Located on along the Berezina river in central Belarus, Forest Camp has become a favourite spot for SOS children and staff to enjoy the outdoors.
This summer, 27 children between the ages of four to 16 are spending a month at the camp with SOS staff, including Inessa and the former director Valeriy. Valeriy, now retired, is the former director of SOS Children's Village Borovljany and the creative force behind the camp.
Before becoming the first director of SOS Children's Village Borovljany, Valeriy was a gym teacher and school director who won multiple awards for his work. Now, he dedicates his time and talents to help develop the summer camp.
Over the past 19 years, the camp has brought together SOS children, staff and supporters of the Village to learn new skills and spend time together in nature.
A chance to enjoy the outdoors
The camp had humble beginnings, at first there were only tents, but it has grown to become a beloved place for many SOS children and youth. “We wanted the children to share our passion for enjoying nature. After a few years, I started to come up with new ideas on how the camp could develop. And eventually we started building," says Valeriy.
The camp only has a few permanent structures that stay there during the year, including the monkey bars, obstacle courses, underground storage unit, and two small docks on both sides of the river. The rest is built and taken down each summer.
"Every June a group of teenagers [from the SOS Children's Village Borovljany] come and build the camp in a few weeks," explains Inessa. The teens get the area for the tents ready, set up the kitchen and tables, and build the sauna, along with other facilities. Then the larger group of the younger children come for a camping holiday. At the end of the month, the teenagers return to take down the camp and transport the equipment back to Borovljany.
"Every year we introduce something new. This summer we are working on how to make and use solar energy," says Valeriy. Using two antennas covered in aluminium foil, he plans to share with the children how to cook with the energy from the sun using simple homemade technology.
Becoming your best
The summer camp combines fun, creativity and learning, allowing the children to develop new skills and make lasting memories. The people who vacation across from Forrest Camp often ask how much it costs to send their own children to the SOS camp. Valeriy would always say: “It's not about the place, it's the imagination and the togetherness that make the experience.”
Everyone learns how dependent we are on each other and how strong we are together. "Here, no matter how old you are, you have to participate in camp life," says Valeriy. Each night there is a bonfire where everyone shares what they learned, liked or didn't like. The aim of these nightly reflections is to have the children think about how they can be the best version of themselves, including being more thoughtful and kind to others. “We say that here you don't need to be the best. You just need to always be the best version of yourself."
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