This was My first time participating with CISV. When I made the decision to be a part of this camp, I had a highly idealized idea of what it would be like. I then realized I shouldn’t build up such high expectations and tried to be more neutral about it. Never did I think life would surprise me not only by fulfilling my idealistic expectations but by actually beating them.
The first day’s activities are meant to have people learn everyone’s names and just get to know each other. Kids have lots of fun (and so do adults!) but there’s not a lot of content yet. In the first activity in which I was part of the planning we were starting to introduce more meaningful topics; we did something related to identity and different languages in the camp. At the end, we had a little discussion about what the importance of diversity was. I remember one of the kids raised their hand to comment on it and said something so beautiful about how we should embrace all the different languages and overall differences and I thought to myself “it worked! It really worked”... I couldn’t hold my tears in; I was so emotional and happy and felt very warm inside. That’s the exact moment I realized the idea of a Village does really work, it’s not just fun and games, is that and so much more.
From that point on the activities started getting deeper (always keeping super high fun levels!) and I was fascinated everyday by how much the kids were learning, how well they understood what we were trying to transmit. Their insight was so powerful, innocent and pure. I can’t even think of a single kid that didn’t surprise me at some point.
Apart from the kids, the leader’s role is vital in making the activities work; that is the other half of what we do at camp. The planning, the leaders meetings, the working together in such a diverse group was also a very eye-opening experience. Every single person in the team was so full of knowledge and willingness to share it. I think that’s what made the activities go so well and let all of the people in the camp have so much meaningful fun.
The staff really did a great job in planning activities for the leader’s team; that was key in the relationship we developed. Thanks to lots of wonderful games and events and doings, we connected instantly. I was very touched by how supportive we all were to each other. Everyone made sure that everyone else felt included and understood. Of course there were complicated situations at times, but the great dynamic we had made them seem much easier and with help from our friends, everything worked out.
The work always felt like just hanging out with friends while also having the opportunity to discuss interesting topics and hearing delightful insights from all the other individuals in the team. Then, when we presented the activities to the kids, we were amazed by the extra doses of knowledge we got from the children’s reflections and comments. I’m sure each and every one of us (adults) learned something new from them.
It wasn’t long before we felt like a big, diverse, happy family. And to me, that’s the most valuable part of the experience: building global friendships. It becomes very clear on the last couple of days how strong the bonds are as everyone starts feeling down about having to leave and not knowing when we will meet our friends again.
The last night we did an activity in which everyone mentioned their favorite camp moment and afterwards we did a huge train of hugs. The tears were inevitable at that point, but it was a strangely happy and cathartic moment. Feeling the love was overwhelming and for me it was incredible to know we were giving these kids the opportunity to be completely vulnerable and emotional. It felt so good to know we were able to create an atmosphere in which they felt comfortable enough to let their guards down and be emotional while feeling supported and loved.
The most important lesson I hope they keep for life is to let themselves feel happiness, feel sadness, feel whatever it is they are feeling; let it out and don’t suppress it. Knowing how to express their emotions in a healthy way and learning how much friendship means and how deeply they can connect to someone if they open themselves up; that’s the best part of it all.
Without a doubt all the different friendships we created matter equally, kid-kid, adult-adult and adult-kid. I am still astonished by how deeply I connected with so many people and I am completely sure to say I have gained friends for life in this village; friends that share my values and ideals and with whom I’ve shared breathtaking experiences that I will never forget. I will be forever thankful to CISV and to the incredible group of 59 people that joined me in building our amazingly unique Little Friends Village.
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