RESTORATIVE SUMMER CAMP
The core of our programs is a free of charge, yearly summer camp for children and young adults coping with serious challenges, such as chronic illness, poverty and violence. While in Crete, the children bond together and – through activities and sport – they improve their confidence and health.
Thousands of children in Belarus are social orphans as a result of poverty, violence, alcoholism, and the Chernobyl catastrophe. These children grow up in institutions or in foster homes, such as the children we host in Crete.
Seventy per cent of the radiation from the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 fell onto the population of Belarus. Some of the radioactive substances expelled have reached the waterways and soil in many areas of the country impacting the food cycle and will remain active for thousands of years affecting the health and immune system and health of millions. The children hosted in Crete suffer from chronic illnesses, such as births defects and disabilities, almost all types of cancer, disorders of the nervous system, bone, muscle and connective tissue, cerebral palsy and diabetes.
According to international medical research, a one month’s stay by the sea and a healthy diet, away from contaminated air and food allows the children’s immune system to recover significantly, even more so between the age of 10 and 16 which is crucial in establishing and building up a strong immune system.
Crete’s climate is particularly effective in improving their health. The stay in Crete helps them by giving their bodies a break from the contaminated food that is their only option in Belarus. The world-renowned Cretan diet is packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and pulses, giving them a burst of health, sun and vitamins, and minerals they lack.
Crete’s experience is also vital for their spirit as they enjoy freedom, warm hospitality, and discover a new country, new people and a positive environment that opens up their horizons.
Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi Children
In recent years, the Belarus children have been joined by teenage refugees from Syria and Iraq. Some of them are unaccompanied minors, living in refugee camps, temporary accommodations or on the street on mainland Greece.
Under adult supervision, their responsibility is to involve and entertain the younger Belarus children in non-competitive, team-building games, following the Play For Peace© initiative. Their role as volunteers is a reversal of their own present situation.
The restorative summer camp is a win-win situation, as the older refugees kids raise to the challenge and take this opportunity to act with maturity, learning new leadership and teamwork skills. The younger Belarusian thrive in the company of slightly older children, with different background but many similar interests, sharing the positive, fun time together in Crete.
With no common language, everyone finds a way to communicate together, sharing their stories and their emotions, exploring what they have in common and how they differ, playing, swimming and enjoying the natural environment and local cuisine.
The aim of the camp is to show that no matter how you define yourself, culturally, religiously or nationally, you can always bridge differences, even more so if you create a peaceful, open and positive environment. At the end of the camp, many remain in contact through social media.
Local Greek children have been included in the Summer Camp activities since the start of the program. For example in 2010, we hosted children from the SOS Village in Athens. Through the years, in co-ordination with Dr Eni Michailidou of the University Hospital in Heraklion, we have welcomed Greek children suffering from serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis, together with their siblings and families.