Explosions at Summer Camp

A space to meet, make friends, have fun and challenge yourself.
Marco Fossati
Serena Cimini

For summer camp 2019, I.Ri.Fo.R. Emilia-Romagna Regional Council and the Francesco Cavazza Institute for the Blind organized an educational, enabling and rehabilitative camp for youth with visual disabilities and with multiple disabilities. We wanted to define this year's summer camp with the idea of an EXPLOSION as in the great success of the BAS Camp “MY BODY, MY AUTONOMY, MY SPORT” from summer 2018. The idea was not to recreate last year's experience, though its many outcomes led to new energy and vigour. 

Snapshots of the training activity

These explosions of ideas were triggered by feedback from youth and their insights from their last experience, which guided project coordinators in allowing the "older" kids to experience nightlife in the lively Romagna resort while the younger ones were to experience with camping in a tent. So, what about the explosions? First, an explosion of numbers: the large number of requests for participating in the project was over 30, although we were only able to accommodate 25 people as it was the limit indicated in the I.Ri.Fo.R. national call for submissions. The dream took shape many years ago with the idea to offer children and youth who are blind and visually impaired a time and a space to meet, make friends, have fun and challenge themselves in new activities and contexts. This guided us in our design. We thought of activities with a focus on sports and the body. 

Group of participants during the activities

We proposed multiple games and accessible sports activities to allow youth to live new experiences, broaden their horizons, experiment with new situations, get involved and share with others the playful and competitive aspects of the proposed activities. Involving sports federations and specialists, we tried water-skiing, Nordic walking, sport climbing, swimming, baseball, which was a whole lot of fun. We also included a short yoga course, some dance lessons and two innovative sports activities such as SUP (stand-up paddle) and slackline. Showdown was also inevitable and was the object of a fierce tournament between parents and children on the last day of stay. An explosive series of ideas and tools came to us from the project promoted by UICI “Net. IN Campus – NETwork for Innovative Interventions for Persons with Visual Disabilities” allowing us to use a common and standardized methodology. Specifically: Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales (Vineland II), a semi-structured interview administered before leaving, and a customized intervention schedule for emerging abilities for reinforcement allowed us to offer an even more personalized educational approach. For these reasons, at the end of the holiday, a basic motor skills card for each participant was sent to the families to be shared with physical education teachers.

 

We believe that the activities carried out during summer camp should be followed up on during the year, integrating, in an inclusive perspective, the activities and educational and enabling moments that girls and boys experience in everyday school life. Only in this way will the BAS Camp become everyone's wealth and experience. But there are more explosions. This year we also involved youth in the creation and realization of the video of their vacation: not so many sports tutorials, like last year, but a single conclusive video presenting the highlights of the summer camp and the ideas of the kids on the topics covered. The very first viewing took place in October at the Francesco Cavazza Institute in the presence of all the families and youth. Following the playful explosion, we wanted to enhance PLAY as a fundamental source of relief, as a moment of fun without the element of performance, as a stimulus to movement (motor games), as a tool for knowledge and learning and as a moment of socialization.

 

With a view to playful and competitive experimentation, we also proposed a cooking contest: working as a group, the new chefs had the opportunity to choose what they wanted to cook, to understand the step-by-step process (from the grocery list to the preparation of the meal) as well as the technical aspects. The jury of educators had the fun task of tasting chocolate salami, crepes, spaghetti carbonara and much more.

Group of participants during a party

Even the laboratory "I TELL YOU WITH MY BODY" exploded with ideas focused on issues relating to sexuality and affection. From the reproductive system, to the menstrual cycle, to sexual relations and love; everyone talked about falling in love, mutual respect, social pressures, gender stereotypes, and social media-related risks. The new location in the lively town of Marina di Ravenna allowed the organization of some explosive evening outings: a simple walk on the beach for the younger kids and some real dancing evenings for the teenagers. They felt like grownups, they had fun on the dance floor and were able to live a valuable experience of personal growth, a wonderful boost for their self-esteem. 

 

Obviously, there were some issues that we will analyze, understand and correct. Every year, we – the organizers – are positively surprised by the energy that all children and youth invest in every proposed activity and by the enthusiasm that makes them really try their best, challenging themselves by overcoming their own fears and hesitations. The desire to have fun, to be together, to feel like grownups is tangible and requires us to continue to believe in the positive value of summer camps. Aware of the power and richness of these experiences, it represents quite a commitment and a responsibility, but it is also a privilege to be part of the journey of growth of these children and their families and to accompany them, if only for a short while. With the desire and the hope of improving ourselves every year, we are hoping to have the possibility of offering young people with visual impairment further opportunities for fun and growth during the winter period (for example, during an autonomy weekend).

 

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