Emilia's first summer camp: “It gave me the courage to carve my own path”

summer camp
Tuesday, August 1, 2023

By Florinela Iosip, Communicator at World Vision Romania

Before joining the World Vision Romania "I want in the 9th grade" programme, Emilia (now 19 years old) had never been to a camp or trip outside her village in Vâlcea county neither with classmates nor with family. She couldn't afford it, as there are four siblings in the family. 

However, her mother and father never complained. They work hard every day; they take care of animals in their yard and a small piece of land where they cultivate tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and cereals to feed the whole family. In addition, the mother also has a job in the village. 

Thus, Emilia didn't know the thrill of packing the bags before going on a new adventure. She didn't know what it feels to sit in front of a campfire and tell horror stories or roast marshmallows with peers, nor did she know the fresh smell of the forest or how to orient herself on a mountain hike. 

Emilia experienced all of these for the first time in the camps organised by World Vision Romania through the 'I want in the 9th grade' programme. The first camp she attended was right after her first year of high school. "I was quite shy and anxious. I had never been to a camp before. I spent all my summer holidays mostly at home. In the countryside we always have something to do, especially since we have corn and cereal crops, animals to look after. Every summer we were doing something around the house with my three brothers and parents," explained Emilia said. 

It was the first time for the village girl when she saw trees so tall as if touching the sky or when she felt on her fingers how sticky the marshmallow is after you roast it in the sparks that rose like 'reverse rain'. "I was very happy to join the camp; I made new friends, discovered new things. I have wonderful memories. The camp offered me not just an escape, but also the courage to carve my own path," the teenager added. 

Now that she has graduated from high school, she is a little sad that she will no longer see most of the classmates with whom she studied for four years, but she looks to the future with hope and many plans. She wants to go to college in Sibiu, but not to just any. The teenager really wants to work with children, so she is considering either becoming a Romanian Language teacher or a social assistant. 

Like Emilia, there are tens of thousands of rural teenagers for whom, if we do not intervene, holidays remain just an empty time space in which they feel lonely and end up spending it all on fieldwork and stressing about what they will do in the future.  

More than four in ten teenagers surveyed by World Vision Romania have never been to a camp, according to a recent survey conducted among 400 teenagers from rural areas and disadvantaged urban communities. The lack of summer activities can have significant consequences on young people's mental health. In the same survey, seven out of ten teenagers said they feel lonely or very lonely during the summer holiday.  

This is why World Vision Romania launched the "Summer of Firsts" campaign, aiming to send as many teenagers from the "I want in the 9th grade" program to their first camp as possible. 

The lack of recreational activities reflects in the mental health of young people. Over 30% of teenagers say they get bored during the summer holiday. At the same time, an alarming percentage of 70.4% say they feel lonely or very lonely during this period. 

"Camps play an essential role in teenagers' development, contributing to the formation of social skills, increasing self-confidence, and improving well-being. Direct contact with nature and time spent with other children their age helps them manage stress, improve interpersonal relationships and develop resilience. In a context where more and more teenagers feel isolated and without opportunities to directly experiment with the surrounding world, camps offer them a vital chance to learn and develop in a different environment from the school or family one", said Mihaela Nabar, Executive Director of World Vision Romania. 

Just like Emilia, we believe that every teenager has the right to a break, when they can enjoy this beautiful age, an age that they will not meet again, where they can relax, but also step out of their comfort zone by getting to know new places and people.  

The foundation has prepared several fun activities for them: collaboration games, sports and dance competitions, swimming lessons, social activities and debates, as well as theater art workshops and collages. This summer, we put experiences for teenagers on stage!  

Through the Summer of Firsts campaign, World Vision Romania aims to send 1,000 teenagers from the rural areas and other marginalised communities to their first camp. 

You can donate here to offer an unforgettable summer to a rural teenager