Transylvania is beautiful no matter where you look with lush green fields, seemingly endless forests, valleys and mountains, and picturesque villages. But there is more than meets the eye. To anyone just travelling through, life would seem idyllic with a slower and more traditional way of life apparent from even the use of horse-drawn carts that farmers use for transport but the lack of tractors and large agricultural machines is far from a choice. Poverty is rife in some areas of the country and children, especially, often miss out if someone doesn’t step in and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed. This is what Care2Travel aims to do.
For the kids, summer camps are a mixture of fun and games, but for the staff at Care2Travel, they are carefully organised programmes to cater specifically to the needs of the children who are being served.
The summer camp in Szentegyháza (Vlahita) serves children living in low socio-economic circumstances and sometimes even from families broken by alcoholism and abuse. Often, families are large and parents can’t provide the attention and support each individual child needs to reach their potential. During the school term, an after-school programme provides these children with a safe place to do homework and have a hot meal that may be their only hot meal of the day. When summer holidays come around, summer camps fill the void.
For the volunteers, the day starts with a winding drive from Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) up into the mountains. A daily debrief is held to make sure everyone is on the same page and any changes are made while local volunteers prepare a breakfast of salami and cheese sandwiches on potato bread. Then, the children appear from across the field and the day begins.
The food disappears at an alarming pace and the next activity begins. The local pool has allowed the children to come and use the natural mineral water pool for an hour each morning and the children love it. Games and splashing abound with both local and international volunteers looking on to make sure everyone is safe. An hour is by no means enough for the children but the next activity awaits.
After a quick dry off, change and a snack, the children are separated into groups to have their English lesson. Games and puzzles help the children learn and the beautiful setting of a rural field helps the volunteers maintain a relaxed and fun learning environment. Drawing and coloring whilst listening to instructions was also a winner with some artistic talent becoming evident.
All the while, some of our local volunteers prepare a delicious hot lunch with potatoes, cabbage and salami cooked together in a giant outdoor, fire-powered vat known as a bogrács. Potatoes may sound boring but when a culture thrives on them, creativity shines with their being no room to get bored of the plethora of preparation techniques available.
Again, the food is consumed quickly but every last drop is mopped up with the local potato bread that is in no short supply. However, with the seasons changing from summer to autumn, the weather is changing too and rain puts a damper on some activities.
Nonetheless, the camp goes on and the ever-adaptable team keeps the kids busy under the tent that provides just enough shelter for everyone. When the sun comes out and there is a break in the weather, a game of football is back on the cards and volunteers and children of all ages get involved to find out who is the winner!