here Svenja talks about her experience in the 'Center for All':
"I have already taken part in various workcamps. At this camp in the Czech Republic, I was particularly interested in the work project. The work was very free and it was largely left to us how we dealt with the children. That was a positive way of gaining experience in dealing with children with disabilities, but sometimes it wouldn't have hurt to have more precise information or instructions to avoid mistakes.
Another language is not always an obstacle to a common connection.
The language barrier between the international volunteers and the local community in the 'Center for All' often seemed difficult to me. But then sometimes the different languages weren't even important anymore: A child with Down syndrome was very difficult to calm down in the evening. She was afraid of ghosts and cried terribly. Due to rain, wind and darkness, the barn actually looked a bit threatening at night. How do you calm a child who doesn't speak your language? Just like when you speak the same language. Another international volunteer and I snuggled her up in bed and read her a book. In Czech. Without a clue what we are reading. And the ghosts were forgotten! Although none of us understood the story of the book, we all couldn't stop laughing. The girl because we pronounced the words anything but Czech and us because she laughed so warmly and enthusiastically. We also felt pretty silly trying to pronounce these randomly strung together letters like a coherent word.
Celebrating together and being happy together.
At the end of the camp there was a big anniversary celebration for the 15th anniversary of the 'Center for All'. Everyone, including former summer camp participants who were by now grown up, and all workcamp volunteers were invited. At the beginning, Martina, the owner of the area, organized a pole dance show as she is a trainer of this sport. Five-year-olds and adults showed how flexible, strong and effortless they could dance on the pole. They almost flew. I loved the art that was presented to us. At the same moment I realized that there were a lot of wheelchair users in the audience around me. I looked around carefully. I expected to see sad faces as this kind of movement would never be possible for someone in a wheelchair. Instead, I looked into very happy, appreciative, and carried away faces, just like everyone else's. Nobody here felt disadvantaged by the skills of others.
What I learned in the workcamp
I have learned to draw boundaries, to persevere, to say no and to reflect on setbacks. What impressed me most about this workcamp? The lived inclusion! I got to know a large family that belonged together and that came together over the years."
Svenja (IBG volunteer)