An interview with one of the organizers, Mangala Candrika Dasi.
How did you come up with the idea to organize a summer camp for youth 12-20 years?
Bhaktivedanta College offers academic education to devotees from 18 years onwards. We felt there is a great need to take advantage of the facilities our students have throughout the study year also during the summer holidays. Devotional atmosphere, gorgeous Deities, temple program, skilled teachers, and beautiful nature are just some of the advantages of Radhadesh. We are aware that there are many young devotees and parents who are looking for opportunities like this one, for youngsters to spend time in healthy environment and learn in good association.
What was your experience of the Radhadesh summer camp 2010?
Everyone involved experienced a wonderful adventure. The proof was that we all were crying upon the departure. The most visible result of well spent time together were formed friendships. Not only amongst campers themselves, which mainly came from Dubai, Canada and Belgium, but also with the mentors and other Radhadesh residents. Most of the mentors reported that campers keep regular contact with them even months after the camp is finished. Parents expressed their gratitude and amazement how their youth changed after a month living in a devotional community. They show more self-initiative in different activities and also desire to engage together in kirtana.
What was your biggest challenge in organizing the project last year?
It was our first experience and we didn’t know how the youth will respond to our offered program. During the camp we were adjusting it a bit, but didn’t want to compromise attendance at the temple program. We were trying to find ways how to achieve an excellent balance between education and fun for all our campers. By stressing cooperative learning, our campers had to find ways to keep their shared rooms clean, wake each other up early, hang the laundry for others, etc. It is a real school for life.
Despite the challenges some of the campers had at the beginning of the camp, mainly due to staying in a foreign environment, without somebody to clean after them, or even having to cook for others sometimes, they accepted the tasks wholeheartedly and by the end of their stay regretted they had to leave. Many of them are planning to come back this year.
Who are the mentors? What are their talents or expertise?
Mentors are senior devotees, teachers at the College. They will provide learning in philosophy, public speaking and team building. Besides them, the main contributors to the camp are our qualified Bhaktivedanta College students who, by the end of the camp, become campers’ best friends. Many of them are very talented in music, dance and drama. Sports are a common theme that usually the campers as well as the mentors adore getting involved in.
What are the ‘Health and Safety’ precautions?
We provide a written list of safety tips to give to our campers during the orientation day and which will be posted in all of the campers’ residences as reminders. It is helpful that our average ratio between mentors and youth is 1:4, which guarantees effective supervision, great care and strong guidance for all young campers. Mentors are responsible for direct supervision and when taking into account the team members and other adults present on site, the ratio of Summer Camp staff members to campers comes to 1:2.
What are the policies in regards to child protection?
As a prevention, we request all the mentors, who are in direct contact with the campers, to actively participate in Child protection seminar. This year we are inviting Champakalata Mataji, an ISKCON Child Protection Office Director, to guide us in this training. During the summer camps we also make sure that attendance is taken at the beginning of each session with the campers, before and after meals and whenever campers are transported from place to place to insure we don’t loose anybody.
What are the changes introduced this year?
We invited Rasamandala Prabhu, who will enlighten us with the seminar on public speaking and his wife, Abala Mataji to help in teaching and day-to-day guidance of campers and mentors. We will also join in on the Padayatra crew for couple of days, where the campers will get experience of congregational chanting and distributing prasadam. We will have intensive music lessons available, mainly on playing mrdanga and karatalas.
For the summer 2011 you are planning to have three camps (in June, July and August). Is there any specific reason for it?
Summer in Belgium is very active and colorful. There are many happenings and festivals, like five Ratha Yatras in different cities throughout Benelux, a Padayatra, Summer Festival, Janmastami festival, etc. We can bring more youth to participate in these and have fun as well. We also made a research on the school holidays in different countries and saw that youth in different parts of the world have their holidays at different times. Thus we wanted to involve more international youth.
For more information visit www.radhadesh-summercamp.com
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